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Memorial Wall Publication

History of the Wall

“The stars on the Memorial Wall are to us more than symbols, more than history. They are a priceless part of who we are. They are the colleagues and leaders who define us—in dedication and in sacrifice. It is in this new century their mission we seek to accomplish. And it is their commitment of which we seek to be worthy.”

—Deputy Director John E. McLaughlin
June 2001


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Early photo of the Memorial Wall showing 33 stars.

In February 1973, Agency officers proposed that a memorial plaque be placed at CIA Headquarters to honor employees who had died in Southeast Asia, primarily in Laos and Vietnam. The Honor and Merit Board expanded the concept to recognize all CIA officers who had fallen in the line of duty. Agency officer Edward Ryan, then Chairman of the CIA’s Fine Arts Commission, met with a representative from the American Foreign Service Association to discuss the criteria used for the Memorial Plaques in the lobby of the US Department of State. Later, the US Commission of Fine Arts recommended Master Stone Carver Harold Vogel to design the CIA Memorial. Vogel had extensive experience—including having carved the lettering on the marble walls at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

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Director Porter J. Goss at the May 2006 Memorial Service.

Vogel’s design inspiration for the Memorial Wall came from the Bauhaus style—a modernist concept also known as the International Style—which is marked by the absence of ornamentation and by harmony between the function of an object and its design. Vogel’s goal was to make the memory of the fallen an integral part of the building which, to many, represents the Agency’s mission. His vision of the CIA’s Memorial emphasized the unity of the stars on the wall, standing as a field.

His concept was approved in November 1973 and the original 31 stars were approved by Director William E. Colby in April 1974. Three months later, Vogel carved the Memorial. It was done without fanfare. No ceremony was held; no pictures were taken—the stars and inscription simply appeared.


“When we move on—whether to another chapter in our careers or our lives—we never lose the distinct sense of pride in belonging to such a storied and exceptional organization. Nor do we ever forget having been in the company of such remarkably talented men and women, especially those we honor today, whose deeds are immortal. We see, in our mind’s eye, these deep-cut stars engraved in marble, and we know that we always will be part of something noble and worthy.”

—Director Porter J. Goss
May 2006


Historical Document
Posted: Jul 27, 2010 07:23 AM
Last Updated: Jun 18, 2013 01:04 PM