The Stars on the Wall
The CIA Memorial Wall is one of the first things visitors see when entering the Original Headquarters Building lobby. The wall – located on the lobby’s north wall – stands as a silent memorial to those CIA employees “who gave their lives in the service of their country.” Currently, there are 87* stars carved into the marble of the CIA Memorial Wall.
The"Book of Honor" lists the names of 54 employees who died while serving their country. The names of the remaining 33 employees must remain secret, even in death; each of these officers is remembered in the book by a star.
Who Gets a Star?
The men and women remembered on the Memorial Wall lost their lives while serving their country in the field of intelligence.
The Honor and Merit Awards Board (HMAB) recommends approval of the nomination to the CIA Director if it meets the following selection criteria:
Inclusion on the Memorial Wall is awarded posthumously to employees who lose their lives while serving their country in the field of intelligence. Death may occur in the foreign field or in the United States.Death must be of an inspirational or heroic character while in the performance of duty; or as the result of an act of terrorism while in the performance of duty; or as an act of premeditated violence targeted against an employee, motivated solely by that employee’s Agency affiliation; or in the performance of duty while serving in areas of hostilities or other exceptionally hazardous conditions where the death is a direct result of such hostilities or hazards.
Once approved by the Director, the Office of Protocol arranges placement of the star on the Memorial Wall.
How a Star is Created
When a new entry is added to the “Book of Honor,” stone carver Tim Johnston – of Carving and Restoration Team in Manassas, Va. – is called upon to add the corresponding star to the Memorial Wall.
Johnston creates a star by first tracing the new star on the wall using a template. Each star measures 2¼ inches tall by 2¼ inches wide and half an inch deep; all the stars are six inches apart from each other, as are all the rows. Johnston uses both a pneumatic air hammer and a chisel to carve out the traced pattern. After he finishes carving the star, he cleans the dust and sprays the star black, which as the star ages, fades to gray.
Johnston learned this craft from the Memorial Wall's original sculptor, Harold Vogel. Vogel carved the first half of the stars and the Memorial Wall message in July 1974.
The new star is officially unveiled at the CIA's annual Memorial Ceremony.
Learn about some of the men and women honored on the memorial wall in our ongoing series, “Remembering CIA’s Heroes”: