Maya Lin: her name prompts superlatives. She of the Vietnam memorial, at all of 21 years old. How did she do it? As public art, her DC memorial is a complete success, by far the most popular attraction of its sort, bringing all to tears and men who survived that crazy war to their knees. A supreme triumph. Perhaps the most important artwork of the 20th Century.

But original? Nope. Portland’s forgotten memorial to Oregon veterans of World War II uses the same motif (all names solemnly carved in looming black marble) and was dedicated in 1961 – when Lin was a toddler.

Our memorial is located at the Memorial Coliseum (get it?) on a discreet lower level, off the beaten path so thousands pass within yards and never see, never know, never experience. The names of hundreds of Oregon men (and perhaps some women) who died in the war are cut into the stone. Ten feet tall and forty feet long, this elegant memorial stands alone, with a pretty tinkling fountain, and will soon, forgotten and unprotected by various veterans groups, be bulldozed with the rest of this obsolete building.

Lin’s memorial is more dramatic. It’s location on the mall, 50,000+ names going on and on, the walkway filled with weeping tourists. Both the memorial, and its environment are worth the visit. But after you’ve seen Oregon’s main WWII memorial (there are a couple of others), you won’t think Lin’s memorial such a giant leap.

To find Oregon’s WWII memorial, stand at the outdoor ticket booths in front of the Coliseum. There is a downward stairwell to your right. Follow and look and find.

There are Oregon memorials to just about every other imperialist war we’ve finagled ourselves into (and some ambitious artist should be considering the future potential of our current fiasco.)

Oregon has two Korean war memorials, one located on Mt Scott at Willamette National Cemetery in Portland. This cemetary contains over 100,000 veterans. The other is in Salem. Neither are very interesting. Our Vietnam memorial is particularly banal, tho its hills are good for rolling down in the summertime.

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