At first, this Knoxville statue was claimed to be the first Vietnam War memorial in America. It wasn’t. Still, in 1973, with the war still not wholly settled, Vietnam memorials were rare and most cities didn’t have one. Knoxville needed something for a special occasion. Col. Norman C. Gaddis, a former Knoxvillian who after being captured on a bombing mission over North Vietnam had been a Prisoner of War for over five years, was coming home. McDonald’s hamburger tycoon Litton Cochran stepped forward to fund it, and the city contacted a local architecture firm called GSW and asked them what they could come up within a week or so.
They came up with an idea that could be hastily executed, involving interlocking five flat pieces of marble that would form a three-dimensional structure. They ordered pieces of pink Tennessee marble from Candoro, which was still in business in Vestal and had them cut to order. What they came up with was a semi-abstract sculpture depicting an eagle, its head and beak the most recognizable part of the angular design. The memorial eagle finally landed in a permanent home in the City-County Building’s sculpture garden, the slightly offset sunken sanctuary alongside the Main Street sidewalk.