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Key Supporter of Vietnam War Memorial Found Dead

This image provided by the Newark Police Department shows 66-year-old John Wheeler III, whose body was found at a landfill in Wilmington, Del. on New Year's Eve

A retired U.S. Army officer who played a major role in the building of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington has been found dead in a garbage landfill.

The body of John Wheeler, 66, was found Friday in a landfill Wilmington, Delaware in the northeastern United States, several kilometers from his home in the town of New Castle. Police are treating Wheeler's death as a homicide.

Wheeler was a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in the northeastern U.S. state of New York, and later served as a staff officer at the Pentagon during the height of the Vietnam War. He retired from active duty in 1971, and went on to serve as the first chairman of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund from 1979 to 1989.

The fund sought financing for the project, which initially drew controversy over its concept of etching the names of all U.S. service personnel killed during the Vietnam War on several stones of black granite.

Wheeler also spent several years serving in a number of civilian posts in the Pentagon, as well as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and several nonprofit organizations.