“The Wall,” as it is known, is a black, V-shaped rift in the earth, nearly 494 feet long and ranging from 8 inches tall at its outer edges to 10 feet tall at its center. The design competition for the memorial, which was open to the public, was won by Maya Lin, then a 21-year-old in her third year at Yale. Both her concept and her inexperience were the subject of great controversy, though its quality is now almost universally recognized; nevertheless, to placate those veterans and their families who thought it too severe and abstract, an additional sculpture depicting three soldiers was also commissioned.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated on Veterans Day 1982
The Wall was dedicated on Veterans Day, November 13, 1982. Fredrick Hart’s Three Servicemen sculpture, which now dominates the entrance to the memorial (and, in our opinion, compromises the concept visually), was dedicated two years later, also on Veterans Day.
Tucked more inconspicuously to one side is a tribute to the women who served in Vietnam, sculpted by Glenna Goodacre and dedicated on Veterans Day in 1993.
TOURING TIPS At both ends of the Wall, visitors will find books that list the inscribed names and panel numbers to help them locate an inscription. No food is available on site. At night this memorial is especially moving, as people light matches to search for names inscribed on the wall. Early evening and morning hours are also more tranquil times to visit.
IF YOU LIKE THIS Especially after dark, cross the lawn to the Korean War Veterans Memorial.
GOOD TO KNOW: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is located on the west end of the Mall near the Lincoln Memorial. The nearest Metro station is Foggy Bottom–GWU. The memorial is always open and staffed from 9 a.m. till 11:30 p.m. except on December 25. No admission is charged. General parking is available along Ohio Drive SW between the Lincoln Memorial and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. Handicap parking is available on Daniel French Drive SW. For more information visit the website of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
You may also be interested in Solemn places to visit on Veterans Day in Washington D.C., and our post about Arlington National Cemetery.
Cherie A. Thurlby/Department of Defense [Public Domain]