vietnam-memThe Vietnam Veterans Memorial is located on the National Mall in Washington, DC; it is north of the Lincoln Memorial and the Reflecting Pool. It honors U.S. men and women who served in the Vietnam War (1959-1975). The memorial consists of three parts: the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, the Three Servicemen Statue and Flagpole, and the Vietnam Women's Memorial.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall is unusual in that it lists each individual U.S. serviceperson killed or missing in action. The names are listed in the order in which the men and women died or were declared missing. The first name is located in the center of the memorial, at the top of the wall, under the date 1959, the year of the first death.

The names are etched on separate stone panels made of gabbro, which is a dark stone, and is arranged into two arms extending from a central point to form a wide angle. The panels are inscribed, and the names appear lighter in color, while the dark polished stone surface of the wall reflects the visitors standing before it.

vietnam-mem2Unlike most other monuments which are built to rise up from the landscape and be seen from a distance, the Memorial Wall lies close to the ground. The walkway in front of the wall goes below ground level in the center and rises up at the ends of the wall; one wall rises up and gives a clear view of the Washington Monument in the distance.

A competition was held for the design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Maya Lin, a student at Yale University's School of Architecture, submitted a student project. This was selected in 1981 as the winning design. When Maya Lin’s design was chosen, there was disagreement among people as to whether or not it should be accepted. Some Vietnam veterans and others felt that it did not reflect the heroism, patriotism, and honor found in most war memorials. The Three Servicemen Statue, designed by Frederick Hart, was a compromise to that controversy and honors the American military who served in Vietnam. The Vietnam Women’s Memorial sculpture, designed by Glenna Goodacre, depicts three uniformed women with a wounded soldier. While one nurse comforts the soldier, another kneels, and the third looks to the skies.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial facts and figures:

  • The wall lists the names of over 58,000 men and women killed or missing in action.
  • Each wall is 246 feet 9 inches long; the total length of the wall is 493 feet 6 inches.
  • The wall is an angle that measures 125 degrees 12 minutes.
  • The wall is 10 feet 3 inches high at the center where the sides of the angle meet.
  • Maya Lin’s design was chosen out of 1,421 anonymous designs; the entries were listed by number, so the judges did not know the artists’ names in advance.
  • Maya Lin was 21 years old when she submitted her design.

To learn more, see the Vietnam Veterans Memorial site.