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Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Vietnam Veterans Memorial


Written by Scott Messmore
The Vietnam War was one of the most divisive issues America had faced since the Civil War. When it came time to honor the men and women who lost there lives in Southeast Asia, the selection of a design also proved to be a contentious issue. Congress authorized a plan to create a Vietnam Veterans Memorial that would honor the nation's fallen warriors without commenting on the reasons for or against the war. Examining hundreds of prospective designs, Yale University student Maya Ying Lin was
given the assignment for her black marble wall with the name of each serviceman who died during the Vietnam War. Lin's design was a black granite angled wall with the names of all the veterans who died in Vietnam. Many historical and veterans groups protested the unorthodox design and wanted to add a more traditional statue and an American Flag. Proponents of Lin's design in turn opposed emplacing any sculptures.

The Wall

Commonly referred to as "The Wall", the Vietnam Memorial was built in 1982 near the Lincoln Memorial. In response to protests, a 50- foot American Flag and a statue of three serviceman created by Frederick
Copying a Name at the Wall
Hart was added to the Vietnam Memorial in 1984. To honor female Vietnam veterans, artist Glenna Goodacre's statue of field nurses was emplaced at the site in 1993. Many family members and friends of fallen servicemen bring momentos, combat medals, old fatigues, letters from home or childhood toys to leave at the Wall. Flowers are often left at the Wall and active duty military personnel have been reenlisted at the memorial. Each section of the Wall is nearly 248 feet long and made of black granite with 57,939 names inscribed in one-inch tall lettering. More names have been added to the Wall since 1982 as the remains of servicemen missing in action are identified and returned to their families in the United States for proper
burial. One end of the Wall points toward the Washington Monument and the other points at the Lincoln Memorial. One-hundred-and-forty concrete pylons were sunk 35 feet into the ground to support the Wall. Each side of the Wall rises from the ground to a height of 10 feet in the center.

Finding Names on The Wall

The names of fallen servicemen are listed in order by the year they were killed in action. For visitors who want to locate the name of a family member or friend on the Wall, the National Park Service advises bringing the name, birthdate, service number, date of death and the state or city of
Flags and Wreath left at the Wall
original military enlistment. A Park Service Ranger will be on hand at the memorial to assist family and friends. At the Wall, copies of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Directory of Names are positioned at each end of the Wall. For on-line help in finding a name, visit for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund web site.

Hours of Operation and Location

The Vietnam Memorial is open each day, except for Christmas Day from 8 a.m. to 11:45 p.m. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is located on the National Mall near the Lincoln Memorial. Since the structure is below ground level, visitors won't be able to see it until upon it. Bikes and inline skates are not permitted along the two walls of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. As in many major cities, parking can be a nightmare and Washington D.C. is no exception. Visitors to the National Mall and Vietnam Veterans Memorial can ride several different Metro routes. The Smithsonian Institution Metro station will place visitors right on the National Mall. Visitors
Cross of Flowers at the Wall
can also park at the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial.

For more information about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, call 202-426-6841.

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Last Updated: September 23, 2015