The Vietnam War had dominated headlines, caused turmoil at home and abroad, took the lives of soldiers on all sides as well as civilians in southeast Asia. Twenty years after the first U.S. soldiers were killed in the conflict, the healing process finally had a voice. In 1979, The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund was incorporated with the purpose of securing a lasting tribute to those who served in the Vietnam war. They raised private donations and 1980, got congress approval for a memorial on the National Mall near the Lincoln Memorial. Now, all they needed was a design.
In October, 1980 a design competition was held, and by the March 31, 1981 deadline, 1421 designs had been submitted. A panel of eight artists and designers unanimously chose the design submitted by a 21 year-old architecture student at Yale. Ground was broken a year later and the memorial was officially dedicated on November 13, 1982.
“Walking through this park-like area, the memorial appears as a rift in the earth, a long, polished, black stone wall, emerging from and receding into the earth… These names, seemingly infinite in number, convey the sense of overwhelming numbers, while unifying these individuals into a whole”
So begins architect Maya Lin’s description of her proposed design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The memorial consists of two walls, each 75 meters long. One points to the Lincoln Memorial, the other to the Washington Monument. Inscribed are the names of the 58,195 soldiers killed during the conflict. The names of someone’s son, brother or father really brings you face to face with the human cost of war. The memorial is a sobering experience and fitting tribute.
The Memorial is open 24 hours, though rangers are only on duty from 9:30am to 11:30pm.
Though controversial at the time, the design has was won people over and is a fitting memorial to those who served in the Vietnam War.