Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington

North America | | May 18, 2011 at 2:38 am


In the history of America, the Vietnam War was among the longest wars wherein several U.S. service members of the national armed forces died in Vietnam. Today, not only Washington, but the whole world pays tribute to them as tourists by exploring the Vietnam Veterans Memorial dedicated in their honor. This monument is famously a black granite wall on which there are over 50,000 names of the killed or missing American men as well as women since the Vietnam conflict. The names of these veterans are in chronological order as per the occurrence of the fatality. However, the visitors spot these names with the help of a provided alphabetical directory that one can pick from the podiums nearby.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial presently encompasses three detached zones namely, the Three Soldiers statue, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, and the Vietnam Women’s Memorial. Among these, the wall is famous among the tourists.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall

Designed by Maya Lin, the Memorial Wall actually refers to two long walls submerged into the ground. One of them looks toward the Washington Monument, while the second faces the Lincoln Memorial. Both of them have more than 72 panels of which 70 bear the list of names in a specific numbering arrangement – 1E to 70E and IW to 70W. The remaining two panels are blank and are seen at the ends. The stones are of highly reflective quality, which were brought from Bangalore of India, fabricated in Vermont’s Barre, and were engraved at Memphis. When you just start to look at the wall, you will first interestingly see your reflection along with the engraved names together. This symbolically indicates the confluence of past and present. Following the base of the wall is the pathway you can walk, pray, or read the names.

The walls are inscribed with the Optima font revealing the servicemen names that were Killed in Action (KIA) or were Missing in Action (MIA) as in 1982. In an ascending order, the names begin to flow from the apex on 1E panel to the eastern wall end at panel 70E and then starting again at 70W panel until the western wall’s end taking you into the period from 1958 to 1975. Many have termed this wall as a ‘wound that is healing’. Out of these 58,267 names, 8 are of women, 1,200 are of the missing ones indicated by a cross, while the rest are confirmed dead with the sign of a diamond. For the MIAs, the cross in circle mark means that the missing has been found alive; while a diamond on the cross means that the missing is dead.

The Three Soldiers

Nestled at a walking distance from the wall, you will able to see one more Vietnam memorial called the Three Soldiers. This is a life size bronze statue that is also known as The Three Servicemen. In reaction to the controversial Lin’s design, Frederick Hart created this figurative sculpture for complementing the wall. The statue shows three soldiers intentionally to be identified as the African American, White American, and Hispanic American. Intersecting with the memorial wall, the sculpture of the soldiers seems to offer a sincere tribute to their dead companions.

Women’s Memorial

This is also a part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and is nestled to the south of the Wall. As the name suggests, this one is built in honor of the American women who sacrificed their lives during the war. Most of these were nurses. Symbolically, these three women are named as Hope (for the one who is looking up), Faith (for the one who is praying by kneeling down), and Charity (for the one nursing an injured soldier). To its north is the Reflecting Pool.

In front of the memorial, the visitors mostly offer letters, flowers, medals, and photos. When too much gathers around, the National Park Service houses these offerings in the Smithsonian Museum of American History.


24 hours, but staffed from 8 am to 12 am.

Nearest Metro station

Foggy Bottom.

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