Today in History: Vietnam Veterans Memorial dedicated in 1982

November 13th, 2013

On November 13, 1982, the long-awaited Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated following a public march featuring thousands of veterans. The V-shaped granite wall is inscribed with the names of each of the 58,272 Americans who died during the Vietnam War, and was designed by Maya Lin, a Yale University architecture student.

Following the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund was organized to find a suitable location and design for a memorial. After $8.4 million was raised through private donations, Congress authorized a three acre plot of land near the Lincoln Memorial, and a design competition was held. By March 31, 1981, more than 1,400 designs for the memorial were submitted, and the jurors unanimously selected the design by Maya Lin, a 21-year-old architecture student from Ohio.

Lin’s design is made up of two walls, each 246 feet long, sunk into the ground. The apex of the walls reach 10 feet high, and the walls taper to a height of eight inches at their furthest extremities.

Lin’s simple V-shaped design was controversial, and a more traditional statue, “The Three Soldiers” was added to the monument. Ground was formally broken on the site on March 26, 1982, with the memorial completed eight months later. The names on the wall are arranged chronologically by death, and the highly reflective surface allows visitors to see their own reflection as they gaze at the names.

For more on the importance of national monuments, read William Hubbard’s essay, “A Meaning for Monuments.”

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