The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a national monument in Washington, D.C., that was built to honor and remember the American soldiers who died or went missing in action during the Vietnam War. It was designed by Maya Lin, a then-21-year-old architecture student who won a national design competition in 1981. The memorial consists of two black granite walls that form a V-shape, with the names of over 58,000 fallen soldiers etched into the stone. The walls are polished to a high shine, which creates a reflective effect, allowing visitors to see their own reflections while reading the names of the fallen. The memorial also includes a bronze statue of three soldiers, which depicts American troops in Vietnam.
The Vietnam War was a controversial conflict that divided the country, and the soldiers who fought in it faced harsh criticism and often returned home to an unwelcoming society. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was created to acknowledge their sacrifice and service and to provide a place for healing and reflection for those who were affected by the war. It has become one of the most visited memorials in the country, with over 3 million visitors annually.
Why should you go?
To pay your respects. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a solemn and moving tribute to the soldiers who gave their lives during the war. Visiting the memorial is an opportunity to honor their sacrifice and show gratitude for their service.
To learn about history. The Vietnam War was a pivotal moment in American history, and the memorial provides a powerful reminder of its impact. Reading the names on the wall can help visitors gain a deeper understanding of the human cost of war and the sacrifices made by soldiers and their families.
To experience the design. Maya Lin's design for the memorial is unique and thought-provoking. The reflective quality of the polished granite and the placement of the names create a powerful emotional effect that is unlike any other memorial.
To find healing. For many veterans and their families, visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial can be a cathartic and healing experience. The wall provides a space for reflection and remembrance, and many visitors find a sense of closure or peace after visiting.
To see the bronze statue. The bronze statue of three soldiers is a poignant addition to the memorial. It depicts the realities of war and the brotherhood that develops among soldiers.
To connect with others. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a place where people from all walks of life come together to remember and honor the fallen. Visiting the memorial can be a chance to connect with others who have been impacted by the war and share in a sense of community and remembrance.
To experience the National Mall. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is located in Constitution Gardens within the boundaries of the National Mall, which is also home to many other national monuments and museums. Visiting the memorial can be a part of a larger trip to the city and an opportunity to experience the history and culture of the United States.
Best places to visit near Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Lincoln Memorial. Located directly west of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial is a must-visit destination for history and architecture buffs. This iconic monument was built in the form of a neoclassical temple to honor the 16th President of the United States.
Korean War Veterans Memorial. This memorial is situated a few steps from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and honors those who served in the Korean War. The memorial features 19 larger-than-life stainless steel statues of soldiers.
National World War II Memorial. This memorial is located just a short walk from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. This impressive monument honors the 16 million people who served in the armed forces during World War II.
National Mall. This two-mile stretch of land is home to many of the most famous monuments and museums in Washington, D.C. In addition to the memorials already mentioned, it also houses the Washington Monument and the Smithsonian museums.
Smithsonian National Museum of American History. This museum is located just a short walk from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and is home to many artifacts that tell the story of American history, including the Star-Spangled Banner and the original First Ladies' inaugural gowns.
United States Capitol. Located a few blocks east of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, this historic building is home to the legislative branch of the U.S. government. You can take a guided tour to learn more about the history of this important institution.
Tidal Basin. This large body of water is situated just south of the National Mall. You can walk or bike around the Tidal Basin and enjoy the scenic views of the water and the surrounding cherry blossom trees.
Arlington National Cemetery. This cemetery is located across the Potomac River from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and is the final resting place for many U.S. service members, including those who served in the Vietnam War. You can take a guided tour and pay your respects at the various memorials and gravesites.
What are the most interesting and unique facts about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial?
The monument's design was chosen from 1,421 entries.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall inspired over 60 songs, including "More Than a Name on the Wall" (1989) by The Statler Brothers, "The Big Parade" (1989) by 10,000 Maniacs, and "Civil War" (1991) by Guns N' Roses.