In 1981 The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund held an open, anonymous design competition to honor the living and fallen veterans of the Vietnam War. A committee of artists and designers, chaired by the editor of Landscape Architecture Magazine Grady Clay, Jr., and including landscape architects Hideo Sasaki and Garrett Eckbo, selected a Modernist design by Yale architecture student Maya Lin. Nestled in a corner of West Potomac Park’s Constitution Gardens, the memorial was dedicated on November 13, 1982. A 50-foot flagpole and a bronze figural sculpture of three soldiers by artist Frederick Hart were added to the site in 1984, followed by The Vietnam Women’s Memorial, created by artist Glenna Goodacre, in 1993. Hart’s sculpture was the first memorial on the National Mall to depict an African American.
Symbolizing a healing wound, the memorial consists of two ebony granite walls cut into the middle of an earthen mound. Measuring some 246 feet long, the walls extend out in a wide V-angle towards both the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. Meeting at a central high point, the wings gradually descend into the ground at each end. Mirroring the surrounding landscape and visitors alike, polished granite panels are etched with the names of more than 58,000 fallen men and women, ordered by the dates of their deaths. The memorial’s west wing extends to meet a copse of poplar, maple, and elm trees, where both Hart’s sculpture, The Three Soldiers, and the flagpole are located. Experienced by millions of visitors each year, the memorial is noted for its intimate, experiential character. The Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.