This stark, powerful monument offers a pause for reflection on one of America’s most controversial conflicts.
Take some time to contemplate the thousands of U.S. soldiers who gave their lives in the Vietnam War, at this massive black granite wall located between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.
More than 58,000 names of men and women are inscribed on “The Wall” built in their honor. Those known to be dead are marked with a diamond, while those still considered missing in action are marked with a cross. The overwhelming number of names of those who lost their lives provides visitors with a profound sense of the vast national and personal loss still associated with the Vietnam War.
The memorial is not one single wall, but actually two, 250-foot (76-meter) long walls arranged in a V shape, with one end pointing to the nearby Lincoln Memorial and the other to the Washington Memorial. The split is not just an architectural quirk. It reflects the divide in opinion about the controversial war. Look into the list of names and you will see that the stone into which they are inscribed is highly reflective, a deliberate feature intended to bring together the past and the present.
At any time of year you will find wreaths, cards and presents left at the foot of the memorial from grieving families. There’s a hushed somber tone in the air, as many visitors pay their respects to a loved one they lost in the conflict, and others reflect on the overall tragedy of this war.
Nearby the wall you’ll see other statues: the Three Soldiers and the Vietnam Women’s memorial. More traditional in appearance, these were constructed in part to appease those who felt that the wall was too abstract.
The memorial is open to visitors 24 hours a day. Staff are on site from 8 a.m. to midnight, and interpretive tours are available every hour on the hour.