The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a national war memorial located in Washington, D. C. that honors members of the U. S. armed forces who served in the Vietnam War.

The Memorial consists of three separate parts - the Three Soldiers statue, the Vietnam Women's Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, which is the most recognized part of the memorial. The main part of the memorial was completed in 1982 and is located in Constitution Gardens on the National Mall, just northeast of the Lincoln Memorial. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is maintained by the U. S.

National Park Service, and receives around 3 million visitors each year. The first official attempt to memorialize veterans of the Vietnam War came in 1978, three years after the conflict had ended. The Pentagon, instead of adding two unidentified bodies of Vietnam veterans to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, recommended that a display of medals be added behind the tomb with a plaque reading: "Let all know that the United States of America pays tribute to the members of the Armed Forces who answered their country's call." A Veterans Affairs subcommittee later changed the statement to read: "Let all know that the United States of America pays tribute to the members of the Armed Forces who served honorably in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam Era." Later, in 1978, Congress, prodded by the Vietnam-Era Caucus (composed of veteran Congressmen), discussed creating a "Vietnam Veterans Week" to honor the survivors of the war. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, Inc. , was incorporated on April 27, 1979 as a non-profit organization to establish a memorial to veterans of the Vietnam War.

Much of the impetus behind the formation of the Fund came from a wounded Vietnam veteran, Jan Scruggs, who was inspired by the film The Deer-hunter. Eventually, $8. 4 million was raised by private donations. Congress authorized the site on July 1, 1980, and a competition to design the memorial was announced later that year. On May 6, 1981 a jury of eight architects and sculptors unanimously selected a design by Maya Ying Lin, a 21 year old Yale University architecture student from Athens, Ohio, as the winner from 1, 421 entries. Lin had originally designed the Memorial Wall as a student project.

Controversially, the design lacked many of the elements traditionally present in war memorials, such as patriotic writings and heroic statues, and a flagstaff and figurative sculpture, The Three Soldiers, was added to the design on January 1982. The design was formally approved on March 11, 1982 and the ground was formally broken on March 26, 1982, with dedication of the memorial on November 13, 1982 after a march to its site by thousands of Vietnam War veterans. The Three Soldiers statue was installed in 1984, and the Vietnam Women's Memorial was dedicated on November 11, 1993. Controversy surrounded the wall's dedication, with some veterans' groups decrying it as inappropriate or unpatriotic.

Since then, however, both veterans and the American public in general have come to admire the Wall, which is one of the most visited sites in Washington. The Memorial Wall is made up of two black granite walls 246 feet 9 inches (75 metres) long, designed by Maya Ying Lin. The walls are sunk into the ground, with the top flush with the earth behind them. At the highest point (the apex where they meet), they are 10. 1 feet (3 m) high, and they taper to a height of eight inches (20 cm) at their extremities. Granite for the wall came from Bangalore, India and was deliberately chosen because of its reflective quality.

The concept is that, while a visitor looks upon the wall, their reflection can be seen simultaneously with the engraved names, thereby bringing the past and present together. One wall points toward the Washington Monument, the other in the direction of the Lincoln Memorial, meeting at an angle of 125^0 12′ . Each wall has 72 panels, 70 listing names (numbered 1 E through 70 E and 70 W through 1 W) and 2 very small blank panels at the extremities. There is a pathway along the base of the Wall, where visitors may walk, read the names, make a pencil rubbing of a particular name, or pray. Inscribed on the wall are the names of those who died in chronological order, starting at the apex on panel 1 E in 1959 (although it was later discovered that the first casualties were military advisors who were killed by artillery fire in 1957), moving day by day to the end of the eastern wall at panel 70 E, which ends on May 25, 1968, starting again at panel 70 W at the end of the western wall which completes the list for May 25, 1968, and returning to the apex at panel 1 W in 1975. Symbolically, this is described as " wound that is closed and healing." Information about rank, unit, and decorations are not given.

The wall listed 58, 159 names when it was completed in 1993; as of 2005, when four names were added, there are 58, 249 names, including 8 women. Approximately 1, 200 of these are listed as missing (MIAs, POWs, and others), denoted with a cross; the confirmed dead are marked with a diamond. If the missing return alive, the cross is circumscribed by a circle, (although this has never occurred as of August 2005); if their death is confirmed, a diamond is superimposed over the cross. Optima is the typeface used on the wall.

A short distance away from the wall is another part of the memorial, a bronze statue known as The Three Soldiers (or The Three Servicemen). It was designed to complement the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, by adding a more traditional component. The statue, unveiled in 1984, was designed by Frederick Hart, who placed third in the original competition. The soldiers are purposefully identifiable as Caucasian, African American, and Hispanic.

The statue and the Wall appear to interact with each other, with the soldiers looking on in solemn tribute at the names of their dead comrades. It has been suggested that the sculpture was positioned especially for that effect Also part of the Memorial is the Vietnam Women's memorial. It is located a short distance south of The Wall, north of the Reflecting Pool. It was designed by Glenna Good acre and dedicated on November 11, 1993. A memorial plaque was dedicated on November 10, 2004 at the northeast corner of plaza surrounding the Three Soldiers statue to honor veterans who died after the war as a direct result of injuries suffered in Vietnam, but who fall outside Department of Defense guidelines. The plaque is a carved block of black granite, 3 feet by 2 feet, inscribed "In memory of the men and women who served in the Vietnam War and later died as a result of their service.

We honor and remember their sacrifice.".