On this day in 1982, the long-awaited Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated in Washington DC after a weeklong national salute to all who served in the Vietnam War. Thousands of veterans from the conflict marched to the V-shaped black granite wall inscribed with the names of the 57,939 Americans who perished during the conflict. Unlike other memorials, the names are arranged in order of death, not rank.
The Vietnam Memorial was designed by Yale University architecture student, Maya Lin, who entered a competition to create a design for the monument. Although many were at first opposed to the winning design due to a lack of the standard heroic statue and stirring words, it soon became one of the most visited memorials in the nation’s capital.
The remarkable shift in public opinion occurred within the months after the dedication as veterans and families of those lost were able to walk the black reflective wall, seeking the name of their loved one. It was described by one veteran as, “the parade we never got.” The Wall drew people together and served to promote a sense of national healing, an important aspect after such a divisive conflict.