Editors' pick

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Vietnam Veterans Memorial photo
(James A. Parcell/The Washington Post)

Editorial Review

The basics: The centerpiece of this memorial is a gleaming black granite wall etched with the names of the more than 58,000 service members who died in Vietnam or remain missing in action.

Background: The memorial was designed by Maya Lin, then a 21-year-old architecture student from Yale. Her design's somber tone was controversial at the time of construction in 1982, but today it is the most-visited monument in Washington.

Visitor experience: The stark black wall anchors the memorial, forming a slight V-shape with one end pointing to the Washington Monument and the other to the Lincoln Memorial. The names of the fallen soldiers are engraved in quadrants according to the date of death.

"The Statue of the Three Servicemen," which depicts soldiers in action, was added to the site amid criticism that the wall did not properly commemorate the role of the veterans. Also on the site is the Vietnam Women's Memorial, which honors the women who fought in this conflict.

Each day, scores of items are left at the memorial including flowers, photographs and dog tags. The objects are collected daily and archived.

Vital details: The public may visit the memorial 24 hours a day, but rangers are only on hand to answer questions from 9:30 a.m. until 11:30 p.m.

By Metro: From Foggy Bottom (Blue/Orange Lines), walk south on 23rd Street to Lincoln Memorial, turn left on near side of Reflecting Pool.
By car: The memorial is adjacent to the Reflecting Pool near the Lincoln Memorial. Parking on the Mall is often difficult, but visitors may find spots on Constitution Avenue or Ohio Drive.

(Updated March 9, 2012)