This week marks the anniversary of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial -- a landmark that, though now one of the most-visited in Washington DC, had a controversial construction. The Memorial’s architect was Maya Lin, who was an undergraduate student at Yale when her design was chosen in a contest with more than 1400 entries. Lin’s original design consisted simply of two dark reflected stone walls set in a V shape, listing the names of the soldiers who had lost their lives in Vietnam. As ground-breaking date for the approached, some veterans groups feared that the Memorial would not be patriotic or uplifting enough under Lin’s design, and some even said it looked like a tombstone. Over Lin’s strong objections, the Commission responsible for the Memorial reached a compromise: Lin’s wall would remain, but the Memorial would also include the American flag and a statue of three servicemen.
The Three Servicemen statue that was added to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Lin was so upset with the alterations to her design that she refused to attend the ground-breaking ceremony for the Memorial in March of 1982. Later that summer, she appeared on NBC’s TODAY Show to make the case for her original design – watch the clip below, provided by NBC Universal Archives (nbcuniversalarchives.com) to hear why Lin felt so strongly about the changes to the Memorial. The Memorial was dedicated and opened to the public on the week surrounding Veteran’s Day in 1982. At that time it just consisted of the two stark walls (the statue and flag were added two years later, and another statue honoring women in the War was erected in 1993) – and Lin received widespread praise for the finished product. Today, the National Park Service estimates that the Memorial has received over 20 million visitors since it opened. Lin has continued her work as an architect and artist, and is now focusing on what she says will be her last memorial, a work meant to highlight environmental issues.
Stay tuned for more NBC Politics weekly trivia from Betsy Fischer Martin (@BetsyNBC), Managing Editor of Political Programming -- in collaboration with NBC Archives (nbcuniversalarchives.com, @NBCUArchives)
First published November 15 2013, 12:22 PM