The Three Soldiers

The Three Soldiers


The Three Soldiers, also known as The Three Servicemen, is a bronze sculpture created by Frederick Hart.  It is located in Constitution Gardens adjacent to the National Mall near The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall (MAP).  Along with the Memorial Wall and The Vietnam Women’s Memorial, The Three Soldiers statue is part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial complex.  Created to complement and bring a more traditional component to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the soldiers depicted by the statue appear to be looking at the Memorial Wall containing the names of more than 58,000 of their fallen and missing comrades.  Dedicated in 1984, it was added as part of the Memorial two years after completion of the Wall.  But like most things in D.C., the installation of statue was not without disagreement and controversy.    

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was designed by Maya Lin, who won a national competition held to select a design for the memorial.  However, despite the selection of Lin’s design and its many supporters, her design also met with many negative reactions.  Several Congressmen complained, and Secretary of the Interior James G. Watt refused to issue a building permit so that construction of the Memorial could begin.  Also, Vietnam veterans were divided in their opinions about the memorial’s design, much like the country itself was during the war.

The Three Soldiers sculpture was commissioned to stand beside the wall in as a compromise, an attempt to appease those who wanted a more traditional memorial.  The designer of the Memorial Wall, Maya Lin, was so displeased with the addition to her design, that even after the decision was made to place the statue a distance away from the Wall so as to minimize the impact on her design, she still refused to attend the dedication of the sculpture when it was unveiled on Veterans Day in 1984.

Controversy continued when it was discovered that Hart, who had placed third in the original memorial design competition, was paid four times as much for The Three Soldiers statue as Maya Lin had received for the prize-winning design of the Memorial Wall.

Today, most visitors to the memorial complex are unaware of the controversy that went into it.  Along with the Memorial Wall, the sculpture now serves as a symbol of our nation’s honor and recognition of those who served and sacrificed during the Vietnam War.

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