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In 1980, seven years after the formal end of US involvement in Vietnam, Congress authorized a national competition to design a new memorial in Washington, DC, that would honor those who served in the war. Approximately 1,421 submissions were reviewed anonymously until a single design was chosen.
The winner of the competition was a 21-year-old undergraduate student named Maya Lin. Her design featured a large wall of black granite inscribed with the 57,939 names of those who died during the war. Lin described the memorial as "taking a knife and cutting into the earth, opening it up, and with the passage of time, that initial violence and pain would heal."
This bold design was not without controversy; some people viewed the wall as shameful and morbid, while others took aim at Lin's ethnicity and age. In November 1982, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated before a crowd of thousands of people. The emotional response from the public was overwhelming as veterans, friends, and families turned out to pay their respects to those who sacrificed their lives during the Vietnam War.
These pictures show how Americans first responded to the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1982.