On this day in 1973, the last American soldiers left South Vietnam.
Nine years later, an unforgettable granite memorial opened in Washington D.C., with the inscribed names of over 58,000 Americans who died or remain missing.
The memorial was authorized by Congress, "In honor and recogition of the men and women of the Armed Forces of the United States who served in the Vietnam War." A competition to choose the memorial design was funded by a donation of $160,000 from businessman H. Ross Perot.
The guideline for design submissions explained how the memorial should not make a political statement about the war, must contain all the names of the dead and missing, and harmonize with its Constitution Gardens site near the Lincoln Memorial.
The 1,421 submissions from a cache of world-class architects and designers were judged anonymously. Chinese-American Maya Ying Lin's design was chosen. At the time she was a 21 year old Yale undergrad who had entered the competition at the urging of the professor of her funerary architecture class.
"Sometimes I think creativity is magic; it's not a matter of finding an idea, but allowing the idea to find you," she said about her creative process.
Controversial...different...stunning... Lin designed a place of quiet reflection. Reaching up and touching the engraved names on the walls is a moving, personal experience... And it's a powerful way to heal and remember our Vietnam Veterans with honor.
What you accomplish, honor and remember define who you are.