The Vietnam Veterans Memorial opened on the National Mall in Washington, DC on 13 November, 1982. The main structure is an angled wall of black marble, built beneath ground level and inscribed with the names of Americans who died in the Vietnam War, a conflict that divided the country.

The memorial was similarly controversial at first. It was designed by Maya Lin, who was a Yale student, aged 20, when she submitted the proposal to a national competition. Her original plan had a series slabs inscribed with names leading to the site’svertex, evoking the notorious “domino theory” of Communist expansion that some American leaders cited to justify US involvement in Vietnam.

But even without the domino-theme, Lin’s wall fueled bitter opposition from some veterans and from politicians before and during its construction, which cost $8.4m and was paid for through private funding. Critics attacked that plan for its abstract shape, dark colour, descent below ground level, absence of patriotic symbols, and for the fact that the US-born Lin was of Asian descent. Read more