The Three Soldiers

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The Three Soldiers
Three soldiers.jpg
The Three Soldiers memorial
LocationNational Mall
Washington, D.C.
United States
Governing bodyNational Park Service

The Three Soldiers (also known as The Three Servicemen) is a bronze statue on the Washington, DC National Mall commemorating the Vietnam War.[1] It was created and designed to complement the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, by adding a more traditional component to the Memorial.[2]


The Three Soldiers was unveiled on Veterans Day, November 11 1984. It was designed by Frederick Hart,[3] who placed third in the original memorial design competition. It was designed to supplement the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, by adding a more traditional component such as a statue that depicts warriors from that war.[citation needed]

Design and symbolism[edit]

In order to portray the major ethnic groups that were represented in the ranks of U.S. combat personnel that served in Vietnam, the statue's three men are purposely identifiable as European American (the lead man), African American (man on right), and Latino American (man on left). These three figures were based on six actual young men, of which two (the Caucasian-American and the African-American) were active-duty Marines at the time that the sculpture was commissioned. The Caucasian figure was modeled after James E. Connell, III, then a Corporal in the Marines; the African-American figure was modeled after three men, Marine Corporal Terrance Green, Rodney Sherrill and Scotty Dillingham; the Hispanic figure was modeled after Guillermo Smith De Perez DeLeon.[4]

Fact Sheet for the dedication of The Three Soldiers Statue at the national Vietnam Veterans Memorial on November 11, 1984
Press Release from The Three Soldiers Statue dedication on Nov. 11, 1984

Artist's intent[edit]

Of the memorial, the architect has suggested,

'I see the wall as a kind of ocean, a sea of sacrifice that is overwhelming and nearly incomprehensible in the sweep of names. I place these figures upon the shore of that sea, gazing upon it, standing vigil before it, reflecting the human face of it, the human heart.

The portrayal of the figures is consistent with history. They wear the uniform and carry the equipment of war; they are young. The contrast between the innocence of their youth and the weapons of war underscores the poignancy of their sacrifice. There is about them the physical contact and sense of unity that bespeaks the bonds of love and sacrifice that is the nature of men at war. And yet they are each alone. Their strength and their vulnerability are both evident. Their true heroism lies in these bonds of loyalty in the face of their awareness and their vulnerability.'[5]

The statue and the Wall appear to interact with each other, with the soldiers looking on in solemn tribute at the names of their fallen comrades. Noted sculptor Jay Hall Carpenter, Hart's assistant on the project, explains the sculpture was positioned especially for that effect: "We carried a full-size mockup of the soldiers around the memorial site trying many locations until we hit upon the perfect spot. It was here that the sculpture appeared to be looking over a sea of the fallen."[5]


There were two major controversies regarding this portion of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial: the design of the Wall which led to the commissioning of this piece; and subsequent issues involving copyright, and allegations of profiteering regarding the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue.

Creation and installation[edit]

Negative reactions to Maya Lin's design for the Memorial wall were so strong that several Congressmen complained, and Secretary of the Interior James G. Watt refused to issue a building permit. Hart's sculpture was commissioned to stand beside the wall in order to appease those who wanted a more traditional approach.

Lin was furious at the adulteration of her design and called the decision to add Hart's piece "a coup," which "had nothing to do with how many veterans liked or disliked my piece." In response to veteran Tom Carhart's comments that her design was a "black gash of shame and sorrow, hacked into the national visage that is the Mall,"[6] Lin asserted that she had not received a single negative letter from a veteran, adding that "most of them are not as conservative as Carhart."[7] Hart's addition was placed a distance away from the memorial wall in order to minimize the effect on her design. Still, Lin refused to attend the dedication of the sculpture.[citation needed]

Copyright and profit[edit]

Hart demanded $330,000 for the commission of the statue; Maya Lin received[8] $20,000 for the prize-winning design of the Memorial Wall. The design of The Three Soldiers was copyrighted by Hart and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. Reproductions were sold on many pieces of memorabilia, including t-shirts, keychains, and snowglobes. Hart donated his share of the profits to a non-profit which provides name rubbings to families of veterans.[9]


A replica of the sculpture was created and dedicated on July 12, 2008, in Apalachicola, Florida.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Vietnam Veterans Memorial, (sculpture)". SIRIS
  2. ^ "Vietnam War Memorial: Three Servicemen statue in Washington, D.C. by Frederick E Hart". September 18, 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-29.
  3. ^ "Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Three Soldiers". Histories of the National Mall. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
  4. ^ "Vietnam Veterans Memorial Interview with Sculptor and Model (1983)". WABC-TV / YouTube. August 19, 2010. Retrieved March 25, 2013.
  5. ^ a b "Memory and Form: An Analysis of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial » Writing Program » Boston University".
  6. ^ Carhart, Tom (October 24, 1981). "Insulting Vietnam Vets". New York Times.
  7. ^ Hess, Elizabeth (April 1983). "An Interview with Maya Lin". Art in America. 71 (4): 120.
  8. ^ The Washington Post - Sunday, December 3, 2017
  9. ^ "Maya Lin & The Vietnam Veterans Memorial". History By Zim. 3 June 2012.
  10. ^ Cox, Dale. "Three Soldiers Monument - Apalachicola, Florida".

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 38°53′26″N 77°02′54″W / 38.89045°N 77.04835°W / 38.89045; -77.04835