The Three Soldiers
|The Three Soldiers|
Three Soldiers memorial
|Governing body||National 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. It was created and designed to complement the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, by adding a more traditional component to the Memorial.
Sculpture design and symbolism
This well-known sculpture by Frederick Hart portrays three young uniformed American soldiers. While the military attire is meant to be symbolic and general in nature, the combat equipment displayed represents the figures as serving in either the U.S. Army, or U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War.
Of the three men, the lead figure (in the middle) represents a Marine, as he wears a Type M-1955 body armor vest, which was worn exclusively by Marines in Vietnam. He is armed only with a Colt M1911A1 .45 caliber automatic pistol, which is carried in a Government Issue (GI) M-1916 leather pistol holster, positioned on the right hip. The M-1916 holster is attached to an M-1956 GI pistol belt, and a small GI .45 pistol magazine pouch is carried on the belt's left front. The Marine wears a body-armor vest (but no shirt), along with Tropical Combat trousers and boots; he wears no headgear. Like his comrades, he carries a pair of plastic GI 1-quart canteens, carried in two M-1956 canteen covers that are attached to his pistol belt, and situated at the rear center hip.
The man on the right wears combat equipment consistent with a U.S. Army Soldier, and specifically, a Type M69 body armor vest, which was the primary armor vest used mainly by U.S. Army personnel in Vietnam, from about 1967 on. His M69 armor vest is unsecured, and worn fully open at the front, which was a typical fashion of troops in Vietnam, as a measure in which to promote ventilation (in spite of reducing the vest's overall protective levels). Draped around the collar of his M69 vest and hanging on his chest front, this Soldier carries a GI towel, which served to absorb sweat and cushioned heavy loads, and was a common practice of many Soldiers in Vietnam. In his left hand he carries an M16A1 rifle, the main battle rifle for both Soldiers and Marines from about 1967 on. His uniform consists of the Tropical Combat Uniform (jacket and trousers) and "jungle" boots. As was typically done by U.S. combat personnel fighting in the oppressive tropical environment of Vietnam, the uniform jacket's sleeves are rolled up. In his right hand, this Soldier holds an M1 steel helmet covered with a camouflage cover, that is secured over the helmet with an elastic headband (which itself retains a small bottle of GI insect repellent on the right side). He also wears an M-1956 GI pistol belt over the waist of his uniform jacket, and it retains a GI 1-quart canteen and M-1956 canteen cover, situated at the left rear hip. Lastly, on a GI neck chain set, he wears a pair of GI Identification Tags (i.e. "Dog Tags"), which are visible on his bare chest, seen through the open front of his uniform jacket and armor vest.
The man on the left is slightly less specific in the service representation of his gear and uniform, but he appears to be a U.S. Army Soldier, as he wears a Tropical ("Boonie") Hat, which was widely worn by Army combat personnel in Vietnam (particularly towards the latter part of the war), and to a much lesser extent by Marines. His uniform consists of the Tropical Combat Jacket and Trousers, and "jungle" boots. Like his comrade on his far right, his uniform jacket's sleeves are rolled up. This man wears no body armor, and is armed only with an M60 machine gun, and he carries two separate belts of 7.62mm machine gun ammunition draped and criss-crossed over his torso. He is also wearing an M17 Protective (Gas) Mask carrier on his left thigh, although U.S. troops infrequently wore or used gas masks in Vietnam. (They were used primarily when tear gas (CS gas) was employed in combat, such as by tunnel rats, and by troops engaged in urban/city combat, such as the Marines in Hue City in January and February, 1968). Under his uniform jacket, he also wears a GI M-1956 pistol belt, with two M-1956 canteen covers that are attached, each carrying a GI 1-quart canteens, and situated at the right rear hip. 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 Caucasian (the lead man), African American (man on right), and Hispanic (man on left). These three figures were based on six actual young men models, of which two (the Caucasian, 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.
The Three Soldiers statue was designed to supplement the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, by adding a more traditional component such as a statue that depicted warriors from that respective war.
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.'
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."
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
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," 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." 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.
Copyright and profit
Hart was paid $200,000 for the commission of the statue, which is four times what Maya Lin received 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.
A replica of the sculpture was created and dedicated on July 12, 2008, in Apalachicola, Florida.
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- "Three Servicemen Statue". VisitingDC.Com. 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-29. External link in
- The Merry Prankster, chapter 12 of Prisoners of Hope by Susan Katz Keating, describing actions by Ted Sampley
- History of the Wall at aiipowmia.com, a group involved with the POW-MIA controversy.
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