The Three Soldiers

The Three Soldiers

The Three Soldiers (also known as The Three Servicemen) is a bronze statue on the Washington, DC National Mall commemorating the Vietnam War. The grouping consists of three young men, armed and dressed appropriately for the Vietnam War era, purposely identifiable as Caucasian, African American, and Hispanic. It was designed to complement the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, by adding a more traditional component. The statue, unveiled on Veterans Day, 1984, was designed by Frederick Hart, who placed third in the original design competition.

Artist's intent

Hart's description:

"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 aloneness 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 dead 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 key controversies involving this element of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; one was the design controversy which led to the commissioning of this piece, and the other involved copyright, allegations of profiteering, and the POW-MIA issue.

Creation and installation

Negative reactions to Maya Lin's initial design for the Memorial wall standing alone 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 accompany the wall as a compromise measure to appease those who wanted a more traditional approach. Lin was furious at the idea of adulteration of her design and the resulting work was designed to stand away from the memorial wall at a distance so as to minimize the impact on her design. Still, Lin refused to attend the dedication of the sculpture. A replica of the sculpture was created and was placed and dedicated on July 12, 2008 in Apalachicola, Florida.

Copyright and profiteering

The design of "The Three Soldiers" was copyrighted by Hart and the VVMF. 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.

An organization called "Homecoming II", which was headed by Ted Sampley, a POW-MIA activist, received a permit to hold POW vigils on the National Mall near the memorial. This vigil outpost sold numerous pieces of merchandise bearing depictions of "The Three Soldiers" as well as selling and giving away literature relating to the POW-MIA issue. Hart saw this as profiteering by Sampley and asked him to stop. When Sampley refused, Hart asked that Sampley enter into a licensing agreement. When Sampley refused this, Hart and the VVMF threatened legal action.

Hart and the VVMF sued for infringement, winning a $359,442 judgment. During court proceedings, it was revealed that while "Homecoming II" was a nonprofit staffed by volunteer labor, all of their memorabilia was purchased from companies controlled by Sampley. Reported earnings for the t-shirt operation were nearly $2 million over three years. Sampley avoided paying the judgement by closing "Homecoming II" and "Red Hawk", the company which manufactured the t-shirts.


ee also

*Vietnam Women's Memorial

External links

* [ The Merry Prankster] , chapter 12 of "Prisoners of Hope" by Susan Katz Keating, describing actions by Ted Sampley
* [ History of the Wall] at, a group involved with the POW-MIA controversy.

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