KOREAN WAR MONUMENT (1996)

(From a 1996 Keeping APAce Article by Jug Varner)

Veterans of the Korean War were memorialized in 1995 with a monument near the Lincoln Memorial. It is located across the Washington Mall Reflecting Pool, about 1,000 feet south of the Vietnam Wall.

In stark contrast to the Vietnam Wall of names — a display that evokes emotions of that war's bitterness and shabby treatment of its returning veterans by an American public torn apart by anti-war hysteria — the Korean Monument gives one an eerie sense, as though a firefight may break out at any moment.

The larger-than-life bronze platoon, warily ascending a “Korean rise” in search of an elusive enemy, is a realistic and haunting scene — especially to anyone who has been in a combat zone.

And, unlike the Marine Corps' Mount Suribachi flag raising monument that signifies victory at a high cost, those in the Korean War fought and died for no real victory — merely a truce, at best — with little sense of true accomplishment or closure. It was the beginning of U. S. participation in winless wars that has continued over the past half-Century.

The memorial's unusual and realistic setting, its arty granite walls, its bronze tablets that offer surprising facts and figures, its reflection pool, and its meditation fountain area, all combine for a brief history of what our government in the 1950s called “a conflict” instead of a war. For those who fought and died there, it was in truth a war and its memorial is worthy of a visit during your next trip to the nation's capital.