The Korean War ended with an armistice on July 27, 1953. The National Korean War Veterans Memorial was completed and dedicated 42 years later on July 27, 1995. On the same day, President Bill Clinton signed an amendment to the US Code Title 36 declaring July 27 as Korean War Armistice Day.
Read: Everything you need to know about Korean War Veterans Armistice Day
At the center of the memorial are 19 statues of a patrolling unit known collectively as “The Column,” a masterpiece by sculptor Frank Gaylord. It also has a reflective mural by industrial designer Louis Nelson that reflects representative images of those who fought in the war.
There is also a United Nations Wall commemorating allies who fought alongside the US and South Korea, and the Pool of Remembrance.
In 2022, the memorial will have a new addition, a 380-foot memorial wall listing the names of the 36,574 Americans and approximately 8,000 Korean reinforcements to the United States Armed Forces (KATUSAs) killed during the war.
“Memorials are important to a lot of people,” Louis Nelson, Army veteran and mural wall designer, told Military.com. “It’s important to the people who have served because it’s a recognition of the country they’ve served in. You can walk to the memorial and feel a sense of presence and belonging.
“But it is also very important for the families. People are dying and we are losing our Korean War veterans at an extraordinary rate. Within the next 10 years, the last living veteran will have died, so it becomes important for them to recognize their service.”
Nelson was not involved in the creation of the latest addition, which is set to be unveiled in a ceremony marking the 69th anniversary of the end of the Korean War. The mural he created was meant to depict the faces of those who fought and died to liberate South Korea from communist rule.
“I wanted to honor not only the men and women who served in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard, but the work that they did there,” says Nelson. “Whether they were truck drivers or nurses, lawyers, DropShip operators or tank gunners, so visitors could address them as they would in real life.
“Some of the faces would be life size so you would have eye contact. Somehow they would see that this is the face of America that we sent to war.”
Nelson appreciates the concept of writing down the names of those lost in the conflict, such as the design on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. He says it dates back to a time when the tradition of remembering the lost was more personal and local.
“In the early days of the United States, when ships left ports but never returned, the names of lost people were engraved on the walls of local churches and other buildings,” he says. “There is a long tradition of honoring the service of those who have given their lives with their names.”
The latest addition to the Korean War Veterans Memorial will include the names of American personnel and KATUSA forces killed between 1950 and 1953. KATUSA troops were South Korean conscripts who worked alongside the 8 American troops.
“There was a desire to list all the names of the more than 36,000 Americans and 7,000 Koreans who died in the war, but that would take up a lot of space,” says Nelson. “They dedicated an area just east of the existing monument and fortified it to look like it grew out of the original design.”
The latest addition was designed by Mary Katherine Lanzillotta. She also directed the renovation and restoration of the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture, which houses the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Renwick Gallery, and the National Portrait Gallery.
“It’s a little bit different than when it opened,” says Nelson of the Korean War Veterans Memorial. “But they’ve taken care of the original patina a bit and it looks absolutely gorgeous. I think they did a great job all round.”
The Korean War Veterans Memorial Wall will be unveiled on July 27, 2022. To learn more about the memorial, visit the National Parks Service online or the Korean War Veterans Memorial Foundation.
— Blake Stilwell can be reached at email@example.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.
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