the korean war veterans memorial {travel theme: still}

Tuesday, December 17: Ailsa’s travel theme (Where’s my backpack?) for this week, Still, brought to mind the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.  The Korean War is considered to have ended when the Armistice was signed on July 27, 1953, but there has never been a peace treaty.  South Korean and American troops still face off against North Korean troops today at the 38th parallel, commonly called the DMZ.

The Korean War Veterans Memorial sits in Washington, D.C.’s West Potomac Park, just south of the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall. It commemorates those who served in the Korean War.

The main memorial is in the form of a triangle intersecting a circle. More than 2,500 photographic, archival images representing the land, sea and air troops who supported those who fought in the war are sandblasted on the 100 ton wall of highly polished “Academy Black” granite from California.

the main memorial of the Korean Veterans War Memorial
the main memorial of the Korean Veterans War Memorial

Within the walled triangle are 19 stainless steel statues, each larger than life-size, between 7 feet 3 inches and 7 feet 6 inches tall; each weighs nearly 1,000 pounds. The figures represent a squad on patrol, drawn from each branch of the armed forces; fourteen of the figures are from the U.S. Army, three are from the Marine Corps, one is a Navy corpsman, and one is an Air Force Forward Air Observer. They are dressed in full combat gear, dispersed among strips of granite and juniper bushes which represent the rugged terrain of Korea (Wikipedia: Korean War Veteran’s Memorial).

17 stainless steel larger-than-life statues represent a patrol squad
17 stainless steel larger-than-life statues represent a patrol squad
patrol squad in Korea
patrol squad in Korea

According to History.com, on June 25, 1950, the Korean War began when some 75,000 soldiers from the North Korean People’s Army poured across the 38th parallel, the boundary between the Soviet-backed Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the north and the pro-Western Republic of Korea to the south. This invasion was the first military action of the Cold War. By July, American troops had entered the war on South Korea’s behalf. As far as American officials were concerned, it was a war against the forces of international communism itself. After some early back-and-forth across the 38th parallel, the fighting stalled and casualties mounted with nothing to show for them. Meanwhile, American officials worked anxiously to fashion some sort of armistice with the North Koreans. The alternative, they feared, would be a wider war with Russia and China–or even, as some warned, World War III. Finally, in July 1953, the Korean War came to an end. In all, some 5 million soldiers and civilians lost their lives during the war. The Korean peninsula is still divided today.

patrol squad in Korea
patrol squad in Korea

The United Nations Command, supported by the United States, the North Korean People’s Army, and the Chinese People’s Volunteers, signed the Armistice Agreement on 27 July 1953 to end the fighting. The Armistice also called upon the governments of South Korea, North Korea, China and the United States to participate in continued peace talks. The war is considered to have ended at this point, even though there was no peace treaty.  North Korea nevertheless claims that it won the Korean War (Wikipedia: Korean War).

patrol squad
patrol squad

Since the armistice, there have been numerous incursions and acts of aggression by North Korea. In 1976, the axe murder incident was widely publicized. This involved the killing of two United States Army officers by North Korean soldiers on August 18, 1976, in the Joint Security Area (JSA) within the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The U.S. officers had been part of a work party cutting down a tree in the JSA. Since 1974, four incursion tunnels leading to Seoul have been uncovered.

In 2010, a North Korean submarine torpedoed and sank the South Korean ROKS Cheonan, resulting in the deaths of 46 sailors.  Again in 2010, North Korea fired artillery shells on Yeonpyeong island, killing two military personnel and two civilians (Wikipedia: Korean War).

Korean War Veterans Memorial
Korean War Veterans Memorial

I was living and working in Korea during both of the 2010 incidents, which made for some very unsettling moments: north korea sinks the south korean navy ship cheonan and North Korea attacks the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong.

Korean War Veterans Memorial
Korean War Veterans Memorial
Korean War Veterans Memorial
Korean War Veterans Memorial
the main memorial
the main memorial

It’s a shame that North Korea still to this day bullies South Korea, one of the world’s economic success stories.  Having lived and worked in South Korea, and having taught many South Korean students, I feel a kinship with the South.  I hope that the still-tense situation at the 38th parallel will, one day soon, be resolved peacefully.

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15 thoughts on “the korean war veterans memorial {travel theme: still}

    1. Thanks so much, Christine. I don’t know why Ailsa’s travel theme brought this to mind, except that maybe I’ve been thinking about Korea a lot lately. I visited this memorial this past summer when I returned home. 🙂

      1. weaving things together, so healthy and necessary … as I get older I find things from the past cropping up to be ‘integrated’! Easy with yoga nidra .. would you like me to send you a link to one of my recordings, quite a simple relaxation?

  1. Another bit of the world conveniently forgotten till a major incident alerts us again, Cathy! I know you feel an affinity with these people. I don’t imagine you have time to look back and see how far your writing has progressed, but it has! 🙂
    The triangle and the sculptures really capture the imagination. Thanks for sharing 🙂 Big hug!

    1. Thanks so much, Jo. I think you’re right, my writing has progressed. But I also think it goes back and forth. I actually think some of my Korean posts are my best ever. Funny; I’m really inconsistent, but it really depends on how much time I take.

      This is one of the more interesting memorials on the National Mall, in my eyes. When are you coming to visit? 🙂

      1. Time isn’t exactly something you have yards of, is it??? I keep meaning to have a proper read through your Korean exploits but so far I’ve only dabbled. In that spell between Christmas and New Year when I have NOTHING to do…. 🙂
        Now, let me see… when could I fit you in? Don’t you dare ship out on me before I get there! 🙂

      2. I don’t plan to ship out any time soon, Jo. Don’t worry. If you read my Korean exploits, I’ll be honored, but I certainly don’t expect you to! They are a thing of the past… 🙂 I am so happy to be off from teaching!! Hope you are enjoying your holiday preparations! 🙂

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