The Forgotten War’s Memorial


A few years ago, I was in Washington D.C. and I took the opportunity to visit the museums but because I am a taphophile, I was also very keen to visit the Arlington National Cemetery and the war memorials.

When I was growing up, the Vietnam War was not far away and people spoke of the “domino theory” which suggested that a communist victory in Vietnam would lead to the fall of other nations in South East Asia to communism in quick succession.    The war was never far from our thoughts and from our news.  And then the Vietnamese refugees started coming to our shores; we called them the “Boat People”.  When I was  14, I spent my school holidays as a volunteer with a U.N. office trying to match names on search requests sent in by relatives against a long list of names of registered refugees in the hope of reuniting separated loved ones.  I never did succeed in making even one match.

And so, I was very aware about the Vietnam War and I did visit the Vietnam War Memorial.

But there was another earlier Asian war that I and many, many people  are less familiar with …….. the Korean War.  It was a little before I was born and I was never taught anything about it in school.  Believe it or not, the first I learned about it was from watching the TV series M.A.S.H.

Yet in many ways, although much shorter, it was a bloodier war than the Vietnam War.  The percentage of casualties compared to soldiers committed was extremely high.  For example, the average U.S. casualties per month was 4,257 for the Korean War as compared to 2,092 for the Vietnam War (source:Korean War Educator).    And the suffering of the Korean people was great with as much as 10% of the  population killed – a rate of civilian deaths which were higher than that for World War II.

I was deeply moved when I had the opportunity to visit the memorial to what some have called “the Forgotten War”,  and remember the sacrifices made and the lives lost.

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This commemorative stone was actually in the Arlington National Cemetery but the inscription of the number of casualties suffered attest to the ferocity of the fighting. ( Photo by LGS)

 

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Historians may debate the why’s and the how’s of the war but the sacrifices of the soldiers were real and worthy of our respect. (Photo by LGS)

 

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One of the main elements of the memorial is this collection of statues; a ghostly squad on  patrol in eternal vigilance. (Photo by LGS)

 

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As a monument, I prefer this to the Vietnam Memorial as it’s visual impact is more visceral. (Photo by LGS)

 

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The other main element of the Memorial is this dark granite wall with faces of soldiers and civilians from the war. (Photo by LGS)

 

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As I look at the faces, I wonder what were their stories. Were they killed? Did they survive? What has happened to those who came back? (Photo by LGS)

 

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11 thoughts on “The Forgotten War’s Memorial”

  1. This is a very impressive memorial. The first time I see such an installation that gives faces to the people who were there.

  2. The old WWII combat vets, never gave any kudos to the Korean combat vets. During ‘Nam they were saying “We won ours, you guys tied one and lost another” Granted the Korean vets weren’t spit on and abused by the citizens like the Vietnam veterans were but they were largely pushed aside; ignored.

    No one wanted to hear anymore about war after WWII and the enormity of the body count (66 million worldwide) became evident. It was time to partaaaaay! Build new and consume, consume, consume. There was no taste for the blood soaked newspapers anymore. No reason to parade on a truce, no plans ever made to sing Johnny Comes Marching Home Again.

    Few wanted to hear about UN forces outnumbered 3-1 by the N. Koreans and Chinese, No one wanted to hear about UN forces fighting back all the way from Suncheon forcing the Chinese back to the Yalu, no one could stomach any more after 10 years of depression and 4 years of WWII.

    But I knew. My father came out of WWII but the fathers of some of my friends were Korean War Vets, There was no simple term for PTSD then. No help like there is today. People were tired and bored with sabre rattling, America for the most part, except for the mothers of the dead and wounded, wanted to get it over with, push it into history’s closet and forget.

  3. Riot Kitty,
    Do go there if you are in Washington D.C. – it is an experience. I am so glad that you managed to post – I’ve missed your comments and I thought maybe my fermented walnut breath had made you stay away. Now I think that some secret government agency was trying to prevent a revolutionary squirrel and a machine-gun toting kitty from getting together.

  4. Mark,
    Thanks for sharing. After reading what you said, the thing that comes to mind is that “War is HECK!”. I can understand the war weariness after World War II and the reaction of the general populace to the Korean War but it is still wrong to forget those who are called to serve one’s country or in the case of Korea, people they didn’t even know, because the rest of us find the whole thing inconvenient to our pursuit of happiness. If we don’t want to deal with it, we shouldn’t expect others to go do the fight for us.

    How is the U.S. treating their Afghanistan vets?

    Malaysia had its own Communist emergency and both before and after our independence from the UK, British soldiers fought and died to keep Malaysia on its path to nationhood. Yet today, it is politically incorrect to speak of them. Sure the British exploited Malaya when they were colonial masters but we should not forget the price paid to help the fledgling country find stability, security and peace.

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