A Haunting Memorial

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by tartlette on July 9, 2009

This review is about the Korean War Memorial. I think that if you go to Washington and only see one memorial (there are a lot!) then this should be the one that you see…..and here's why.


The Korean War lasted from 1950-1953. It is not a war that gets talked about a lot, mainly because everyone concentrates on the Second World War which had only been over for five years and the Vietnam War. The War broke out when the Communist regime of North Korea invaded South Korea. The USA was afraid of the spread of Communism and so decided to fight to defend South Korea. Over 54,000 American troops were killed in the three year war (and a lot more UN troops as well).

The Memorial itself was originally planned in 1986 but as with everything the realisation took a little longer. The Memorial was opened by Bill Clinton and the President of South Korea in 1995.


The Memorial is completely free to look around and is open from 8am until midnight every day except Christmas Day. The Memorial has paths all around and from what I saw is completely accessible for wheelchairs and prams.


As for the Lincoln Memorial, parking near the Korean Memorial is almost impossible. There is parking available on the side of the road a little way of but due to my aunt recovering from a broken foot this wasn't an option for us. We got to the Memorial on a tour bus which was a great way of getting there as they drop you off much closer than you can get in your own car. The nearest metro stop is Foggy Bottom (hehehe - sorry immature I know!).
The Memorial is very close to the Lincoln Memorial so if you go to one then you are within two minutes walk of the other.


The information booth for the Korean Memorial is a little way off from it, opposite the Lincoln Memorial. Here you can pick up leaflets etc.

On approach to the Memorial the first think that strikes you is the statues. They are absolutely amazing. They are the main part of the Memorial and the part that will remain with you. There are 19 statues of men on patrol in Korea. The men represent members of the army, navy, air force and marines. The statues were designed by a World War Two veteran, Frank Gaylord. The statues are in rows and in between them are bushes and plants which represent the rugged landscape of Korea and the black slabs in front of the statues represent the obstacles the soldiers had to overcome. The statues are really haunting, the look of despair and horror on some of the faces is clear. I fail to see how anyone could not be amazed by this part of the Memorial. The statues also represent the different races that fought in the Korean War. Despite there still being a huge amount of prejudice in 1950s America, the Army was not segregated and all races fought together. The soldiers also show the conditions that the troops in Korea had to fight in. They are all wearing huge ponchos to keep dry.

Around the statues are various other aspects of the Memorial. You can walk all the way around the triangle that the statues form. On one side of the triangle is a black granite wall, with faces on it. These faces have been sandblasted into the wall and are taken from actual photographs taken during the conflict. They represent support troops from the War. These faces can be quite difficult to see (we were there on a sunny day and I think this made it harder). This wall also reflects the soldiers, creating the illusion of there being 38 soldiers. This represents the 38th parallel, the line along which Korea was divided.

Along another side of the triangle is a low wall which has the names of the other countries who provided troops and supplies for the Korean War as part of the UN. There are 22 of these, including the UK. At the top of the triangle is the Pool of Remembrance, a circular black granite pool with very shallow water. Around this the numbers of dead, missing, injured and captured are recorded. The pool is meant to be a quiet place for reflection on those who died.
In between the statues and the Pool of Remembrance is the famous inscription "Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met". Also inscribed on the Memorial are the words "Freedom is not free", reflecting the fact that despite being a free country America has had to make sacrifices to keep that freedom.


If you are in Washington DC please, please go and see this Memorial. It is one of the less well known Memorials of Washington and I think this is a travesty. I really think this is the best Memorial I've seen (and as a History teacher I've seen my fair share!). Some people may not like its realistic, modern approach of the statues but I guarantee that it will stay with you. Other war memorials are perhaps more traditional and even dignified, but they all look very similar. Here is something really different. It won't take long to visit but it really is worth going.
Korean War Veterans Memorial
French Drive SW
Washington, D.C., United States, 20024


©Travelocity.com LP 2000-2009