“As a Korean War veteran, I know firsthand and understand the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform.”
—Charles B. Rangel (1930–present, former U.S. Congressman from New York)
Today, the 11th of November 2020, is Veterans Day in the United States. Originally called Armistice Day, it was established in 1938 as an annual day of remembrance for those who fought and lost their lives in the First World War. The original name came from the Armistice that ended hostilities at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Because by the early 1950s America had engaged in another world war and the Korean War veterans organizations wanted the word “Armistice” to be replaced with the word “Veterans.” Public Law 380 was approved on the 1st of June 1954, and the 11th of November became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
Honoring the military personnel who served in the Korean War (1950-1953), often referred to as the “Forgotten War,” the New York Korean War Veterans Memorial was dedicated on the 25th of June 1991. Welsh-born artist Mac Adams’ design for the monument was selected from more than 100 entries. One of the first Korean War memorials built in the United States, this monument pre-dates the one on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. by four years.
Standing 15 feet high, the Pennsylvania black granite stele, with its stainless steel cut-out shaped like Korean War soldier known as “The Universal Soldier,” is the centerpiece of the monument. The hollowed-out, silhouetted image allows visitors to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Meant to reinforce the theme of loss, this literal void is a metaphor for death.
Mosaic flags of the participating countries in the U.N.-sponsored mission decorate one of the tiers of the three-tiered base. Located on a circular plaza near Castle Clinton in Battery Park, the New York Korean War Veterans Memorial’s Barre gray granite paving blocks are inscribed with numbers that represent the dead, the wounded, and the missing-in-action from each of the 22 participating countries. These figures were based on official government statistics when the memorial was created in 1991. Since then, those numbers have been revised; by 2019 the Republic of Korea’s official count had grown to 137,899 dead, 450,742 wounded, and 24,495 missing.
A secret of the memorial is that on July 27 at 10AM, the sun shines through the soldier’s head and lights up a plaque on the paving stones; this marks when hostilities in Korea ended in 1953.
Walk About New York’s Downtown Manhattan Walking Tour begins at Battery Park and includes a stop at this unique memorial. What else will you see and learn? Take the Tour; Know More!
ALL PHOTOS AND TEXT, EXCEPT CREDITED QUOTES, © THE AUTHOR 2020