Memorial Reminds That 'Freedom Is Not Free'
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 21, 2000 Visitors to the Korean War Veterans Memorial here are greeted by a patrol of 19 stainless steel statues trudging toward an objective.
The patrol consists of 14 soldiers, one sailor, one airman and three Marines. The seven-foot-tall figures represent racial and ethnic cross sections of America -- whites, blacks, Asians, American Indians, Hispanics.
An Army lead scout with an M-1 rifle. Photo by Rudi Williams.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
One Marine carries an ammunition case about the size of a lunch box and a tripod on his shoulder.
The airman, wearing a fur hat, is the only one not wearing a helmet. There is also a statue of an African American Army medic and a South Korean soldier fighting with the American unit.
The troops walk grimly through a triangular field of juniper bushes and marble barriers that symbolize the rough terrain in Korea. Their objective, at the apex of the triangular "field of service," is symbolized by a masted American flag. The figures are clad in windblown ponchos to recall the harsh weather troops endured during the three-year war -- 1950 to 1953.
The 19 statues reflect off a shiny, 164-foot-long black granite wall. A computer-controlled sandblaster etched the wall's 41 panels, creating a mural of more than 2,500 figures -- the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard personnel who supported combat troops.
The etchings are of Army artillery, rocket launchers, antiaircraft crews, weapons, vehicles, tankers, hospital units, rescue helicopters, surgeons, nurses, ambulances, stretcher bearers, chaplains of all denominations, combat engineers, ammunition and fuel dumps, depots, communications installers, and switchboard and radio operators.
Faces etched into the wall came from photographs in the National Archives and the National Air and Space Museum. Some of the people whose images were used are still alive.
The reflective quality of the granite creates the illusion of 38 statues, symbolic of the 38th Parallel and the 38 months of the war. When viewed from afar, it also creates the appearance of the mountain ranges of Korea.
The third element of the Korean War Veterans Memorial, an area of remembrance, consists of a circular reflecting pool at the apex surrounded by a grove of 40 Linden trees. "Freedom Is Not Free" is engraved on the segment of wall that extends into the pool area.
The memorial recognized the contributions of more than 1.5 million Americans who served in Korea during the three-year war.