The Korean War Veterans Memorial was rededicated today with a new feature: a "Wall of Remembrance" that features the names of the more than 43,000 U.S. service members and Korean augmentees to the U.S. Army who were killed during the war.
"Today ... we commemorate the sacrifice of those Americans and Koreans who bravely fought together, side-by-side to defend our freedom, laying the foundation for a thriving Democratic Republic of Korea and a strong, unbreakable United States/Republic of Korea alliance," Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff said.
The Korean War Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington was first dedicated 27 years ago, on July 27, 1995. Construction on the rededicated memorial began in March 2021. The $22 million project was funded by donations from the peoples of the United States and South Korea, formally named the Republic of Korea.
The names on the Wall of Remembrance are arranged in order of rank and branch of service to demonstrate to visitors how the war’s burden fell unevenly across the military.
Another important element of the wall is that the names of U.S. service members and Korean augmentees to the U.S. Army are not listed separately. Instead, they’re mingled together — just as they fought together during the war.
Korean augmentees to the U.S. Army, or KATUSAs, are members of the Republic of Korea Army who are assigned to the U.S. Army, wear U.S. Army uniforms, and are equipped with the same gear as U.S. soldiers. They also live and fight alongside U.S. soldiers. The KATUSA concept was first developed during the Korean War and continues today.
"This wall reminds us of the depths of their sacrifice and instills in us a call of duty to carry on their fight," Korean Ambassador to the United States Cho Tae-yong said. "The service members we are here today to honor stood their ground in battlefields so that future generations could live in a vibrant democracy — indeed, the Republic of Korea is a vibrant democracy today. Recognizing this, I promise to follow their lead and work to build an even stronger ROK/U.S. alliance. On behalf of the whole of Korean people, I'd like to express my gratitude to all the veterans of the Korean War and their families. We are eternally and profoundly grateful."
According to statistics from the Korean War Veterans Memorial Foundation, the Wall of Remembrance features the names of 29,857 U.S. soldiers, 4,522 U.S. Marines, 668 U.S. sailors, 1,587 U.S. airmen, and 7,174 Korean augmentees to the U.S. Army. A total of 43,808 names appears on the wall.
"It's beautiful monument," Emhoff said. "It's a poignant reminder of the individual sacrifices of the more than 36,000 U.S. service members and the more than 7,000 Korean troops who served together and died together in Korea. Their names are now forever engraved here on our incredible Washington mall."
In addition to the Wall of Remembrance, work at the Korean War Veterans Memorial included: refinishing the 19, 8–feet–tall, stainless-steel statues that represent service members from each of the U.S. military services that fought in the war, replacing the engraved names of participating countries and casualty figures with stainless steel letters, and extensive landscaping efforts.
Chairman of the Korean War Veterans Memorial Foundation, retired Army Gen. John H. Tilelli Jr. said the Wall of Remembrance and enhancements to the memorial will better educate visitors on the importance of remembering the Korean War.
"We are hopeful that this memorial will remind the millions of people who visit here each year that freedom is not free," Tilelli said.
The foundation, he said, had three goals when redesigning and rededicating the memorial:
To honor those who fought in the war and ensured a free and democratic South Korea.
To educate visitors about the cost of war. Nearly 1,000 soldiers died each month during the 37 months the war was fought.
To show the strength of the existing ironclad ROK/U.S. alliance.
"Today, we honor the veterans of the Korean War and the families of the fallen heroes," Tilelli said. "With this dedication ceremony, I hope that it is no longer the 'Forgotten War,' but the ‘remembered victory’ that was won by these veterans."