Looking Back at the Korean War Veterans Memorial Competition

As Memorial Day 2018 approaches, we thought it would be appropriate to draw attention to a unique series in our Still-Picture Branch, RG 117-KDS, which covers a competition that took place in the 1980’s to design the Korean War Veterans Memorial.

In 1986, the American Battle Monuments Commission was authorized to build a war memorial honoring United States veterans of the Korean War, which took place between 1950 and 1953.  A competition to design the war memorial, to be located in Washington D.C., was established in collaboration with the Army Corps of Engineers, and saw over 500 submissions sent in for deliberation.  Out of those 500+ submissions, three submissions were awarded a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place designation.  Reflecting upon the upcoming National holiday, I decided it would be interesting to highlight those submissions, as well as another I found particularly powerful.

My Pick:

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While going through each of the color slides, I came across a design submitted by Pamela Humbert.  This design is based around a reflecting pool, featuring bronze maps of major phases of the Korean War, and is flanked with four rectangular monuments and four statues of veterans.  I felt the organization of the monument was fluid, meaningful, and an effective way to memorialize and honor the sacrifice of our veterans.  Kudos to Pamela!

Now for the official place winners.

3rd Place:

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The submission that took 3rd place was submitted by Mark P. Fondersmith, and features a design centered around the charge of the South Korean flag, called the Taeguk, which symbolizes balance.  Surrounding the Taeguk centerpiece, in the memorial, are other symbols and statues meant to honor and remember the veterans who fought in Korea.

2nd Place:

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The 2nd place submission was designed by Ronald C. Nims and uses the 48-star flag (remember, Alaska and Hawaii weren’t states until 1959!), as well as a curving stone structure, as the focal point of the memorial.  The curving stone structure was designed to “symbolize the tremendous struggle against overwhelming odds.”  The memorial design also features three reflecting pools and a plaza allowing for large gatherings.

1st Place:

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The 1st place designation was awarded to the team of John Paul Lucas, Veronica Burns Lucas, Don Alvero Leon and Eliza Pennypack Oberholtzer.  Originally projected to feature 38 soldiers adorning the path between the entrance and the plaza, the final product created controversy, as the designing group claimed their original submission was significantly altered by the company that was awarded the building contract — As it stands today, the memorial features 19 stainless steel statues representing two columns of ground troops, advancing in a triangular pattern, including 14 Army, 3 Marine, 1 Navy and 1 Air Force members.  It’s located at the National Mall, across from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and near the Lincoln Memorial.

For those planning on being in the Washington D.C. area for Memorial Day, I recommend making the Korean War Veterans Memorial a stop in your itinerary.  This year, the National Memorial Day Concert will honor Korean War veterans Hiroshi “Hershey” Miyamura and Joe Annello.