Korean War Memorial, State Capital Grounds in Olympia

Pictures and text by Stephanie Coleman

These pictures of the Korean War Memorial were taken on 21 April, 2007 on the grounds of the Washington State Capital in Olympia, WA.


Korean War Memorial located near Skybridge entering capital grounds.
"The Forgotten War." 22 Flags representing 22 nations also in Korean War.
Man on far left attempts to light a small fire; much younger man in middle staring off into distance; man on right cupping well-used cigarette in left hand.
Elder of the trio - battle weary and exhausted.
Educational plaques are located on two ends of the monument - each providing detail on Korea, the war and its end.

The pictures in and of themselves give a clear perspective into not only public perception of this war, but validate the hardship and horrible conditions Soldiers and Marines endured.

The Korean War Monument is located on East Campus, near the Capital Way Skybridge. Visitors will first notice the large and stark slab sub-titling the monument "The Forgotten War." A major 20th century conflict between WWII and Vietnam, the Korean War is sometimes referred to as The Forgotten War because it garners much less attention than its historical bookends. Larger than life-size, stark, cold and gray - by placing the memorial at ground level, visitors are drawn in to examine and touch battle weary and grief-stricken faces. Upon closer inspection, the men appear to be of differing ages and ethnicity from the shapes and structures of their faces; and based on the artist's description that was indeed her intent. Designed by a Montana artist, and daughter of a Korean War Veteran, the artist's intent is to be all inclusive; her portrayal of these men as multi-generational and multi-national reminds us this war was not just an American concern, and called both father and son to battle.

The soldiers' eyes seem to be looking neither here nor there and they are clearly exhausted - perhaps suffering from battle fatigue or what some might refer to as the 'thousand yard stare.' Shoulders slumped and bent over, one man attempts to light a small fire while another cups a short, well-used cigarette from the weather - the center man stares off into the distance. Flying behind the monument are 22 flags, representing nations participating in the Korean War, and plaques containing information about the Korean War are located on two sides of the memorial. This monument is a direct reflection of historical accounts of the arduous conditions endured by soldiers and marines. The fact there are 22 flags flying behind the monument is yet another reminder to visitors that the war was not only at the cost of American life and hardship, rather America was joined by 22 nations sending their fathers and sons on this expensive journey of democracy.

Placed at the foot of a Skybridge entering the capital grounds, surely thousands of visitors pass by here annually and given the sharp contrast to the neighboring flower and water gardens, any passer-by would be challenged not to stop, scale the platform and touch the faces - take a closer look at these men. This starkness also reminds us of the cost of war.

Placing education plaques at either end of the monument gates generations - possibly a grandfather to his grandchild - by helping tell the story of Korea, the catalyst behind the war and its conclusion.

Of the estimated 122,000 Washington state Soldiers and Marines who served in Korea, 532 were killed. Dedicated on the capital grounds in 1993, the monument was built from funds raised by the Chosin Few Veteran's Group which represents survivors of the war's bloodiest battles on the Chosin Reservoir in November 1950. Of the 580,000 United Nations troops, and 1.6 million communist soldiers who lost their lives, approximately 53,000 were American.


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