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Forgetting the Remembered War at the Korean War Veterans Memorial

The Korean War Veterans Memorial was dedicated in July 1995, forty-two years after a tense stalemate was reached in Korea, twenty-two years into the period of the all-volunteer military in the United States, twenty years after the fall of Saigon, and just a few years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. It is the first of many memorials built on the Mall in response to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It began with a fairly straightforward, not unreasonable desire for acknowledgement of service in the Korean War. However, in a long, fraught process, the American Battle Monuments Commission, the Korean War Memorial Advisory Board, and various commissions in Washington charged with getting the memorial built sought to use what they understood as the "blind devotion" of soldiers from a "simpler time" in a national recovery project. The veterans who wanted a memorial sought to see their service valued; the builders of the memorial wanted to rewrite the social position of soldiers and soldiering in quite specific terms: they wanted to foreground the service of manly, heroic soldiers. They were not interested in the details of the war in which these soldiers had fought; they were, in fact, invested in obscuring the details of the war with larger-than-life figures of soldiers. These desires were played out in a complicated memorial process and produced looming gunmetal gray figures that haunt the landscape of the National Mall.

The War

The war waged on the Korean peninsula from June 1950 through July 1953 has come to be called "the Forgotten War" in the United States. In this usage forgotten means "not remembered" in a domestic context. It is a war to which people in the U.S. have paid little attention since it ended. This is different from a war not remembered in terms of why it was fought and what happened in the world as a result. Both kinds of forgetting are relevant in the United States, but only the former is a cause of concern. In the discussions about building a Korean War memorial on the National Mall, the term forgotten war appeared everywhere. It was often used with the unselfconscious implication that the sacrifice of American soldiers was what had been forgotten and should be remembered. There was a remarkable silence, however, on the question of why the war was waged. Remembering "the Forgotten War," in fact, involved vigorous forgetting of the details of the war itself. Instead, the conversations turned on the problem of how the sacrificing soldier should be remembered. For this reason, it is important to begin this exploration of the Korean War Veterans Memorial with a few details about the war and what the war meant in the world.

South Koreans often call this "the 6/25 War" because it started on June 25, 1950. This makes sense in the context of Korean history; it marks the war as another event in a long series of struggles against colonial rule. The 6/25 War grew out of the problem posed by former Japanese colonies in the post-World War II period. Korea had been essentially under Japanese rule since the Sino-Japanese War ended in 1895. When the Japanese surrendered in 1945, both the United States and the USSR had troops and interests in Korea. Following Japan's surrender, Korea was hastily split in two at the thirty-eighth parallel. The United States stayed in the south and the Soviet Union stayed in the north. The country was to be run by a joint U.S.-USSR commission for four years, at the end of which Korea would reunify and govern itself independently.

Not surprisingly, this plan was not popular with Koreans. Political agitation emerged in both North Korea and South Korea. Eventually, the United States and the Soviets backed competing reunification efforts, as both countries came to see the thirty-eighth parallel as a significant front in the Cold War. In 1950, an odd sort of civil war broke out when the Soviet-supported North Korean Army crossed the thirty-eighth parallel into South Korea. President Truman expressed anxiety about a new phase in the spread of communism. In a June 27 statement, he claimed, "The attack upon Korea makes it plain beyond all doubt that communism has passed beyond the use of subversion to conquer independent nations and will now use armed invasion and war." Truman, significantly, did not respond by asking the U.S. Congress for a declaration of war. Instead, he turned to the United Nations. He continued, "I know that all members of the United Nations will consider carefully the consequences of this latest aggression in Korea in defiance of the Charter of the United Nations. A return to the rule of force in international affairs would have far-reaching effects. The United States will continue to uphold the rule of law." Truman understood the war as a response to communist aggression, and he turned to the UN to fight for the rule of law rather than the rule of force. It was a Cold War conflict.

Truman's framing of the war was accurate to an extent, but it crucially neglected the colonial origins of the conflict and therefore oversimplified the status of South Korea as an independent nation seeking freedom from communist rule of force. This enabled an oversimplified understanding of the war as an attempt to bring freedom to people threatened by communist aggression. This is important to note because the war's memorializers would look back with nostalgia on what they wanted to see as a simpler time, but the Cold War was not simple. Historian Penny Von Eschen's description of the Cold War as "a far more tangled, and far more violent, jockeying for power and control of global resources than that glimpsed through the lens of the U.S.-Soviet conflict" makes this point. Both the problematic details of Korean history and the violence of this Cold War conflict disappear in the memorial process.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 82 called for North Korea to withdraw and supported a UN effort to defend the South. U.S. and South Korean troops did most of the fighting and dying. They were, however, joined over the course of the war by soldiers from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, England, France, the Philippines, Turkey, the Netherlands, Thailand, Ethiopia, Greece, Colombia, Belgium, South Africa, and Luxembourg. When the mostly U.S. and South Korean forces crossed the thirty-eighth parallel into North Korea in October 1950, the Chinese entered the war to support the North Koreans and their interest in maintaining communism in Korea. The war lasted three years, during which 273,127 South Korean soldiers and an estimated 520,000 North Korean soldiers were killed. A total of 114,000 Chinese soldiers and 54,246 American soldiers were killed. Roughly three million Korean civilians lost their lives. The war ended in a stalemate that has lasted fifty-five years. A demilitarized zone-2.5 miles wide and 155 miles long-was established at the thirty-eighth parallel. Uninhabited by humans for so long, the DMZ now holds interest for wildlife biologists. (Species of birds struggling in other parts of Korea-ruddy kingfishers, watercocks, and von Shrenck's bitterns-thrive in the DMZ.) But it is not abandoned. The length of the DMZ is vigilantly policed on both sides, keeping the war on the Korean peninsula very much alive. This gives the term forgotten war an awkward resonance. It was the first hot front in the Cold War. It was the first proxy war of the Cold War, the first war in which the superpowers used the bodies and territories of others to wage war. Given the way that the tensions in Korea have heightened rather than abated in the post-Cold War era, "the war that stays alive" might be a more accurate description. But this is not what is remembered at the Korean War Veterans Memorial.

On the Mall

At the foot of the Lincoln Memorial, directly across the Reflecting Pool from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, in Ash Woods, hulking figures stand on the National Mall. These figures are surrounded by a quiet body of still water and broad expanses of granite carved with aphorisms and images. The Korean War Veterans Memorial is a tangle of competing design elements that are not easy to describe or decipher.

The memorial has three central design elements, each with multiple dimensions. The largest and most striking element is the triangular Field of Service, which slopes slightly upward and is populated by nineteen statues of seven-foot-tall soldiers clad in ponchos and helmets. Made of stainless steel with a rough, deeply textured, unfinished patina, they have exaggerated, oversized facial features with great, hollow, empty eyes. Like a battle-ready combat troop, they appear to be marching up a gentle incline on the Mall. They are armed, but their weapons, which are not raised, are partially obscured by the bulky ponchos. The soldiers seem to move forward by steady plodding, rather than with speed or determination. The field through which they walk is planted with low shrubs and divided by nineteen long, low, black granite slabs, which carve up the field and mark it as off-limits to visitors. Although their attention is scattered-some face forward, some turn to engage another figure, others look wearily over their shoulders-they appear to be marching together toward the enormous American flag at the top of the incline.

The second major design element of the memorial is the black granite Mural Wall that runs parallel to the Field of Service. It resembles the wall of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in that both are long, black, reflective expanses similarly situated at the base of the Lincoln Memorial. But, in several crucial ways, the wall of the Korean War Veterans Memorial is quite different. It is not carved with the names of those killed in the war, but etched with images of more than 2,400 soldiers and military workers. Photographs from the National Archives emerge from the dark stone in varying sizes and degrees of clarity. Crowded together in some places and separated by expanses of black in others, they seemed to be placed randomly. They are, in fact, placed in a pattern designed to evoke the mountainous terrain of Korea, but this is nearly impossible to see. The images themselves also are not clearly visible, but must always be deciphered through the reflections of the nineteen figures and the reflection of the viewer looking into the granite. It is a murky wall, but also a living wall-its figures are very much alive and engaged in the business of war; they are not inert, tragic, named dead.

The final major design element is the Pool of Remembrance, which sits beyond the flagpole at the top of the incline. This pool of still water is penetrated by an extension of the Mural Wall. Above the pool, this thick wall is carved with striking white letters that read, "Freedom Is Not Free." The pool is surrounded by benches useful for contemplating this claim and its context. This inscription is suggestive, asserting that the war was fought for freedom, that a price was paid, and that this is what needs to be remembered. Obliquely, this refers to what the war was supposed to be about but, in the same breath, turns that meaning inward. It implies that what the United States does in the world is to bring freedom and that the importance of this is not the success, the terms, or the context of the effort, but the price paid in the name of this freedom by the figures marching toward the flag.

The memorial also includes other design elements. Just in front of the lead soldier in the Field of Service is a flagpole, at the base of which is an eight-ton triangular stone inlaid with the following text: "Our Nation Honors Her Uniformed Sons and Daughters Who Answered Their Country's Call to Defend a Country They Did Not Know and a People They Had Never Met." This language also requires contemplation. The nation is feminized. The soldier is uniformed, and referred to as the child of the state. "Sons and daughters" answered the call, but only sons are represented in the memorial. Most strikingly, these sons were asked to sacrifice their lives in a situation of which they had no knowledge. The country and the people remain unnamed and therefore unknown. This language is oblique. The words Korea, communism, containment, and Cold War are not used. This is odd, given the history of the war and the fact that the Cold War had so recently been won. The memorial seems a logical place for celebrating that triumph. But as memorial scholars Barry Schwartz and Todd Bayma write, "The Korean War Memorial's slogan reasserts idealism by leaving vital interests undefined."

U.S. vital interests in Korea were certainly complicated, but leaving them undefined leads to further complication. Writing about the Cold War in Asia, Christina Klein contends that "the political and cultural problem for Americans was, how can we define our nation as a nonimperial world power in the age of decolonization?" The language of the memorial is stunningly generic; the only substance it offers is the soldiers' service. Domesticating the war in this way-focusing on the soldier rather than what he or she did in the world-avoids the problem posed by Klein. At the same time, it provides the answer to her question. Emphasizing the soldier and evading the war's context allow the nation to be defined as a "nonimperial world power in the age of decolonization." This strategy is used throughout the memorial. Shifting the emphasis from the war to the soldier also speaks to the needs of the military of the moment-the thorny problem of recruiting for an all-volunteer military. More information about the Korean War might have complicated the memorial's statement that "Freedom Is Not Free." The shift to the soldier avoids the vital interests of the past to address the vital interests of the present.

There is more. The north side of the path on the north side of the Field of Service is marked by low granite panels bearing the names of the nations that made up the United Nations force in Korea. And a granite panel at the edge of the Pool of Remembrance is carved with the death tolls ("USA 54,246, UN 628,833") and numbers of MIAs and POWs. (The millions of Korean civilians killed are not explicitly remembered here or anywhere else in the memorial.) Finally, at the entrance to the memorial, a kiosk provides an interactive computer that displays photographs and allows visitors to search for names and service records of those who served.

This is an awful lot for visitors to contend with as they move through the memorial. It marks the remembering as both fraught and resolute; after all, the memorial occupies a great deal of the most sacred symbolic real estate in the United States, and it does so in a manner that seems determined to fill the space as densely as possible. It asserts quite clearly that no single symbolic gesture would suffice for those wanting to remember. Most crucially, it insistently foregrounds the service of larger-than-life soldiers to deal with the problem of the kind of war being remembered.

If you are not too distracted by the confusingly competing elements of the design, if you simply stand still before the figures of the soldiers and look at their faces for a while, the commemoration of the soldier is further complicated. The figures' faces are not uniform, like the language of the inscriptions, and they are not generic. They are hollow-eyed, tense, and often contorted. They are, in fact, painful to look at. The rough finish, the blank eyes, the sheer bulk of them, the distracted scatter of their postures-all make the figures both powerfully present and hard to read. Their ghostly, sometimes twisted faces are remarkably moving-they seem to express not platitudes but something of the anguish of the soldier's experience.

The Korean War Veterans Memorial (KWVM) is one of many memorials built and debated in the memorial-building frenzy of late twentieth-century United States. It is the product of a time in which the desire for memory in a national context was intense. The Ninety-Ninth Congress, which initially approved the KWVM in 1985, also approved two other major memorial projects: the Black Revolutionary War Patriots Memorial and the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. Before the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was approved in 1979, more than forty years had elapsed since the last major memorial was built on the Mall, and no national war memorial had ever been built on the Mall. In the twenty years after the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was completed, four major war memorials were built on the Mall. At leastnineteen others were vying for space.

These memorials are explicitly and determinedly part of a struggle to rebuild American nationalism in the wake of the Vietnam War. The way the Vietnam War was waged, the logic that drove the war, and the kind of nation the war imagined were profoundly disruptive of U.S. nationalism in this period. The problem was not simply that the war was unpopular or that the draft was unfair or that rebellious youth did not want to serve. All this was compounded by the powerful voices in the United States who wanted to see Americans as the people who brought the world freedom in the Second World War rather than as the wagers of an unwinnable, unpopular, complicated war in Southeast Asia. Many Americans seemed to want to understand themselves as a nonimperial world power in the age of decolonization, rather than an imperial global power waging the Cold War in newly claimed former French, British, and Japanese colonies. This desire drove the push to build these memorials.

The problem of military service in this period was pertinent and pressing for these memorial projects. The all-volunteer military had, much to the surprise of many, a very successful beginning. In 1973, 1974, and 1975, the army's modest recruiting goals were easily met. But by 1976 recruitment had clearly slowed, and by 1979 there was a 16,000-person shortfall that inspired army chief of staff General Edward Myer to tell Congress that the nation had a "hollow Army." The army responded with increased salaries, increased incentives, and the "Be All You Can Be" advertising campaign. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was hardly helpful in this context; the Wall wasn't an appealing companion to these campaigns. When the Korean War Memorial process began, Selective Service registration had recently been reinstated in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Department of Defense was worried about what would happen if some political incident required a sudden increase in volunteers; there was a lot of anxiety about the feasibility of an all-volunteer military in a wartime situation. As a result, even though in the late 1980s and early 1990s the military reduced its size, dramatically contracting the need for new recruits, the Department of Defense continued to need to raise pay and improve educational benefits in an effort to meet recruiting goals. These recruitment issues would certainly have been on the minds of some of the memorializers.

The story of the building of the KWVM, the debates it engendered, the debates it did not engender, the questions the memorial process raised about the nation, and the figure of the soldier are all linked to difficulties in reconciling old ideas about the nation and the new kinds of wars it was waging. The looming, pained soldiers at the center of this memorial are celebrated and sacrificed. The war in which they served is obscured in the memorial process. The rough, raw faces of the statues emerged from the battle over the figure of the soldier, embodying the struggle to move from the real, complicated experience of soldiers to a positive representation of the willingness to serve that might act as a corrective to the abstraction, the ambiguity, and the grief represented at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The Korean War Veterans Memorial is not simple, but it strives to simplify and domesticate war and military service.


Where is the Korean War memorial?

Somehow I never can find that.

E.G. Windchy

Both the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the National World War II Memorial have well-worn origins stories. Jan Scruggs came home from seeing The Deer Hunter determined to heal his national community. A constituent approached his congresswoman at a pancake supper in Ohio to ask her why there wasn't a World War II memorial, and the lawmaker, stunned by the realization that there wasn't one, embarked on a great crusade. In the case of the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the impetus is probably also best traced to Jan Scruggs and The Deer Hunter. In newspapers, congressional arguments, and presidential speeches, the answer to the question, "Where did the drive to build the Korean War Memorial come from?" was almost always linked to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Crucially, there were two parts to these references to the Wall. The first was essentially that Korean War veterans should have a memorial because the Vietnam veterans have one. The second was that there should be a war memorial on the Mall that is not the Vietnam Veterans Memorial-not abstract, not about grief, not about loss, not about tragedy, not about the nation imagined by the Vietnam Memorial.

In 1955 the Washington Post and Times Herald published a short, lonely letter to the editor on the subject of a possible Korean War memorial. It read:

Each day I admire the altogether fitting and proper memorial statue honoring the courageous lads of America who planted the flag on Iwo Jima during World War II.

Now I'm wondering if there is a memorial somewhere for the equally courageous boys of United Nations who fought under many flags, including our own and that of the United Nations, to stop the aggression of the North Korean and Red China communists on the Korean peninsula.

That was a notable landmark in world history, when a number of nations joined together to stop an aggression which touched them only indirectly.

Men of all races and creeds died for freedom there. Should not there be a monument showing the heterogeneous qualities of those united forces? Would not that serve to remind us and others that even the "little wars" against free people (or even against unfree people) are important today?

G. Holcomb Falls Church

Borrowing Lincoln's language at Gettysburg -"it is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this"- G. Holcomb offers a complicated vision of what could be remembered about the Korean War. He foregrounds the "courageous boys" but suggests that what should be marked about the Korean War is that it was waged by the United Nations and fought by men of "all races and creeds." When he asks, "Should not there be a monument showing the heterogeneous qualities of those united forces?" he asks a powerful question.

In 1955, memorials were not of much interest to most people in the United States. World War II was remembered mostly by local, living memorials, and renewed interest in memorialization was still at least twenty-five years away. In the immediate post-Korean War years, there were precious few letters to editors about Korean War memorials, and Holcomb's cause was not taken up. But what he suggests should be remembered-a newly heterogeneous military (or, perhaps more accurately, a newly desegregated U.S. military) and a UN fighting force-are worth noting because these striking, logical, obvious terms for remembering the Korean War of the 1950s were absent when the memorial process began in the early 1980s. They had been replaced by the memorial needs and desires of the 1980s. In the conversations about the memorial, responding to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was far more pressing than remembering desegregated forces or a UN-waged war. Of course, remembrance on the National Mall of either race or a U.S. war fought multilaterally was thorny business, and these challenges did shape the memorial that was built. But, in the final design, both race and the United Nations are present only as traces.

G. Holcomb was not entirely alone in his desire to see a memorial built. The American Battle Monuments Commission made some noise about raising funds in the mid-1960s. And in the preceding years, a few individuals tried to stir interest in a memorial. In Marlboro, New York, Eli Belil started pushing for a memorial in the late 1970s. Belil, a Korean War veteran and research director for Penthouse magazine, wrote letters to state and federal authorities, various veteran's agencies, and the American Battle Monuments Commission, but got nowhere. He encountered "official roadblocks, ignorance, and apathy when it comes to recognizing the sacrifices of those of us who so long ago fought and paid the ultimate price for freedom in a faraway land." It wasn't until the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (VVM) was built that any serious momentum was gained for a Korean War memorial. In 1987, Belil expressed a common sentiment when he said, "I'm not knocking the Vietnam veterans and the fact that their memorial is finally a reality, but like Vietnam, Korea was a battleground in which almost as many men lost their lives over a shorter period of time.... [A]ll they have to show for it are a few fading pictures ... and the scars that neither time nor the Government's apathy will heal." Belil attributes the pre-VVM lack of interest to the Korean War veterans' unwillingness to "make waves," indicating a generational difference between the Vietnam and Korean veterans but also implying that, before 1982, getting a war memorial built required making special, disruptive demands that the proud (and maybe more compliant?) Korean War veterans were unwilling to make. Holcomb was interested in remembering the war in the context of world history. Belil and the voices that emerged after the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was completed were interested in something else: recognition for individual sacrificing soldiers and the need to heal.

The closest the KWVM gets to an origins story of its own dates to 1981, when Chayon Kim, a Korean-born naturalized U.S. citizen, formed the National Committee for the Korean War Memorial. Kim's life had been saved by American troops during the war. She would later recount hours of "huddling in a bunker while American B-29s dropped bombs on North Korean troops all around her hiding place." Inspired by a meeting with Mrs. Douglas MacArthur, Kim established a memorial committee comprising a few self-appointed individuals without governmental affiliations. Just one month after the spectacularly successful dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, in December 1982, Kim was removed from the committee. Two years later, the committee dissolved in the face of serious financial improprieties. One-time committee member Myron McKee had taken advantage of veterans' desire to see the memorial built as a way to line his own pockets, paying himself $650,000 to raise $600,000. Before this happened, however, Kim's committee did make a couple of key contributions to the memorial process.

According to the Journal of the American Institute of Architects, in November 1982, at the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, members of Kim's committee distributed six thousand questionnaires that read: "If you are a veteran, we value your advice and participation in the building of the Korean War Memorial. (1) Above ground, visible, or below ground; (2) modern art or traditional art; (3) decisions by veterans or decisions by architects." Only 350 questionnaires were returned, but the verdict was clear: above ground, traditional, and dictated by veterans. (This is almost but not quite what they got.) The questionnaire and its response clearly defined the Korean War Memorial principally as a response to the VVM. It set the terms of the debate explicitly around rewriting the Vietnam Memorial rather than the particular history of the Korean War. In the memorial process, rewriting "traditional art," privileging the decisions of veterans, and lifting the memorial form above ground (resurrecting it, if you will) were of central importance to the memorial's advocates. But each of these elements turns out to be more complicated, more slippery, than the questionnaire's emphatic concision suggested.

"Traditional art," for instance, used in juxtaposition to "modern art" in the survey, would have had a particular and quite pointed resonance in 1982. In the early Cold War era, U.S. federal agencies had embraced modernism to represent "American-style freedom of expression" in contrast to "Soviet-style repression." However, by the 1980s popular rejection of modernism paved the way for a return to traditionalism. For historian Casey Nelson Blake, the 1993 Knoxville Flag outside of the General Services Administration building in Knoxville signaled "the replacement of modernism as an official style by a new patriotic realism, dressed up in the rhetoric of conservative identity politics." When Blake worries that "the ascendancy of neotraditionalist public monuments" will "imagine a public life with no surprises-no surprises from artists, no surprises from racial and ethnic minorities, no surprises from crime and violence, and no surprises, above all, from public protests and civil unrest," he describes exactly what many of the questionnaire respondents and the veterans and agencies seeking to build the Korean War Memorial wanted: an explicit rejection of the possible ambiguities of modernism. Kim's questionnaire, in the shadow of the decidedly modern and not clearly patriotic Vietnam Memorial, posited traditional art in the terms Blake describes, as "an official style of new patriotic realism."

An October 1982 letter to the editor of the Washington Post written by E.G. Windchy of Alexandria captured the initial gentle push for a memorial for Korean War veterans: "Where is the Korean War memorial? Somehow I never can find that." The tone of this letter-wry, gentle humor, not entitled outrage-is interesting. In 1982, with the buildup to the dedication of the VVM underway, it expressed a sense that if the Vietnam veterans were getting a memorial, the Korean War veterans should get one too. A few years later, the lack of a memorial would become a source of righteous anger for many. By 1985, the gentle chiding was gone; when Virginia representative Stan Parris, a Korean War veteran, introduced a bill calling for the building of a memorial to honor Korean War veterans in Washington, the congressional record was full of indignation.

This new indignation is reflected in the headlines that followed passage of the Korean War Veteran Act of 1985. The Christian Science Monitor headline "Giving Korean War Vets Their Due" captures the mood. The refrain in newspapers-"They don't have one ... and they should"-was repeated again and again. In the fall of 1985, a New York Times article begins, "Almost as many (54,259) died in the Korean War as in the Vietnam War (58,022) but there is no Korean War memorial in the Washington area," and a Los Angeles Times editorial begins, "At least two decades late, a bill is moving through Congress to erect a Korean War memorial." Remembering the forgotten war in these conversations had remarkably little to do with the war to be remembered. And, between G. Holcomb in 1955 and E. G. Windchy in 1982, a significant shift in logic is evident. Holcomb turned to Lincoln at Gettysburg to justify his interest in a memorial about the particular details of the war, while Windchy assumed that a memorial should be built because it was appropriate and the Vietnam veterans had one.

Kim's committee, which successfully initiated the push for the memorial, lobbied at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial dedication not only for a Korean War memorial but also for the particular shape it should take. The committee explicitly marked the emergent Korean War Memorial as a response to the VVM both in the need to remember the soldiers who served in these Cold War conflicts and also in the need to correct the anticelebratory, antiheroic design of the VVM. These terms were neither inevitable nor universally desired. They were, however, the terms that would triumph in the struggle over the memorial design. And it is important to note that these terms did not come from the veterans.

Before 1985 there was no active national organization of Korean War veterans. In 1984 Korean War veteran Bill Norris was dismayed by the poor turnout of Korean War veterans at a Twenty-Fifth Infantry Division Association reunion and set out to connect with his fellow veterans. He had trouble generating interest at first, but his persistence led to the formation of the Korean War Veterans Association. Their modest first meeting was a memorial service at Arlington National Cemetery in July 1985. On that day each veteran carried a single mum-a flower symbolizing both sorrow and the silence of the memory of the war. At this meeting they produced a statement of principles for their fledgling organization: "To support the ideals this Great Country was founded on; To maintain the dignity and pride of the Korean War veterans who served this country when asked to; To work towards the recognition of those who did not return from the Korean War; To maintain and foster the comradeship between the men and women who served during the Korean War; To perpetuate the memory and reason which required our service during the Korean War."

This statement is straightforward and moving, especially the final principle. They were not just asking to be remembered; they were seeking to "perpetuate the memory and reason" for their service. And although they were not writing about a war memorial and did not form the organization with a war memorial in mind, they became key advocates for the memorial, and their terms for remembering the war could have been useful as the process moved forward.

The Legislation and the Terms of the Debate

This brave group has been leapfrogged by time and it is up to those of us serving in Congress to rectify the situation.

Rep. Stan Parris

In October 1985, the Ninety-Ninth Congress passed the Korean War Veterans Act authorizing $1 million for the design, planning, and construction of a Korean War memorial. This was the third time the memorial had been proposed in Congress. In 1982, Representative John Hammerschmidt sponsored "a joint resolution to authorize the erection of a memorial on public grounds in the District of Columbia, or its environs, in honor and commemoration of members of the Armed Forces of the United States who served in the Korean War." In 1983, Claude Pepper introduced a different bill. Adding "Allied Forces," this one read, "A joint resolution to authorize the erection of a memorial on public grounds in the District of Columbia, or its environs, in honor and commemoration of members of the Armed Forces of the United States and the Allied Forces who served in the Korean War." Both bills died in committee. A 1985 version, which was approved, dropped the allied forces; the logic behind this deletion is not made explicit in the congressional record, but the debate about the 1985 bill is revealing. The war to be remembered was an American war fought by American troops, and the role of the United Nations got precious little mention. Korea, communism, the millions of Koreans killed, and the Cold War also received hardly a passing mention.

The terms of the discussion in Congress echo the sentiments expressed in newspapers. Over and over again, the memorial is described as long overdue. The reason for building a memorial is universally assumed: to recognize the sacrifices of those who served. The war itself is described only in the most generic terms, as a quest for freedom, and the numbers of Americans who served and died are repeatedly emphasized. The service and sacrifice of the American soldiers are the central concerns. Representative Stan Parris was a sponsor of the bill; his language reflects the tenor of sentiments expressed in Congress. In May 1985 he stated, "A great disservice has been done to a very large segment of our population-a group of 5.7 million American Citizens who served during the Korean War." He continued, "54,236 Americans made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and the ideals of freedom ... ideals which form the foundation upon which this nation rests.." To him it was "incredible to note that there is not a memorial in the nation's capital." He concluded, " T]his brave group has been leapfrogged by time and it is up to those of us serving in Congress to rectify the situation."

The final legislation is fairly straightforward. Public Law 99-572 was signed by Ronald Reagan on October 28, 1986, and calls for a memorial "in honor and commemoration of members of the Armed Forces of the United States who served in the Korean War." It guarantees space on the Mall and puts the American Battle Monuments Commission in charge of overseeing the building of the memorial. It calls for the establishment of an all-veteran Korean War Memorial Advisory Board (KWMAB) to do two things. First, it was to select the design-subject, as is the case with all memorials built on federal lands in Washington, to the approval of American Battle Monuments Commission, the Commission of Fine Arts, and the National Capital Planning Commission. Second, it was to oversee fundraising for the memorial, or, in the language of the bill-"encourage private donations for the memorial."

The precedent had been set in this period for memorials on the National Mall to be built with private donations, when the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund rejected federal funds for their memorial for explicit political reasons. And though advocates for the Korean War Veterans Memorial did not seem to share this political position, they were required to raise the money to pay for their memorial from private sources. The Ninety-Ninth Congress also approved the building of a memorial for black Revolutionary War veterans and for women who have served in the U.S. military. These memorials also were required to be paid for with nonfederal monies.

In the end, the Korean War Veterans Memorial cost more than $18 million. Hyundai Motors of America gave the largest corporate donation, $1.2 million. Samsung Information Systems and a handful of other Korean corporations also gave generously, but most of the donations came from individuals. A Dear Abby letter in 1988 raised more than $400,000; a congressionally approved Korean War Memorial coin raised over $8 million; and the Korean War Veterans Association worked tirelessly to raise funds for the memorial. The pages of its aptly named newsletter, The Graybeards, were preoccupied with fundraising for the memorial from January 1986 through the dedication in 1995. Even as they expressed frustration about the pace of progress and the ever-increasing costs, the Graybeards editors pushed constantly for donations. In fact, they dedicated much more space to fundraising than to other issues related to the memorial, most notably the design. They spent precious little ink on the details of the design. The only design-related issue that came up with any regularity was concern about fair representation across military branches. Mostly what the editors and letter writers expressed over and over again was the desire to see the memorial completed on the Mall. And as successful as they were as fundraisers for the memorial, their power to influence the design of the memorial, had they been interested, seems likely to have been quite limited. In 1991 when they pushed for more progress and more accountability in the memorial process, the memorial board chair publicly berated them, and their representative on the advisory board resigned from the organization with an angry letter.

Congress's stipulation that veterans select the design was crucial to the memorial process and perhaps more consequential for the memorial than the stipulation that private monies be used. A jury of well-known architects, landscape architects, artists, and critics had selected the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; the fact that the VVM board did not include any veterans had been the subject of some controversy. This likely inspired the desire for an all-veteran board. Certainly, in its own unscientific way, the survey conducted at the dedication of the VVM made clear the desire for an all-veteran jury. And those who responded got their wish.

Given that 5.7 million people served in the Korean War-era military, President Reagan had a good pool from which to form his committee. Reagan had disliked Maya Lin's design for the Vietnam Memorial from the start. His secretary of the interior, James Watt, had threatened to delay groundbreaking for the memorial unless modifications were made to her design. The Frederick Hart sculpture of three Vietnam War era soldiers was a last-minute, controversial addition because Reagan and Watt insisted on the addition of heroic figures. In selecting veterans to serve on this board, Reagan had a chance to set the record straight on the Mall. Not surprisingly, the veterans he chose were not the kind of veterans who made up the membership of the Korean War Veterans Association (KWVA) but the highest ranking and highest achieving Korean War veterans. He appointed eleven men and one woman, including one African American and one Latino, four colonels and three generals, five CEOs (most notably, the CEO of Occidental International Corporation, a petroleum company with more than $22 billion in annual profits), and representatives of selected veterans organizations, including the KWVA. Theboard chair was General Richard Stilwell, a four-star general and the son of a four-star general who had earned his nickname, "Vinegar Joe," through toughness and acidity. These folks were charged with building the memorial, but, like all memorials on the Mall, it would need the approval of the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission.

In response to the McMillan Plan for the Mall, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts was established in 1910 by an act of Congress. The commission is charged with "giving expert advice to the President, Congress and the heads of departments and agencies of the Federal and District of Columbia governments on matters of design and aesthetics, as they affect the Federal interest and preserve the dignity of the nation's capital." The commission is composed of "well qualified judges of the fine arts" who are appointed by the president to a term of four years. Recent chairs of the commission include William Walton and J. Carter Brown, who served from 1971 to 2002. Brown, from the socially important-and once slave-trading-family that endowed Brown University, was among the most prominent forces in the American art world in the second half of the twentieth century. He served as the director of the National Gallery for twenty-three years, during which time he tripled its endowment and added the modern I. M. Pei addition. He also led the Commission of Fine Arts for more than thirty years, serving under seven presidents. Described as "America's unofficial culture minister," he had a great deal of influence in Washington. Brown was one of the strongest advocates for Maya Lin's VVM design and, as such, had pushed for a particular, modern commemorative aesthetic on the Mall.

Also building on the logic of the McMillan Plan, the National Capital Park Commission was established by an act of Congress in 1924. In 1926, it was reestablished as the National Capital Park and Planning Commission, and Congress gave it comprehensive planning responsibilities for the national capital. The twelve-member commission now "includes five citizens with experience in city or regional planning, three of whom are appointed by the President of the United States and two by the mayor of the District of Columbia." The commission has long been made up of architects, designers, and planners with extensive cultural capital, that is, Washington's cultural elites interested in the capital as a grand national and international stage. This commission had also vigorously supported Maya Lin's design.

As if all these players did not sufficiently complicate the memorial process for the Mall, Congress passed the Commemorative Works Act in 1986. Congress had recently approved three full-scale memorial projects, and demand for many more was on the rise; besieged by the demand for new memorials, Congress sought to quell the memorial fever, or at least rein it in, with specific guidelines. The act stipulates that "an event or individual cannot be memorialized prior to the twenty-fifth anniversary of the event or the death of the individual" and that "military monuments and memorials may only commemorate a war or similar major military conflict or a branch of the Armed Forces.... [M]onuments and memorials commemorating lesser conflicts or a unit of the Armed Forces are not permitted." Thus, for the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the stage was set for a showdown between Reagan-era military elites and Kennedy-era cultural elites. President Reagan's twelve-member KWMAB, the Commission of Fine Arts, and the National Capital Planning Commission were required to approve a design together.

The First Design

In 1988, an open design competition was held. The American Battle Monuments Commission produced, in consultation with the KWMAB, an elaborate document that specified the conditions of the competition and provided guidelines for submission, a statement of purpose, and a statement of philosophy of the memorial. Building on the language of the legislation, this statement of purpose read in part, "The memorial will express the enduring gratitude of the American people for all who took part in that conflict under our flag. It will honor those who survived no less than those who gave their lives, and will project in a most positive fashion, the spirit of service, the willingness to sacrifice and the dedication to the cause of freedom that characterized all participants." Giving lives, serving, willingness to sacrifice, and dedication to freedom-this language reflects the conversation around the legislation, that service and sacrifice trump the war itself. The "cause of freedom" is as close as the language gets to specifics about the war, but "freedom" hangs as something of a free-floating signifier. Freedom for whom? Freedom from what? Freedom in what sense? Where are the specifics about freedom and this war? None of these questions are raised or addressed in the competition guidelines or the conversations that would follow about what the memorial might be.

In describing the memorial to potential designers, the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) and the KWMAB included language that added an additional purpose for the memorial: "These patriotic virtues have been common to those who served their country in other times of national crisis-and must not be lacking in the instance of future emergencies. Therefore, the Memorial must radiate a message that is at once inspirational in content and timeless in meaning." This memorial, then, was to honor the sacrifices soldiers had made and to ensure the willingness of future soldiers to give their lives in the era of the all-volunteer military. It also needed to exist out of time-to be timeless-and by implication, not be too tightly wedded to historical specificity. The statement reads like the ABMC and the KWMAB had been studying the work of Renan, Hobsbawm, and Anderson on nationalism; it requires the design to use the memory of lost soldiers to maintain the nation in particular terms. It also requires soldiers for the future. The statement ends, "The Memorial must be unique in concept, and one that will present a renewable living aspect of hope, honor, and service." In a period in which the military was struggling for recruits, this language about a "renewable aspect" would have had a particular, pointed resonance.

The language of this call is determinative and also stylistically prescriptive. They wanted a memorial that would be "reflective," "uplifting," "respectful," and an expression of "pride." They also wanted it to express "hope," "honor," "service," and "gratitude." They further required that all military details-weapons and uniforms-be portrayed in "exquisite detail." This alone not only ruled out abstraction but dramatically limited the range of aesthetic possibilities. Further, the statement required that the American flag be featured as a central design element. And the call was explicit about the role of grief: "Any design which has inherent in it an essence of grief is not acceptable." The statement called for attention to sacrifice without grief, without even "an essence of grief."

The call for designs could not have been more clear about the board's position on the VVM and the consequences of this position for the KWVM. They did not want to list names of the dead because they didn't want "the emotional reaction characteristic of the Vietnam wall." They wanted to honor sacrificing without getting into the details of sacrifice. In fact, they didn't want anything characteristic of the VVM to be present in Ash Woods. They sought an anti-Wall. Like the conversations around the memorial legislation, the design competition was not shaped by particular questions about the war itself. G. Holcomb's thinking about a possible memorial to a heterogeneous, internationally summoned fighting force-or any other concept reflecting the Cold War or the United Nations or other ideas about Korea between 1950 and 1953-was strikingly absent. Only a vague notion of freedom remained. The need to inspire future sacrifice was much more pressing for the AMBC and the KWMAB; it would determine the shape of the memorial. In the statement, the only specifics about the war refer to an uncomplaining willingness to defend "a nation they never knew and a people they never met.... [Our troops] fought brilliantly and tirelessly and enabled our nation to achieve its aims-and to prove to ourselves, and the world, that America comes to the aid of its friends, defends it principles, and never retreats from freedom's fight." This statement does not include any direct reference to Korea, Koreans, the Cold War, stalemates, demilitarized zones, or even communism.

Despite the complexities of this call, the winning design-one of 543 entries-was remarkable. It was an intriguing, complicated symbolic expression. It aspired to speak to the "dualities and paradoxes of war and truth" and to "contribute to an historical understanding of the Korean conflict." And it took very seriously the mandate to foreground the soldier. It sought to reflect on the particular experience of those who fought in Korea in a powerful gesture about what it felt like to be a soldier in the Korean War. Responding to interviews with veterans, the designers developed an interest in the Korean War as a walking war. One veteran's observation that "we knew the war through our feet.... [W]e walked every inch of that country" became an organizing principal for the design. It was a line of thirty-eight nine-foot-tall, fully armed, "ethereally" rendered granite figures that stretched 350 feet toward an American flag. The flag was set at the center of a plaza defined on its western edge by a seven-foot-high wall carved with bas-reliefs and inscriptions. A thin red line of granite was to move through the line of soldiers to the flag to create the sense of a journey through war. There was an awful lot going on in this design: the soldiers, the soldiers, the soldiers; the desire to emphasize the walking war; the spectacular scale; the centrality of the flag; the use of the number thirty-eight; the narrative of a journey; and finally, the ethereal rendering of the figures. All these elements are worth teasing out a little, but it was the last-the figuring of the soldier-that would determine the shape of the memorial that was built on the Mall.

Veronica Burns Lucas, of the winning four-member design team from Pennsylvania State University, told the press at the unveiling that the team connected with the idea of a war known through the soldiers' feet. She said that they were drawn to this, in part, by a famous David Douglas Duncan photograph. Duncan took the photograph in August 1950. In it, the soldiers, newly arrived in Korea, are making their way north to defend the Pusan Perimeter along the Naktong River. Looking at the photograph now and knowing something about the war, one sees the march as tense. They are going into battles that many of them won't survive. They will eventually push the North Koreans and Chinese back over the thirty-eighth parallel, and then the North Koreans and Chinese will push back again before they reach a stalemate. The proposed design echoed elements of both the Duncan photograph and the memories of veterans of the walking war.

The black-and-white photograph of soldiers walking a dirt road through a deep valley is fascinating. The soldiers, in the foreground, are walking toward the camera on a dusty white road. The thin dotted black line they form on the road immediately draws the eye. More soldiers are standing and sitting by jeeps on the side of the road, also looking at the moving line of soldiers and emphasizing the centrality of the line. But the background of the photograph-the dark, looming mountain range-also draws the eye. A striking landscape of black and gray mountains under building gray clouds competes with the line of soldiers for the viewer's attention. The tension between foreground and background and the relative emptiness of the middle ground seem to speak to the problems of remembering the soldier rather than the war; the soldier is literally foregrounded in bold terms, and the photograph, as a result, seems hollowed out, empty despite its dramatic elements.

There is, however, an important distinction between the way the photograph represents the soldiers and the way the design proposed to represent them. In the photograph, the figures are foregrounded, but they are also tiny, dwarfed by the dramatic landscape. In the memorial design, the scale is reversed. In fact, the scale of the design bordered on the outrageous: thirty-eight figures, nine feet tall, 350 feet long. This scale made the soldiers literally monumental, ensuring that they would dominate the landscape of Ash Woods and shift the focus away from anything beyond their presence. Depicting the soldiers as bigger than the landscape through which they move has serious implications: it represents them as bigger than what they were doing in the world.

This is what enabled designer John Paul Lucas to tell the press that "patriotism is the primary narrative theme of the memorial." He added, "We hope that visitors will be stimulated by the symbolism to think about the nature of the war itself." It is significant that, for him, patriotism came first, then the nature of the war. And it is perhaps more significant that he speaks of the nature of the war in terms of the experience of the individual soldier-this is what this war felt like. Lucas and his fellow designers did not take up questions about why the war was waged or what it meant or what the outcome was. The designers, working within the perimeters of the design competition, were interested in the specificity of the experience of the soldier. A specific memory of the war, as they understood it, was a memory of what it felt like for the soldier rather than what it did in the world. If they had embraced Duncan's scale, they would have created a very different sense of what the war felt like; figuring the soldiers as dramatically oversized is a powerful shift away from the photograph and the war.

The symbolic vocabulary used by Burns Lucas, Leon, Lucas, and Pennypacker Oberholtzen is at once literal and oblique. The design contest did not explicitly require figures of soldiers, but it would be hard to satisfy the contest's explicit stipulations-and nearly impossible to meet the implied requirements around celebrating heroism and honoring soldiers-without representing them. The Burns Lucas, Leon, Lucas, Pennypacker Oberholtzen design used thirty-eight soldiers because the line between the North Korea and South Korea held at the thirty-eighth parallel and the war lasted thirty-eight months. This makes sense in a very literal way but also requires that the soldier's bodies serve not to represent soldier's bodies so much as lines on a map and days on a calendar. This seems especially problematic when the strong desire to remember a heroic war runs up against the realities of a stalemate that has lasted more than fifty years. The looming bodies of the soldiers are refigured as markers of how long it took them not to win, or as markers of a line that has been wrapped in barbed wire for fifty years, a demilitarized zone long devoid of any human presence. Does it work against the rhetoric of foregrounding the soldiers and their sacrifices to use the figures in this way? Certainly it complicates the figure of the soldier in the proposed memorial; it dehumanizes them even as it sacralizes them.

Another element-this one required by the contest-is the flag. The designers describe the march to the flag as a march "towards a goal, an end ... the experience of moving into and through war, of release from war into the embrace of peace and the reflection upon war." The flag, in this description, is a symbol of the peace for which the soldiers fought. Another central feature of the original design, as the designers saw it, was an embedded narrative about this movement through war:

In the first third of the line, the figures would be placed so as to convey caution, uncertainty, and causalities in the first part of the war; the second third would begin with the figure of a platoon leader, the only figure not facing the flag. He would symbolize the achievement of order and purpose, and the figures would take on highly ordered, forward moving configuration. In the third section the order would continue, but the figures would be placed farther apart, symbolizing the decreased frequency of combat and the negotiation of truce. The last soldier would be in a posture of reflection; he has achieved success in military action.

This is a fairly complicated narrative and would have been a challenge to convey in physical form. The designers compounded this challenge with their ideas about the figures themselves.

The Burns Lucas, Leon, Lucas, and Pennypacker Oberholtzen design requirements for the figures were vague, and they wanted the figures themselves to be vague. They describe the soldiers as "ghostly," "ethereal," "impressionistic," and "utterly lacking detail." The designers did not produce sketches of what this might look like; without sketches, all parties in all the agencies involved seem to have imagined the figures as they thought they should be. And what they imagined was all over the map. The ideas proved impossible to reconcile. If the design had been more specific, the boards and agencies might well have rejected it. And so, in a memorial intended to represent soldiers in a way that might inspire sacrifice in future conflicts, there was an enormous struggle over the literal representation of the body of the soldier.

On June 14, 1989, in his remarks at the official unveiling ceremony for the design, President George H. W. Bush, never beloved as a rhetorician, stumbled through his speech on liberty, honor, Lincoln, and sacrificing soldiers. His uncertainty was both understandable and revealing. The initial design for the memorial was confusing in its efforts to represent sacrifice and the war. It was an evocative if sometimes perplexing mix, but, in the end, its nonrepresentational figures were not nearly specific enough. The memorial that needed to be built because the soldiers need to be remembered in terms different from those used at the Vietnam Memorial required remembering heroic figures above all else.

The Subsequent Designs: GI Joe on the Mall

Drawn to the simplicity of the line of figures, the reviewing agencies-the Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) and the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC)-had provisionally approved the Burns Lucas, Leon, Lucas design. But the design approval process imploded over disagreements about the physical details of the representation of the soldiers. Shortly after the design was unveiled, each of the agencies involved-the ABMC, the CFA, and the NCPC-began to express misgivings about how the other agencies were thinking about the figures. There were concerns about scale. Thirty-eight armed figures stretching the length of a football field would certainly put the forgotten war on the map, but were these appropriate dimensions? The approving agencies were sure from the start that they were not. The agencies also began pushing the design to be more responsive to its highly charged site. This debate was quickly trumped by more specific concerns about what the figures would look like.

From the start, the CFA and the NCPC wanted the memorial to be more "inclusive." Although neither race nor ethnicity was mentioned anywhere in the design competition instructions, the prospect of thirty-eight white figures representing the first desegregated American fighting force was recognized as a problem. J. Carter Brown insisted that the figures be raced. At the same time, the KWMAB and the ABMC were pushing for crisp military detail. Neither crisp detail nor racial specificity formed part of the original design. Burns Lucas, Leon, Lucas team member Don Leon is emphatic that racial and military designations were absolutely not part of the designers' thinking. They envisioned "non-representational" figures. Race was "not at all" part of their vision; what they had in mind could not support that level of detail.

The importance for the ABMC of a high level of detail in the figures was made clear in the spring of 1990 at a meeting held at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington to choose the sculptor for the memorial. Three finalists had been selected: Frank Gaylord, Rolf Kirken, and Lawrence Ludtke. As architect Kent Cooper recounts, "Gaylord, a WWII combat veteran, made a riveting oral presentation and his emotion-packed, three-dimensional studies captured everyone's attention. He was clearly the winner." As Don Leon describes the meeting, Ludtke went first, and his realistic but casually rendered figures infuriated General Stilwell, the chair of the KWMAB. The open collars of their shirts, their lack of fitness, and their state of disarray enraged him. Ludtke told Stilwell, "With all due respect, Sir, I was in that army, I was on that march, and this is what it looked like." Stilwell replied, "That may be what it looked like but that is not how we are going to remember it." Leon describes this remarkably candid exchange about forging the nation with an invented past as the beginning of the end for his design. Not only was Stilwell clear that his invented past was the one to be remembered, but his vision required far more detail than the designers had ever wanted.

Even if they had envisioned realistically rendered figures, the problem of who to represent would likely have trumped the problem of how to represent the soldiers. A few months before the meeting at the Corcoran, architects from Cooper-Lecky, the architect of record for the VVM, were called in to oversee this memorial. They were soon making revisions for all the agencies. The initial revisions focused on "commemorative quotas"-service distribution and ethnic distribution. Four statues were designated as KATUSAs (Korean Augment to the U.S. Army, Korean soldiers who serve with the U.S. military). The remaining thirty-four statues were given racial and ethnic designations: nineteen Caucasians, six Hispanics, five African Americans, two American Indians, and two Asian Americans. This distribution, which was not easily reached, was problematic from the start. According to Barry Schwartz, "Designers noted that African Americans made up 10% of the troops, mainly in the 'non-technical skills areas,' which implies that their service was less valuable." The number of Korean War veterans who were Puerto Rican, and therefore not seen as fully legitimate U.S. citizens by some of the parties involved, complicated the number of Hispanics to represent. A compromise reduced the number of Hispanics from six to five to avoid including more Hispanics than African Americans.

Although the sterile language of "commemorative quotas" kept the focus on numbers, the problem was not just about figural specificity or numbers per race; it was a profound problem of refiguring the soldier in the United States. In the national context, representing soldiers who are not white has been tricky. The figures at the Vietnam Memorial, the first to do this on the Mall, are complicated figures. The Three Servicemen represents the Vietnam veteran as not always white, but it follows a familiar, well-worn racial hierarchy. The figure in the center is white and is the tallest. He is a half step ahead of the other figures and holds out his arms to protect them. Another figure is clearly African American. The third figure, the machine gunner, is an "ethnic mix." Sculptor Frederick Hart used some Latino models because he wanted to include Latinos, but he also included "features that could also be Slavic, Eastern European, or Near Eastern." Figures during the last period of interest in memorials, the post-Civil War memory boom, are almost entirely white, and they quite explicitly define soldiering in white terms. For the Korean War Veterans Memorial, this was a loaded problem with a complicated history.

Even as color guards started to be consistently multiracial and the composition of the military was more heavily nonwhite than the population at large, the problem of figuring the soldier as something other than white was difficult. Ralph Ellison's famous insight that white paint requires a few drops of black to be truly white has been carefully complicated in the last ten years by work in the study of whiteness. The central tenet of this work is that whiteness in the United States has, from the nation's inception, depended upon an Indian or African or Asian "other" with and against which whiteness could be constructed. The idea is that race is a social rather than biological fact, and this is true whether people are "raced" white or black or Indian. This premise, despite its limitations, is useful for thinking about the ways in which soldiers have been represented. Civil War memorials, with the possible complicated exception of Saint-Gaudens's Shaw Memorial in Boston, have famously whitened the war and the soldiers who fought in it. In the nineteenth century, Custer's blond curls glowed on barroom walls everywhere, rewriting his death at the hands of Indians as a triumph of white power. As David Blight, Cecilia O'Leary, Kirk Savage, and others have argued, the nation-building work accomplished by the memorial boom of the nineteenth century was highly racialized and produced a North-South reconciliation around the celebration of the white soldier. The lack of interest in war memorials for the last three quarters of the twentieth century allowed this problem to lie fallow, but because the commissions involved were determined to avoid the embarrassment of ignoring race in the memorial to the first desegregated war, these complicated questions of representation were raised. It is worth noting here that the question of representing women was only barely raised, and when it was, Stilwell was adamant that it was out of the question. A full 120,000 women served in a range of positions in the war, but no women are included in the final design-or in earlier iterations, for that matter.

The problems of representing race and avoiding women were not the only issues inspiring redesigns. In the first set of significant suggested revisions, these questions inspired another dramatic set of changes. Stilwell was clearly not taken with the first design's narrative of moving through war into peace. At the board's request, the figures were redrawn to represent soldiers actively engaged in battle, as if they were under fire with a man down. Instead of marching steadily, the soldiers were shown "kneeling, some pulling pins out of grenades, some holding bazookas ready to fire." Asked by a CFA commissioner to explain the line of the march in this new context, to clarify its "tactical function," Cooper replied, "This is an undefined mission.... [T]hey are subject to hostile action.... [T]hey are alert ... caught in a moment in time." General Stilwell's explanation was that the oversized soldiers simply marching on the Mall might be "boring" and that they had wanted to "introduce a narrative story of soldiers responding to unexpected unfriendly fire." This was referred to as the "Delta Scheme."

The pressure to add military specificity and ethnic and racial designations-if not women-to the design can be easily understood in the context of the steadily increasing expectation that war memorials remember soldiers as specifically as possible in the context of the evolving makeup of the military: remember bodies, remember sacrifice, remember names, remember the racial composition of the military, remember the women who served, and so on. These are complicated propositions, though the logic that requires them is fairly straightforward. But adding a narrative element-a real attack, frozen in time-is something else. The fear that the thirty-eight giants might be boring implies other expectations for the memorial and what it was supposed to accomplish. Introducing a narrative of soldiers responding to unfriendly fire allows the figures to enact a particular kind of heroism. The scale of the figures and the number of figures were not, in Stilwell's estimation, enough to do what he wanted the memorial to do. As they struggled with the limitations of the symbolic vocabularies required of the memorial, Stilwell and the board turned to a more familiar visual vocabulary for representing war heroism and war heroes: the movies. Stilwell and the KWMAB imagined a war movie on the Mall. But translating filmic images into a memorial in stone is tricky at best. Responding to an attack requires raising weapons, which specifically memorializes violence in a way that memorials in the United States have long sought to avoid. For example, if an enormous soldier is to pull a pin from a grenade on the Mall, in what direction will he face to hurl the explosive? Toward Lincoln? Washington? The Vietnam Memorial? Across the Tidal Basin to Jefferson? Or toward Arlington National Cemetery? There was a problem of containing the violence that the Stilwell narrative would have brought to the Mall.

This was all too much for the original design team. They described the revisions as turning their fluidly marching figures into a "GI Joe battle scene." They claimed that the revisions "decapitated" the memorial concept and transformed their process of moving through war to peace and reflection to "make the scene convey battle and victory." Frustrated and shut out of the Cooper-Lecky revisions, Burns Lucas, Leon, Lucas hired a lawyer and sued for the right to control the fate of their design. They went to court but were never able to convince a federal judge that they had any rights to the design after having collected the prize money.

The Final Design

In January 1991, after another set of extensive revisions, the Commission of Fine Arts had a change of heart. After having granted provisional approval to the second KWVM design, the CFA withdrew its support and sent Cooper-Lecky back to the drawing board. Praising the Vietnam Memorial, J. Carter Brown reminded the designers that there was value in simplicity: "One reason it is so effective is that it doesn't wave its hand at you." Certainly, a 350-foot oversized stainless steel live action battle scene on the Mall might constitute hand-waving. As Brown described it, the memorial as designed was "overbearing to the point of bombast."

At this point, the United States was engaged in the first Iraq War and, as they describe it, the war changed the commissioners' thinking about how to remember the Korean War. Robert Peck of the CFA told the New York Times, "Given what is happening in the Middle East, I think about this in a different context." He saw more war memorials coming and was concerned about precedent. Peck was worried about the fussiness of the murals, the narrative, all the information. "Our memorials are turning into outdoor museums," he complained. In this light, the original design was more appealing because it "had at least a bold single idea."

Six months later, Brown and the CFA had had it. They recommended that the figures and the drama they were to enact be eliminated entirely. This inspired a furious response from the KWVMA and the ABMC. For these agencies, the figures were the reason to build the memorial, and there would be no memorial without them. Letters poured in from Korean War veterans across the country. In August 1991, the ABMC sent Brown an angry letter offering a "last compromise." Nineteen freestanding seven-foot-tall statues reflected in a mural wall to make thirty-eight slightly smaller figures on the Mall. (Why cling to thirty-eight with such tenacity?) This letter referred to the VVM design process and the addition of the statue as a compromise that saved the memorial. In the end, the CFA agreed to the modifications, and the compromise held.

However, stylistic concerns had yet to be addressed. William Lecky told interviewers, "There is no question that there was a healthy conflict between what the client wanted, which was something very realistic and militarily accurate and what the reviewing commissions-the artistic side if you will-preferred, which was something more abstract.... [T]he final solution was what we like to call 'impressionistic styling,' which makes it very clear what is being portrayed, but diminishes the sense of an actual collection of ground troops moving across the Mall." This is a polite way of saying that what they did stylistically was to fudge it. This impressionistic styling allowed the designers to avoid a whole series of problems. In the memorial as it stands, the military details are roughed in at best. The ponchos were added to cover weaponry and obscure uniforms, making the figures less threatening and more generic. Although the racial designations were never officially scrapped, a walk through the memorial with a map of these designations in hand makes clear the extent to which race dropped out of the design in the design process. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the final designations are "12 Caucasians, 3 African Americans, 2 Hispanic, 1 Oriental, 1 Indian (Native American)," as Table 1 illustrates. The first three figures are white, while the last is American Indian, but none of this is entirely clear in looking at the figures. Some of the responsibility for representing "diversity" fell to the photo engravings on the wall. Lecky assured the commissions that "we have been working hard with the client to make sure that we are politically correct and that all the necessary people are being shown." But this effort did not resolve the problem of how to represent the soldiers.

The figures have rough, exaggerated facial features; it is tricky to identify any particular racial type. This is problematic because of the expectations that people bring to memorials. Because nearly all war memorials in the United States have represented soldiers as white, it is possible that these figures all become white by default. Kent Cooper claims that the figures are brushed with "traces of race." He says this quite plainly, as if it was a category of representation or experience of race that would make sense to people in the United States and be commonly understood. But "traces of race," in the history of race and racialization, has often meant whiteness. Just enough race heightens the masculinity of the figures in this logic, while too much race would make them too specifically not-white. Cooper was trying to say that race did not disappear in the memorial process, but his language tripped him up, and he ended up speaking a perhaps unintentional truth. The impressionistic stylistics return the memorial to its original white-by-default iteration-a rough, exaggerated, familiarly borrowing whiteness. Which is not to say that the figures are intended to be seen as white, but rather that incorporating "traces of race" avoids representing the heroic armed soldiers as absolutely African American, Mexican American, Asian American, or Indian. Literary critic Walter Benn Michaels has written, partly as a push back against whiteness studies, "Either race is an essence or there is no such thing as race." He claims that "our actual racial practice can be understood only as the expression of our commitment to the idea that race is not a social construction." Traces of race in the figures express this tension; they give the figures the luxury of racial mobility that the soldiers themselves did not have. This approach avoids the problem of either too much or too little race on the Mall, but even this avoidance was not easy to achieve.

The fight over the details of these representations was so intense that both the ABMC and the CFA were involved in a level of review that sculptor Frank Gaylord thought extremely unusual. In 1992, new constraints were established: "The troopers are to be treated as a unit, on an undefined mission, caught in a moment in time; all figures are wearing ponchos which are blown from behind with increasing velocity at the apex; the figures are alert, wary, and are in various kinds of communication with each other.... [A]ny articulation of the figures for purposes of portraying communication should not interfere with the general forward movement of the unit; the figures will be treated as a single composition."

As the figures developed, the CFA, the ABMC, and Cooper-Lecky kept close watch. In 1994, an ad hoc committee they had formed made regular reviews. In July and November, members of the committee went to see the figures in progress in Gaylord's Vermont studio. A November 15, 1994, Lecky memo on one of these visits conveys the level of involvement with the design details. A statement of the committee specifies, "The ad hoc design committee has always described these statues as young gallant warriors having embarked on a successful mission. Emphasis on young, gallant, and successful ... [G]enerally speaking the committee felt that the faces were older than our directions. If mention is made in the remarks below, about mouth adjustments, it means that the mouth should be either, a) closed, or b) open, but doing something-talking, breathing heavily, in any case determined and focused, as opposed to being open and unfocused."

This statement is followed by a list of changes for the statues. The first change for the lead statue, #1, reads, "Bridge of nose too broad." Gaylord reacts strongly to this, calling #1 the "runt of the litter" and saying, "He is Caucasian, his nose is not too broad." But this was not the only concern about #1. Cooper wrote, "It was agreed to modify the facial expression to be less soulful and 'more intensely searching.'{hr}" Less soulful? Why would the lead soldier need to be less soulful? And since when are soulful and searching at odds? This is baffling. Another item on the list reads, "Left arm and hand too limp." Lecky wrote, "The bent wrist holding the rifle on many figures seems contrived and more appropriate to a ballet than a military situation." Ballet? Since when are bent wrists part of the line of a dancer? Gaylord called this concern ridiculous and added that he didn't do limp wrists. The comments on figure #3 include, "Face looks too sweet, adjust mouth/lips." Figure #5 is "too tired, dead in the water, totally panicked, ok to be stressed out but show more determination."Figure #6 is "not acceptable, looks like he is sleeping, also looks like has he has a disdainful expression."Figure #12 is "too pregnant." Too pregnant?

Brown generated his own list in response to the visit. His list of required changes included the following: "The fatness of the lips to be reduced"; "the eyes often seem unfocused, drugged"; "the number of open mouths needs to be drastically reduced"; and perhaps most striking, "there is an excess of novelty in the faces." In this context, what exactly is an excess of novelty? He also complained that #1's lips were "too pouty." Kent Cooper summarized the responses: "There was a lack of alertness and purpose in most of the faces. There was a minimum sense of being in a place of potential danger." Noses too broad? Lips too fat? Wrists too limp? Too pregnant? The figuring of the soldier here is remarkable. It seems impossible not to conclude that standards of masculinity, heroism, and whiteness were being articulated-indeed, mandated. The wrists of the figures as they stand on the Mall are not limp, but the noses are broad and the lips remain fat on nearly all the figures. They are fascinatingly racially indistinct and racialized at the same time, which must be what Cooper means by "traces of race."

Frank Gaylord still bristles at this language. More than ten years after the memorial was completed, his frustration with the committees' involvement in shaping the figures is still palpable. Gaylord saw the figures as elements in a single composition. He understood each figure as part of something else, moving together in complicated unison. He sought to render expressive figures that reflected his own experience of war; he wanted something real. But the fussing of the committee, for whom what the individuals looked like was paramount, thwarted this vision.

For the committee, getting the racing and gendering of the figures right trumped Gaylord's composition and his desire to express something particular about the war. Pregnant, limp-wristed soldiers on the Mall would apparently not inspire the kind of future sacrifice they wanted. Further, this gendering of the soldiers seems linked to bigger questions about the Cold War. Historian Robert Dean has written about an "imperial brotherhood" of Cold War political elites powerfully shaped by a "ideology of masculinity." He claims, in fact, that the wagers of the Cold War were blinded by the demands of the masculinist ideologies of their moment. He contends that waging and losing the Cold War conflicts, which simple logic and elite educations might have kept these empirically minded people out of, were linked to ideas about masculinity that have not been adequately explored. The criticisms of these figures are certainly suggestive in this context. They suggest that the anxieties about masculinity that propelled the war also shaped the memorial.

The impressionistic stylistics do something significant to the figures that the ad hoc committee did not address: it blinds them, in a sense. The soldiers have enormous eyes-enormous but hollow eyes. The impression of a pupil is created by just that, an impression. Thus the soldiers, to be honored, to be finally remembered, have no capacity to look. In thinking about the visual and visuality, the idea of the gaze, the power to look and see is central. Representation of the gaze is connected to giving and wielding power. The most powerless in the realm of visual representation are those without the gaze. Gaylord clearly did not intend the figures to be blind; they are, in fact, looking. And he thought a good deal about where and how they are looking. But when you notice the hollowed eyes, it is hard not to see this tension. It is hard not to notice that the enormous, looming soldiers intended to be celebrated and honored by this memorial are represented as empty-eyed. Gaylord may not agree, but this seems like a successful strategy for him. He managed to find a way to humanize his composition despite all the pressure to produce generic masculine heroes. His figures "without the gaze," in fact, seem to have the "thousand-yard stare." They are, despite the interference, remarkable. They save the memorial from being devoid of meaning beyond the most obvious patriotic pomp.

These elements in the battle to figure the soldier in this war memorial make painfully clear both the importance of representing the soldier in particular terms-heroic, manly, gallant, not-too-not-white, virile, successful, and so on-and the difficulties of constructing memory in these terms. Barry Schwartz argues that the "dignity of the veteran is affirmed by representing his identification with the state." This seems right but was not enough for the builders of this memorial. The veterans sought straightforward acknowledgment of their service and sacrifice. The ABMC and the eventual architects required identifying with the state and defining the soldier in very particular terms.

Service and Disservice in the Memorial

In 1969, a young Bill Clinton wrote a now infamous letter explaining his position on the Vietnam War draft. In it he raised questions about the legitimacy of the draft system: "No government really rooted in limited, parliamentary democracy should have the power to make its citizens fight and kill and die in a war they may oppose, a war which even possibly may be wrong, a war which, in any case, does not involve immediately the peace and freedom of the nation." He continued, "The draft was justified in World War II because the life of the people collectively was at stake. Individuals had to fight if the nation was to survive, for the lives of their countrymen and their way of life. Vietnam is no such case.... Nor was Korea, an example where, in my opinion, certain military action was justified but the draft was not, for the reasons stated above." He ends the letter, "I am writing too in the hope that my telling this one story will help you to understand more clearly how so many fine people have come to find themselves still loving their country but loathing the military, to which you and other good men have devoted years, lifetimes, of the best service you could give. To many of us it is no longer clear what is service and what is disservice."

It is just this fissure that the Korean War Veterans Memorial sought to breach. The men and women pushed by the Vietnam War to loathe the military could see in the determined grief of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial an expression of their sense of loss and disconnection. The Memorial Advisory Board and the American Battle Monuments Commission explicitly sought, early in the era of the all-volunteer military, to rewrite that logic for understanding military service. They wanted to equate service with honor and to express pride and gratitude. To do this, they avoided the problem that had so vexed the young Clinton: what the soldiers were doing in the world. They inscribed the insistently generic words, "Our Nation Honors Her Uniformed Sons and Daughters Who Answered Their Country's Call to Defend a Country They Did Not Know and a People They Had Never Met," at the feet of a line of nineteen marching figures because more detail about the war or the vital interests at stake would muddy the waters, would get in the way of the great marching men.

In 1995, President Bill Clinton stood before the crowd gathered for the dedication of the Korean War Veterans Memorial and hailed the memorial as "a magnificent reminder of what is best about the United States." What Clinton celebrated in the memorial was the diversity of those who served, the traces of race that barely survived the memorial process: "In this impressive monument we can see the figures and faces that recall their heroism.... [T]he creators of this memorial have brought to life the courage and sacrifice of those who served in all branches of the Armed Forces from every racial and ethnic group and background in America. They represent, once more, the enduring American truth: From many we are one." This is a very generous, perhaps aspirational reading of the memorial that celebrates a nationalism justified by diversity in a moment when diversity was becoming an important trope. But without Clinton's framing, this diversity is hard to see in the memorial. As the notes of the ad hoc committee make clear, the kind of diversity the memorializers could tolerate was quite limited. Clinton's 1969 letter does a much better job of representing the problem that drove the building of the memorial than this 1995 speech does of representing the memorial itself.

In the end, though, the memorial is not unintelligible. Kent Cooper says of the memorial, "We have tried to give the veterans here what we could not give them with the Vietnam memorial." He continues, "We are not glorifying war, but esteeming the honor of service to country. That is what the vets cried out for.... [T]he Korean War Veterans Memorial is in some way a tribute to simpler times. This is a monument to blind devotion." What Cooper misses here is that simpler times would not have required blind devotion, and that the terms of the memory that became so determinative for this memorial were not what the veterans had cried out for. The Korean War and the Vietnam War were different in important and consequential ways. The memory of a UN-waged war with broad international support should not be used as a corrective to the memory of a war broadly criticized by the United Nations and by nations around the world.

Simpler times would have made for an easier memorial, but the problem of how to remember ultimately cannot be disconnected from the war itself. The problem of the "nation as a nonimperial world power in the age of decolonization" or of the racial and gender composition of that imagined nation did not disappear in the memorial process; rather, it drove the memorial process.

What is just under the surface here, what Kent Cooper assumes will be logical, is that honoring service in this context requires avoiding all that the builders of the KWVM sought to correct in the Wall-especially the presence of loss and the implication of tragedy. The blind devotion of soldiers can only be celebrated when their deaths are honorable rather than tragic. Otherwise, cannon fodder is just cannon fodder. To ensure honorable deaths, the soldiers needed to be understood in terms of the sacrifice they made, with only the most oblique references to what they did in the world. The memorial, by celebrating the soldier in this context, allows the soldier to represent war and allows the work that the war might have done in the world, the global implications of the war and the challenges that it might have presented to U.S. nationalism, to recede out of sight and therefore out of both the past and the present that the memorial constructs.

The Korean War Veterans Memorial is a complicated, multidimensional response to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the questions it raised on the Mall about remembering American wars and remembering American soldiers. The need for a particular kind of nationalism, manifest-militarized and domesticated-in the Korean War Memorial process, gains momentum, gets complicated, and is refigured in the monuments that follow it on the Mall. During the time the Korean War Memorial was fought over and built, three attempts were made to use the ascension of the figure of the soldier to challenge the figuring of that soldier and the figuring of the nation. The problem of sacrificing soldiers as "traced with race" and that of the insistent figuring of the soldier as not only male but masculine in particular heroic, virile terms were taken up and fought over in the Black Revolutionary War Patriots Memorial, the Women in Military Service for America Memorial, and the National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism during World War II. The chapters that follow take up the stories of these memorials.