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Editorial – Five Years Later

It is almost five years since I wrote the first Editorial in this series setting out the goals for the Korean War Children’s Memorial Project. Let me now review what has been accomplished in that time.

The first goal was to document the nature and extent of the relationship of the American servicemen and women and the children of Korea during the war years. I had anticipated that we would collect over 2,000 documents and photos on that subject. As of this writing (September 17, 2006) we now have over 1,800 documents on file and over 2,000 photos. Sufficient material has been gathered to enable us to say with confidence that during the Korean War the American armed forces saved the lives of over 10,000 children, helped support over 54,000 in more than 400 orphanages, many of which were built or repaired by our armed forces. We donated over two million dollars from our meager pay and brought in from home thousands of tons of aid for the orphans and orphanages. I think that it is fairly clear that goal one has been met.

The second goal was to disseminate this information so the public in the US and Korea knows of this bit of the history of the Korean War while the third goal of the project was to distribute the documents in such a manner that this element of the Korean War is not neglected by history. Toward this end the web site www.koreanchildren.org has been created with over 1,500 pages of photographs and stories detailing the relationship of the GIs and the Kids during the Korean War. A 35 panel photo exhibit entitled “GIs and the Kids – A Love Story: US Forces and the Children of Korea 1950-1954” has been created. One copy is now in Korea with Hangul sub-titles making it a bi-lingual exhibit. It had its first showing in the city hall of Gwangju which elicited an immense amount of publicity throughout Korea. It is expected to be shown in Seoul this fall. Two more copies are now under production and will circulate throughout the US under the aegis of the US National Korean War Museum. A 40 page booklet has been printed which is essentially a small edition of the photo exhibit. It has been distributed widely. A TV documentary is under production on this project. Agreements have been made to distribute copies of all of the digitized material gathered from all sources to various archives and museums. Goals two and three have been met.

The last goal was to create in Bellingham a Korean War Children’s Memorial Pavilion. That pavilion is now complete. It has a large Korean tile roof and a bronze memorial plaque telling the story of the aid the US forces rendered the children of Korea during the Korean War. Goal four is met.

It is with a great deal of satisfaction that I can now look back over these last five years since the project was formally announced with clearly defined goals and state unequivocally that all the goals have been met. It was not easy.

At the beginning I naively thought that the Korean Government, in appreciation for our having saved the lives of so many of their children during the war years, would donate the memorial structure or at least make a substantial contribution to its cost. No such luck. As of this writing the Korean Government, through the office of the Consul General of Korea in Seattle, has donated only $4,500 toward the construction of the memorial structure which cost over $54,000 to build.

Donations toward the costs of this project have been minimal so there still remains a debt of over $50,000. I will be spending a lot of time now trying to raise the money to pay off this debt and close the books on this project.

Little did I realize the extent to which city appointed “advisory” bodies, committees, commissions and boards would throw up barriers to the completion of the memorial structure in Big Rock Garden Park. It took several years but I finally won every battle. Now I know why national war memorials take half a century or more to complete.

This has essentially been a one-man-job. On occasion I have had some great volunteers working in the office and on the web site but when push-came-to-shove I was alone. Now, except for paying off the debts, I am done but I leave behind me the only physical Korean War Memorial in the US or Korea that honors our Korean War Veterans for their aid to the children of that war torn nation. I leave behind me extensive documentation of this element of the Korean War so it will not be a forgotten part of the forgotten war. I personally feel that I have met all the goals I set out for myself five years ago and now can close down this project and start a new chapter in my life.


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