The Korean War Memory Tour Is Reviewing Kentucky Today

Eight hundred and sixty-eight Kentuckians died in the Korean War, the tenth highest total from any single state despite Kentucky ranking nineteenth out of then forty-eight states in the 1950 census. Today there are at least twenty monuments and memorial bridges in Kentucky, most easily dateable, although some such as the Montgomery County Korean War Memorial in Mount Sterling are undated. The earliest monument that mentions Korea sits next to an Army Tank in Hodgensville, the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, which was dedicated on May 30, 1970 to the veterans of all wars. A memorial marker mentioning the WWII and Korean War heroics of General Field Harris was dedicated in 1970, while on May 30, 1971 a memorial in Maysville was dedicated by George Patton to dead from WWI to Vietnam.

It would be more than a dozen years until another the first memorial exclusively dedicated to Korean War veterans was dedicated in Barren County, on Veterans Day of 1983 in the town of Glascow, which is also home to a marker describing the only National Guard unit from Kentucky to serve in Korea. In September of 1986 the Perry County War Memorial in Hazard was dedicated to locals who fought in the World Wars and Vietnam as well as Korea, while in Mount Olivet the local Masonic Lodge dedicated a memorial to men who died in the World Wars and Korea that is listed on one site as dating from 1990. By far the most extensive Korean War monument in the state to be built before the National Memorial is the Korean War Memorial at McNeely Lake Park in Louisville which was dedicated November 7, 1993. The monument, which “features granite steps, a granite map outline of North and South Korea and a bronze plaque of flags representing the participating U. N. countries” as well as the names of Jefferson County men who died in Korea, was built at a cost of $100,000, according to this Louisville Courier piece.

Several additional monuments mentioning Korea would be built across Kentucky during the late 1990s and early 2000s, starting with the Hopkins County Korean War Memorial which features a large cross and was dedicated on May 27 of 1996 in Madisonville. A Monroe County Korean and Vietnam War Memorial marker was dedicated in 1998 in Tompkinsville, while in 1999 in the town of Henderson a monument was dedicated to locals who died in the World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam. Also seemingly in 1999 the town of Cynthiana created a marker with writing in both English and Korean. A highway marker about Medal of Honor winner Carl Dodd was dedicated in 1999 in the town of Lily, while in the city of Morehead in 2002 dedicated Freedom Park in front of the then county courthouse which honors locals killed during the World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, and 9/11. An example of an older memorial being rebuilt occurred in 2006 when the Trimble County Veterans Monument in Bedford was reconstructed and the old plaques for WWI, WWI, and the ‘Korean Conflict’ and ‘Vietnam Era’ were moved to a new memorial. In 2007 the Aviation Heritage Park in the city of Bowling Green began the process of restoring a Korean War era Panther, which was unveiled in 2009, as part of an exhibit about a local pilot who died in Korea.

Three of the largest Korean War memorials in the state of Kentucky are products of the last several years. The city of Paducah Korean War Memorial was dedicated on Memorial Day May 28, 2012; the 10-foot by 12-foot memorial cost more than $30,000 to build and includes a bronze relief sculpture. On July 27 of 2013, the sixtieth anniversary of the armistice, the Cincinnati metro area city of Covington dedicated a statue in historic Linden Grove Cemetery honoring those local who died in the Korean War; the sculpture (which can be seen in the image at the top of the page) was modeled after Clofus O. Farris and donated by his siblings. Most recently, on July 4 of 2015 the city of West Liberty dedicated a statue, titled We Will Hold, to Medal of Honor winner William Barber who fought at the Chosen Reservoir. Two memorial bridges in Kentucky honoring Korean War Veterans have also been recently dedicated; on April 22 of 2014 the Leo Roberts Korean War Veteran Memorial Bridge on Route 680 in Floyd County and on December 18 of 2014 the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge off of US 460 in Pike County. Indeed, given the number of both sizeable local monuments and major memorial infrastructure projects in Kentucky that have been dedicated over the last several years it seems likely that there will be more opportunities for Kentuckians to be reminded of the Korean War in the future than existed previously.

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