The Korean War Memory Tour Finally Reviewed The Hoosier State

A total of 887 Indianans died in the Korean War, out of a total state population in 1950 of just under four million people, which then ranked 11th of 48 states overall.  The Korean War has long been widely recalled in the state of Indiana, as I learned during my three trips through the state on the way to Kansas City in May 2015 as well as both on the way to KC in May 2016 and while returning in June 2016.  Beyond dated monuments there are many other undated Korean War memorials in Indiana, such as the Dubois County World Wars and Korea Memorial Fountain in Jasper that likely predates the Vietnam War or the newer looking Grant County Korean War Honor Roll in Marion, which also calls Korea a ‘Conflict’.

The first two monuments in the state which mention Korea were dedicated less than five years after the armistice was signed.  In fact, the Marshall County Honor Roll in Plymouth, also naming locals who died in the World Wars, was dedicated on May 30 of 1958, the exact same date that is listed on the Randolph County World War II and Korean Conflict Memorial in Winchester.  Though it would be over a decade until another dated memorial naming Korea would be dedicated in the state, Indiana is also one of the few places where the Korean War was actively remembered in the 1970s even as Vietnam raged.  The Gus Grissom Memorial Museum in Mitchell was dedicated on July 21 of 1971, more than a decade before the Grissom Rocket Monument across town was completed in 1981 after years of efforts. The Blackford County Korea and Vietnam Memorial was dedicated in 1973 and later expanded, while the Lawrence County Korean War Honor Roll in Bedford was dedicated in 1974 to locals “who answered the call of our Country during the Korea Conflict and died so that you and I might live in Peace”, which I was able to see immediately after my visit to Mitchell during my second trip to Kansas City in May of 2016.

The final Korean War monument in Indiana dedicated prior to the thirtieth anniversary of the armistice was a memorial co-dedicated to Vietnam veterans that was unveiled in Sullivan on May 30 of 1983. On June 23 of 1984 the city of Richmond dedicated a stone in the heart of town on US Route 40, to “those who fought to keep South Korea free and to those who maintain the vigilance”, which I visited in June of 2016 after I missed it the first time I drove through the town in May of 2015, when I instead saw another Korean War memorial in a veterans’ park in the same city created about two decades later.  Richmond is home to Earlham College, one of many Quaker institutions that seem likely to yield info on the Korean Anti-War Movement, at least based on their honoring of a conscientious objector 1953 alum. In September of 1985 the town of South Whitley dedicated a jet plane which had seen service in Korea, while in 1986 in the city of Peru the Miami County Korean-Viet Nam War Memorial was dedicated.  It was also in 1986 that the University of Notre Dame in South Bend dedicated a monument to alums who had perished in Korea as well as WWII and Vietnam, however it would be several more years before any additional dated memorials in the state of Indiana would be constructed that mention the Korean War.

On Independence Day of 1992 a monument was dedicated in Gas City naming locals who died in Korea as well as WWII and Vietnam, less than two months before a much larger monument dedicated exclusively to Korean War veterans opened along the waterfront in Evansville.  The Evansville memorial is particularly poignant when viewed in the evening sun, as the three figures and six-flags all seem to sag in the shadows after a long yet inconclusive conflict (as can be seen in the image at the top of the page).  Though Indiana has no other Korean War monuments dedicated during the 40-year anniversary cycle of the early 1990s, there were two other Korea memorials in the state that were finished prior to the DC memorial.  The first, dedicated on July 24 of 1994, was built in the Lake Michigan town of La Porte, while the second, dedicated in 1995 in Fort Wayne, stood for two decades before being relocated to another spot across town with the hopes of improving visitation, according this article from The Journal-Gazette.

The official state Korean War memorial was dedicated in 1996 in Indianapolis alongside a larger Vietnam monument that is similar in design but reflects the higher number of Hoosiers killed in Vietnam. In September of 1997 the Indiana Korean Veterans Memorial Highway was dedicated, with ceremonies in Indianapolis and Fort Wayne highlighting the designation of I-69 from the capitol to the Michigan line.  In late May of 2016 I visited the Korean Veterans Memorial in Sellersburg, which was dedicated in 1998, a full year after I visited the two-part Korean War Memorial in Terra Haute which was dedicated in 2001.   The Whitley County Korean War Memorial in Columbia City was constructed in May of 2002, while the Lake County Korean Veterans Memorial was dedicated in 2003 after over five years of KWVA efforts.  Though no new monuments have been created in Indiana over the last dozen years, annual ceremonies at many existing memorials function to reinforce public memory of Korea throughout the Hoosier state.

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