The Korean War Memory Tour Drove Through Illinois Four Times

A total of 1744 Illinoisans died in the Korean War, the fifth highest total of any state, which is perhaps one reason why the state is now home to so many monuments naming Korea, though most of them date from the last three decades.  The earliest dated memorial in Illinois naming Korea consists of an F-86 Sabre Jet which was dedicated on July 4 of 1964 in the town of Brookfield outside of Chicago, but has been located on site since 1961 (and has been restored several times), according to this article. It would be two decades before another dated monument in Illinois would mention Korea.  That was the Vermillion County Korea-Vietnam Memorial in Danville which as this piece notes was dedicated in 1984

This would be only the first of many different Korean War monuments in Danville, which does not even include the permanent exhibits at the Vermillion County War Museum founded in 1999 or a temporary display at the Vermillion County Museum from 2010 through 2015.  On May 30 of 1989 the Robert Wurtsbaugh Memorial Bridge was dedicated, which is both a foot bridge in a small park honoring the first local killed in Korea after whom the local branch of the KWVA is named and a highway bridge on US 150 over the Vermillion River, while on November 23 of 1999 State Route 1 was designated as the Illinois Korean War Veterans Memorial Highway in a Danville ceremony.  Two more memorials would be added in 2002: in May a Memorial Tree with a plaque was dedicated at the local community college and in December a Memorial F-86 Sabre Jet with a plaque was dedicated at the Vermillion County Airport. Many additional monuments mentioning the Korean War would be built across the rest of the state of Illinois over the course of the roughly two decades when so many memorials were unveiled in Danville.

The Jacksonville Korean War Memorial, which I visited on May 30 of 2015, was dedicated on May 30 of 1987, while less than a year later the Bloomington-Normal Korea-Vietnam Memorial was dedicated in May of 1988 adjacent to the lovely Miller Park Pavilion, which had been restored in 1977.  Only a few months later on September 15 of 1988 the Chicago Korean War Memorial in Kennedy Park, which I saw in June of 2015, was dedicated to “those who sacrificed so much in the cause of freedom”. In 1989 the city of Silvis dedicated a marker to recognize the sacrifices of several families along what was renamed ‘Hero Street’ in 1968 and now has a park with a memorial, naming two Korean War dead.  The Adams County Korean War Memorial was unveiled on Memorial Day of 1989 in Quincy along the Mississippi at the Illinois State Veterans Home, which dates from the late nineteenth century and which I visited one evening in May of 2015 (as can be seen in the image at the top of the page).  It would be several more years before any additional dated memorials mentioning the Korean War would be dedicated in Illinois.

The first dated Korean War monument to be dedicated in Illinois following the unveiling of the national memorial was the official state memorial which was dedicated on June 16 of 1996 in Springfield at the Oak Ridge Cemetery not far from other war monuments and near the grave of Abraham Lincoln.  On Veterans Day of 1997 the city of Greenville dedicated an All Wars memorial that mentions Korea, the same year the Korean War National Museum first opened in Tuscola, according to this 2001 web site, although it would move to Springfield in 2008.  The Korean War Veterans Memorial in Swansea near St. Louis was dedicated on July 29 of 2000, just a month after the fiftieth anniversary of the start of the war.   There were no more dated memorials unveiled during the next three years of the semi-centennial cycle but two monuments naming Korea were dedicated in the mid-2000s:  Beecher City’s Veterans Memorial was unveiled on October 10 of 2004, while the Carbondale Veterans Memorial was unveiled on May 30 of 2005.  The most recent dated monument naming Korea to be unveiled in Illinois was dedicated on May 15 of 2010 in the Kiwanis Park on the north edge of the city of Paris, which sits along State Route 1 and which I saw by accident in May of 2015 after overnighting in town and before heading to Danville.

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