The Korean War Memory Tour Comes To An End In Missouri

I think it is only appropriate to finish the Korean War Memory Tour blog with a post reviewing memorials in Missouri, since it was my two trips to Kansas City that allowed me to visit my Midwestern stops and because I have spent more than a month in Missouri over the last five years scoring AP exams and researching Korean War public memory.  Indeed, prior to my first Korean War Memory Tour trip in 2015 I visited the Center for Study of the Korean War and the Truman Library, both in Independence, as well as the Missouri State Korean War Memorial that is located near the WWI monument in Kansas City.

Missouri is an appropriate place to end the blog for other reasons as well.  While 919 residents of the Show Me State died in Korea, Missouri has long been home to many sites of Korean War memory. In the Forrest Park section of St. Louis, site of the 1904 World’s Fair, sits a marker declaring that the spot is home to the ‘Site Of The First Korean War Memorial In The United States’ dedicated on July 2 of 1951, which consisted of a memorial clock that used flowers to spell out ‘Hours And Flowers Soon Fade Away’. When the living memorial began to fade after decades, the city dedicated a permanent sundial in 1989, and on the fiftieth anniversary of the armistice in July of 2003 added a Chosen Few memorial to the site.  This site, which like Pittsburgh’s Korean War Memorial makes use of a sundial and like a monument in Knoxville is located at an old World’s Fair park, thus also shares the characteristic of being added to over time with many other sites of Korean War memory.  However, a memorial bridge marker in Maryland that was dedicated in August 1950 to one soldier who died a month into the war problematizes priority.

This final post for a blog that began in 2015, for a project that started in 2013, also offers me an opportunity to share some of the challenges in choosing which sites of memory I opt to discuss in depth.  For example, I have throughout this blog chosen to focus primarily on those dated memorials that I have visited myself and less so on those dated monuments which I have not had the chance to visit in person. A third category of site, those monuments which I was able to visit but could never precisely date, have presented a particular problem throughout my research while simultaneously serving as an opportunity to refine my critical analysis skills in practicing historical detective work by trying to narrow down a date range for such sites.  Moreover, while markers mentioning only those who died in Korea or dedicated to the dead of all wars are hardest to determine, those monuments which mention other wars besides the Korean War can be especially useful when taken in the context of surrounding monuments and common memorialization practices I have observed at sites of memory across the eastern half of the Unite States.  Thus I think most likely: 1) the Boone County WWII and Korean War marker located at the courthouse in Columbia, in between a World War I monument and a Vietnam War memorial, was erected in the 1950s or 1960s; 2) the Cooper County Korea and Vietnam Memorial in Boonville was erected in the 1970s or 1980s; and 3) the Sullivan memorial that is incorrectly listed on the KWVA website as being in Bourbon, which is also ‘Dedicated To Those Who Served Their Country’ in Vietnam and in the ‘Persian Gulf War’, was built between August of 1990 and February of 1991, since it does not list an end date for the latter.

In the period from the middle 1960s through the late 1980s, a number of local monuments were constructed throughout the state of Missouri that mention Korea alongside a varying number of other wars.  The earliest of these memorials is the Johnson County Veterans Memorial in Warrensburg which was dedicated on April 22, 1967 to those that died in the World Wars and Korean and Vietnam conflicts. The second is a monument in Joplin dedicated in 1973 ‘In Memory Of Our Heroic Combat Dead Of The Korean And Vietnam Conflicts’, while the next was an All Wars Monument in Piedmont erected in 1974 by the local Lions Club where Korea and Vietnam again share a marker while the World Wars have their own.  On May 30 of 1976 in the town of Marble Hill the Bollinger County War Memorial was dedicated, while on Veterans Day 1979 the Nodaway County Veterans Memorial in Maryville was dedicated, both of which add the Civil War to the World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam as conflicts commemorated on site. In May of 1985 the city of Macon dedicated a memorial to locals who died in Korea and Vietnam, while on June 8 of 1988 the city of Harrisonville dedicated a memorial with a marker for Korea and Vietnam.  Finally, on May 29, 1989 the Callaway County War Memorial in Fulton was dedicated for WWI-VN vets. Memorialization of the Korean War would continue into the 1990s as more towns started to dedicate monuments exclusively to those who fought in Korea rather than memorials to other conflicts as well.

On Veterans Day of 1991 the All Missouri Veterans Memorial at the capitol in Jefferson City was dedicated, while St. Clair’s Korean War Memorial, which is adjacent to the local Vietnam War Memorial and notes that ‘St. Clair Has Not Forgotten’, was dedicated on July 4, 1994 (as can be seen in the image at the top of this page).  On Veterans Day of 1995 a Korean War Memorial was dedicated in Washington in Krog Park. On Veterans Day of 1999 in Washington State Park south of De Soto a marker was erected denoting the designation of Missouri State Highway 21 as the Korean War Memorial Highway, two years before a Blue Star Marker was dedicated at the very same site on Veterans Day of 2001 and the first of three similarly named roads designated over the next several years.  The former James River Freeway south of Springfield was renamed the Korean War Veterans Memorial Freeway thanks to an act of the state legislature in 2003, two years before another act of the state legislature in 2005 re-designated a section of US Highway 63 in Phelps County as the Korean War Veterans Association Memorial Highway.  Local monuments commemorating those killed in Korea would also continue to be dedicated after 2000.

On Veterans Day of 2003 a memorial in Moberly noting that ‘All Gave Some, Some Gave All’ was dedicated, while in the city of St. Peters a monument noting ‘Lest We Forget, Freedom Is Not Free’ was dedicated in June of 2004.  On September 28, a day still celebrated in Korea for the liberation of Seoul, the official Missouri State Korean War Memorial was dedicated in Washington Square Park across from Union Station and cattycorner to KC’s massive World War I Museum and Memorial.  The location of the memorial, so close to other key local sites of memory and within the same metropolitan area as so many Korea monuments and museum exhibits from eastern Kansas to Independence, makes it in some ways a keystone to Korean War memory throughout the Midwestern region. The Korean War monument itself, which I visited on several occasions at different times of day over the course of four years from 2013 to 2016, cost over $350,000 to construct and has several features marking it as similar to other Korean War monuments across the country including a key focus on dividing lines and the presence of empty spaces. The angular aesthetic of the modernist monument shares similarities with other outdoor art in KC, such as sculptures outside the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art or at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, but it is unique in its images of an American soldier and elderly Korean which are only visible at an angle.  Yet the completion a grand state monument to those from Missouri lost in Korea, as in other states, was not enough to stem the tide of local memorialization which has continued even after the completion of my most recent trip to KC in mid-June of 2016.  Indeed, just a couple weeks after I returned home a new memorial was unveiled in the St. Louis suburb of Florissant honoring locals who died in the Korean War.

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