This monument in Battery Park, north of Castle Clinton, honors military personnel who served in the Korean Conflict (1950–1953). The memorial, dedicated in 1991, was designed by Welsh-born artist Mac Adams (b. 1943) and is notable as one of the first Korean War memorials erected in the United States.
The Korean War began on June 25, 1950, when North Korean forces crossed the 38th parallel, the dividing line between North and South Korea, and invaded South Korea. Within one month, the North Koreans had pushed the South Korean army and supporting U.S. forces to the southernmost tip of the Korean peninsula. In response, the United Nations authorized an army, under the command of U.S. General Douglas MacArthur (1880–1964), to repulse the North Koreans and re-establish the boundary between the North and South at the 38th parallel. In mid-September, MacArthur staged a daring amphibious landing at the Inchon Peninsula and attacked the North Koreans from behind. The U.N. troops soon pushed the North Korean army back across the 38th parallel, and advanced along the Yalu River, the border between North Korea and China.
Fearing invasion, Chinese forces became involved in the conflict. In November, the Chinese attacked the U.N. forces near the Yalu River, and drove them back into South Korea. The U.N. forces counterattacked and managed to re-establish a battle line near the 38th parallel. In April 1951, President Harry S. Truman (1884–1972) relieved General MacArthur of his command, rejecting MacArthur’s aggressive policies which Truman believed would instigate a major war with China and the Soviet Union. Fighting would continue in Korea for the next two years, although little ground was gained by either side. Finally, on July 27, 1953, both sides signed an armistice, which ended hostilities and restored the 38th parallel as the dividing line between North and South Korea.
In 1987 the Korean War Veterans Memorial Committee was formed to raise money to build a monument to commemorate the soldiers of the “forgotten war.” Mac Adams’ winning design, selected from a group of over 100 entries, features a 15-foot-high black granite stele with the shape of a Korean War soldier cut out of the center. Also known as “The Universal Soldier,” the figure forms a silhouette that allows viewers to see through the monument to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Adams also designed the piece to function as a sundial. Every July 27 at 10 a.m., the anniversary of the exact moment in New York when hostilities ceased in Korea, the sun shines through the soldier’s head and illuminates the commemorative plaque installed in the ground at the foot of the statue.
One of the three tiers in the base of the monument is decorated with a mosaic of flags of the countries that participated in the U.N.-sponsored mission. The plaza’s paving blocks are inscribed with the number of dead, wounded, and missing in action from each of the 22 countries that participated in the war. Korean War veterans are also commemorated in New York with the Korean War Veterans Plaza at Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn, and the Korean War Veterans Parkway in Staten Island, previously known as the Richmond Parkway until it was renamed in April 1997 by the New York State Legislature.
New York Korean War Veterans Memorial Details
- Sculptor: Mac Adams
- Description: Obelisk with cutout in shape of soldier on base with mosaic flags, two plaques on two markers situated in circular plaza (axis aligned with Statue of Liberty)
- Materials: Obelisk and base--Pennsylvania black granite (polished); outline of cutout--stainless steel; mosaic tiles; plaques--stainless steel; markers and plaza paving--Barre gray granite
- Dimensions: Obelisk H: 15' W: 10'6" D: 4'5"; base H: 5' W": 10'6" x d 6'; each marker front h 2'6" x rear h 3' x w 3' x d 2'; plaza diameter 50'
- Cast: 1991
- Dedicated: June 25, 1991
- Donor: New York Korean Veterans Memorial Commission
- Inscription: THE KOREAN WAR / 1950 - 1953
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