The Korean War Veterans Memorial resides on the National Mall, southeast of the Lincoln Memorial and just south of the Reflecting Pool. It is dedicated to the armed forces that served and sacrificed during the Korean War. The memorial has walls 164 feet long and eight inches thick, and from a bird’s eye view, the memorial appears as an isosceles triangle with the tip intersecting a circle over the Pool of Remembrance. Images of troops moving by sea, land and air are sandblasted onto the surface of the wall, while a squadron of 19 stainless steel figures, including members from each branch of the armed forces, are situated in the center of the memorial. When reflected on the granite wall, there appears to be 38 soldiers representing the 38th parallel, which divided North and South Korea during the conflict. The memorial also features a United Nations Wall, which lists all 22 members of the U.N. that contributed to the war efforts, as well as a granite wall that states “Freedom Is Not Free.” Finally, there is the Pool of Remembrance, which has inscriptions that list the number of soldiers killed, wounded, missing in action and held as prisoners of war. According to the National Park Service, the memorial receives roughly 3.5 million visitors per year.
The U.S. Congress approved the construction of the Korean War Veterans Memorial in 1986. Design and construction were managed by the Korean War Veterans Memorial Advisory Board and the American Battle Monuments Commission. Cooper-Lecky Architects were responsible for the design itself, as they oversaw collaboration between several designers. The most notable of these designers was Frank Gaylord, who was responsible for the 19 stainless steel statues. The memorial broke ground on June 14, 1992 and it was dedicated on July 27, 1995, the 42-year anniversary of the armistice that ended the Korean War.
The Korean War Veterans Memorial is free and open to the public 24 hours a day. Park Rangers are on duty to answer questions from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. daily. Interpretive programs are provided every hour on the hour from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m. Photography is permitted, but filming within the memorial must be done with a handheld camera — equipment set up is not allowed without a permit. Any footage taken must credit the artist.
The most convenient way to reach the Korean War Veterans Memorial is via bus or Metrorail. The closest Metro stop is Foggy Bottom, on the Blue and Orange lines, and is a reasonable walking distance from the memorial. If traveling by Metrobus, use the 32, 34 or 36 Metrobuses. As for parking, private garages and lots can be found downtown, north of the National Mall. Limited free day-long parking can be found along Ohio Drive SW or in Lots A, B & C south of the Jefferson Memorial. It is worth noting, however, parking is at a premium throughout the city.
Due to its prominent location on the National Mall, the Korean War Veterans Memorial is very close to numerous other monuments and memorials. The Lincoln Memorial, the Reflecting Pool and the Arlington Memorial Bridge (which leads to Arlington National Cemetery) are within close proximity. The World War II, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Jefferson Memorials are also within walking distance.
- Fourteen of the nineteen statues in the memorial are from the U.S. Army, while three are from the Marine Corps, one is a Navy Corpsman and one is an Air Force Forward Air Observer.
- Each statue weighs nearly 1,000 pounds each.
- Reflected on the wall, the soldiers appear to be 38 in number, which represents the 38th parallel that divides Korea.
- The initial design selected for the memorial came from four architects at Penn State University, who later withdrew as they were unable to execute the changes requested by the reviewing committees.
- The walls of the triangle in the memorial are made of more than one hundred tons of Academy Black granite from California.