Korea, the “Forgotten War,” was remembered Saturday, the 60th Anniversary of the armistice between North and South Korea, with the dedication of a Korean War Memorial site at the Presidio of San Francisco. Well over 100 people rose early to brave San Francisco’s summer cool and fog to attend the site overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. Noise from construction of a new bridge approach sometimes interrupted the ceremony, and traffic below the site produced a constant hum, a reminder that even at the Memorial, and the Civil War-era Golden Gate National Cemetery beyond it, time marches on.
Many who gathered shared a lot of gray hair. There were two wheelchairs, a few walkers and many canes. Red, Marine Corps caps punctuated the otherwise dark and somber jackets and overcoats. The South Korean veterans present displayed their medals. News reporters and cameramen were there in force, but fewer children. Two little ones belonged to San Francisco Supervisor Mark Farrell, who spoke about the memorial. (We in San Francisco have supervisors instead of city council members.) Another speaker was former U.S. Congressman Pete McCloskey, who was awarded the Navy Cross, Silver Star and two Purple Hearts as a Marine rifle platoon leader in Korea. He now leads The Korean War Memorial Foundation as its president. Consul General Han Dong-man of the Republic of Korea thanked the veterans present — and America — for his country’s freedom and prosperity. Korean school kids sent the veterans here a bedsheet, hand lettered with their thanks and good wishes for old men who left their blood on Korean soil decades ago. American suffered over 33,000 killed in action. Another 7,000 are still missing.
Retired USMC Lt. Col. John Stevens (second from left in photo), spoke about the price paid for freedom, and said it was worth it to see a thriving modern South Korea, in contrast to a starving and impoverished North. Now 92 years old, a much younger Stevens led a company of Marines onto the Korean shore at Inchon. All of America’s armed forces fought in the three-year war, alongside soldiers of other United Nations members, but Korea is special to the Marines, and the Chosin Reservoir is one of the most significant battles in their history.
Korean War Memorial Foundation President McCloskey is charged with raising $3.1 million for the monument and nearby landscaping. The lion’s share of the money goes to the Presidio Trust for maintenance of the monument– in perpetuity, one hopes. When contributors were asked to identify themselves, only three or four arms rose from the audience. Four donors, all on the foundation board, have contributed $280,000 of the $300,000 on hand. The Marines must now win this financial battle, or Korea may remain the Forgotten War. You can donate at http://kwmf.org/donations/