Fallen Katusa to be honored at U.S. ceremony

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Fallen Katusa to be honored at U.S. ceremony

Next month, the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., will, for the first time, conduct a ceremony to recognize the names of the 4,360 Korean Augmentation to the United States Army (Katusa) soldiers who died in action.

The Korean War Veterans Memorial Foundation said it will hold a Katusa Verbal Wall of Remembrance Ceremony on June 25 at the memorial, to honor the South Koreans who were assigned to fight with U.S. troops against North Korean and Chinese armies during the Korean War, between July 1950 and July 1953.

Col. William E. Weber, chairman of the foundation, said that he wanted to spread awareness in the United States and across the world that “without the sacrifice of the 4,360 Katusa, more U.S. troops could have been killed.” Weber described the Katusa as “the sons of Korea as well as friends who sacrificed for the United States.”

Their names, compiled by the Korean government in both English and Korean, will be read out loud during the ceremony, hence the term “verbal wall.”

The Korean War Veterans Memorial, located near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, was dedicated on July 27, 1995 and commemorates 36,574 American troops who died during the Korean War. Such a verbal ceremony has been held before for U.S. soldiers, but this is the first time it is being held for South Koreans killed in action. But the 4,360 Katusa soldiers were just the names that could be confirmed. The Korean military estimates over 43,000 Katusa soldiers took part in the Korean War, of which some 9,000 were killed and thousands more went missing in action.

But when a reporter from the JoongAng Ilbo visited the site on Tuesday afternoon, the memorial itself appeared quite run-down. The 19 stainless steel statues of soldiers from the U.S. Army, Marine, Navy and Air Force have become tarnished in various places. Likewise, mud has settled in the Pool of Remembrance, intended to reflect the human cost of war.

An inscription on the pool states: “Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met.” But some of the letters have faded, including the first letter in “met.”

It is also difficult to read the weathered names of the fallen soldiers, which are engraved in the marble tablet of the Wall of Remembrance. The white paint of the marble plaque inscribed with “Korean War Veterans Memorial” is also chipped, with the letter “V” almost completely gone.

This is in stark contrast to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial located just 200 meters away, which is decorated with bouquets of flowers and letters written by students. The Korean War memorial, on the other hand, had just a few wilted flower wreaths scattered about.

In a Nov. 10 article, the New York Times reported that the Korean War Veterans Memorial receives more support from Korea than it does from the United States.

There are now some 300 surviving Americans veterans of the so-called “Forgotten War,” mostly in their 80s and 90s.

This sparked the Korean War veterans and their families into action, including Edward Quinn, an 87-year-old decorated war hero. His brother, John Quinn, 64, discovered the shortage of funding by reading the article and began to raise money for the memorial. The elder Quinn graduated West Point in June 1950 and just weeks later, as a 21-year-old second lieutenant, he led men in the outbreak of the Korean War and was eventually awarded two Silver Stars for distinguished gallantry in action, among other medals.

They eventually came in touch with a member of the foundation, Mary Urquhart, 57, with whom they worked to raised funds for the maintenance and restoration of the memorial, and developed a plan to expand it.

On Feb. 24, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill calling for the construction of a “Wall of Remembrance” as an augmentation to the Pool of Remembrance to honor those who were killed in action, are missing in action or were held as prisoners. It also called for a means to incorporate the names of those killed in action by name and the number of Katusa who died.

Also proposed was the erection of a laminated glass wall encircling the back half of the Pool of Remembrance, intended to provide a sense of closure to the memorial.

The foundation will hold events on July 7 in Seoul and Oct. 4 in Washington to gather the funds for the project, which will cost some $3 million won ($2,531) for maintenance and restoration and $12 million for the installation of the glass wall and its maintenance.

BY KIM HYUN-KI, SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]
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