Transitions commence new adventures. Make 'em last…

Fighting Spirits

This is was the primary troop transport plane used by US forces during the Korean War. Korean Forces later introduced it on May 1, 1955 and used it for transporting troops and supplies when Korea dispatched armed forces to the Vietnam war.

I couldn’t have picked a better Saturday morning to visit the War Memorial of Korea, which is situated just outside downtown Seoul. Although it’s still considered winter, it certainly felt like spring as the sun was shinning without a cloud in sight, the sky was as blue as ever, and I even had to take off my coat because it got fairly hot during my first stroll through the memorial grounds.

I came to the War Memorial of Korea without any special expectations, solely the desire to learn more about the Korean War and examine some of the military memorabilia that I figured would be housed there. However, I quickly ascertained there was much more than I had previously imagined.

As I entered the memorial grounds, I came across the “Statue of Brothers” and soon realized that this memorial might have a much more serious tone than I was expecting.

Statue of Brothers - Depicts a scene where a family's older brother, a ROK officer, and his younger brother, a North Korean solider, meet in a battlefield and express reconciliation, love, and forgiveness.

The message transcending from this very statue stood with me during my entire stay throughout the War Memorial as the idea of reconciliation and unifying both Koreas remained prevalent amid the halls of Korean history.

After passing the statue, I came across children playing inside a real-life decommissioned Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) and pondered what I would expect next.

Children playing inside an Armored Personnel Carrier (APC)

Well, what came next was the view of the enormous War Memorial of Korea in all its serious elegance and demeanor.

War Memorial of Korea

In addition to standing in awe at this view, I had company alongside me hoping that I would remember and honor them for their sacrifice in preserving peace and democracy.

Monument in Remembrance of the Korean War

Monument in Remembrance of the Korean War - Photo #2

On a plaque that accompanied these men, read, “The tragedy of the Korean War, which began on the morning of June 25, 1950 with North Korea’s illegal invasion of the South, resulted in over 4 million casualties, 10 million dispersed family members and $23 billion in property damage across the nation. The Republic of Korea, along with the UN forces from 21 different nations, fought at the risk of their lives in order to protect democracy and national peace. The war lasted 3 years, 1 month, and 2 days, and he Armistice Agreement was signed on July 27, 1953. In this spirit as we commemorate the tragedy of war, we erect this war monument in order to pay tribute to those who sacrificed their lives and to leave the eternal peace to our sons and daughters with the hope and promise of the unification of the nation.”

Then in the distance I saw the wings of a large airplane and became excited at the thought that there may be one or two airplanes to view up close. Well, I soon discovered it was much more than I imagined.

Plane, tank, and weapon field

Tank line-up

"Wild Horse" - Produced by the USA in 1940 and first used by the Korean military in 1950. It performed the duties of aerial support for ground troops until the Armistice Agreement in 1953 and made a total of 8,495 sorties. At the time, this fighter aircraft was also called "Airman of Faith" since it always won in battle.

F5-A "Freedom Fighter" (USA) - Introduced into the ROK Air Force in 1965 as a countermeasure against North Korean MiG-19 supersonic fighter from the USSR.

Anti-aircraft vehicles

Missiles and Namsung Tower

If you can imagine, the War Memorial soon became my playground. I literally transformed into an overly eager 12-year old and began climbing all over the tanks and cannons, and running in-and-out-and-under all the airplanes with ease and amazement. The actual limber 12-year olds that were present couldn’t even keep up with me, I left them in the dust with a surge of dexterity derived from my days running around the neighborhood with my childhood friends playing “Guns” and “Hide n’ Seek.”

Soon after breaking a sweat and a managing a sense of nostalgia, I was hit with the somber reality of the Korean War and those who sacrificed their lives when I arrived to the Korean War Wall.

Korean War Wall at War Memorial of Korea

This is one of many long halls containing a large quantity of tall horizontal black plaques, which have inscribed upon them the names of the thousands of those who lost their lives fighting in the Korean War. This particular hall contains all those from the United States and several countries from within the United Nations. Above all the plaques read in large lettering, “Our Nation Honors Her Sons And Daughters Who Answered The Call To Defend A Country They Never Knew And A People They Never Met.”

Upon entering the actual memorial, I learned that is was primarily dedicated to the Korean War and I was pleased. With a penchant for military history in addition to having a History degree, old habits die hard, or shall I dare say never die as I soon pulled out a pocket notebook and pencil, and began jotting down notes like a student listening to a detailed lecture. Not to worry, I will not expound all of what I learned from this memorial within this blog article, but I must say that I learned much more about the Korean War than I had anticipated, especially the various reasons why China promptly decided to get involved after UN Forces occupied Pyeongyang, the North Korean capital. My little pocket notebook soon became full with bounties of new insightful information. In addition, amidst all the guns, war memorabilia, and historical artifacts that somewhat reminded me of a huge antique weapons depot, I’ve included some photos of the exhibits that I thought were quite eye-catching and interesting.

Battle of the Han River Defense Line - As the North Korean Peoples Army occupied Seoul in 3 days, the Republic of Korea Armed Forces destroyed the Han River Bridge and formed a defense line on the Han River, which blocked NKPA's advance to the southern part of the Han River for 6 days.

Penetrating the 38th Parallel...

The Drop

The Drop: "In remembrance of the Korean soldiers and UN military participants who lost their lives in the Korean War, the respect towards the warriors (1,300 ID tags) has been embodied as tear drops. The iron thorns symbolize the horror, suppression, and danger of the tragic war."

UN Nations involved in Korean War

Mirrored Solders

Children playing a computer game with real-life M-16s. The foot in the bottom-left of the photo is of a man coming to tell me not to take pictures of the children. Sorry, too late...

After viewing all the exhibits, learning about a multitude of atrocities that occurred during the Korean War, and walking alongside photos of soldiers who are most likely no longer with us, their faces full of fighting vigor and determination reminded me of one simple fact…

…it always seems to come with hefty sacrifice.

3 comments on “Fighting Spirits

  1. Carey Macy
    March 15, 2011

    Yeah, it was a nasty war. And affected everyone living during that time, especially the men. They all knew at least one man who was wrought horrors overseas and alot did what they could to not get drafted. Or else they would be the ones seeing and being in the horror. And very possibly being killed.

  2. rachelshae
    March 16, 2011

    That tear-drop is my favorite. I need to visit more museums here!

  3. 현진호
    March 21, 2011

    Look at those pictures! Man! You’re so great journalist!

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“Experience, travel – these are as education in themselves.”

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