Kansas City unveils Missouri Korean War Memorial

Thursday, September 29, 2011 | 10:36 p.m. CDT
Korean War Army veterans Pete Keezer (left) of Overland Park and Donald Smith of Stillwell sing "The Caissons go Rolling Along" on Wednesday at the dedication ceremony for the Missouri Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington Square Park in Kansas City.

KANSAS CITY — The dream of a man who never forgot his service in the Korean War came true when a memorial to the war's veterans was unveiled in a park south of downtown Kansas City.

Although veteran Jim Shultz died last year at the age of 79, his children and about 400 others were on hand to watch Wednesday as a white sheet was pulled away to unveil the Missouri Korean War Veterans Memorial. It is dedicated to remembering what has been called "the forgotten war" and the thousands of Americans who died fighting it.

Some 37,000 Americans died, with 8,000 more still unaccounted for after the war that waged from 1950 to 1953. Those numbers include at least 900 Missourians, 100 of whom were from the Kansas City region, The Kansas City Star reported.

The Republic of Korea lost at least 47,000 troops, with United Nations allies suffering about 5,000 casualties. And about 2.5 million Koreans died in the conflict, according to The Star.

Shultz's children say he never forgot the day that he and other U.S. Marines advanced into Seoul to root out North Korean forces. He said he saw South Korean civilians who had suffered for months without food, water, medicine or hope. And he never forgot the suffering of the troops, who endured freezing harsh winters, or his buddies who died there.

Debra Shultz, who with her brother James Jr. led the drive for the memorial, said she was overwhelmed by the number of people who helped make it a reality. The city donated the land and $100,000, and private donations contributed $270,000. Several area companies and artists donated their time or materials.

There is a Korean War Memorial in Overland Park, Kan., but Shultz said, "Missouri needed one, too."

Korea was a place where Americans sacrificed to help people they didn't know, said Army Col. David Clark, executive director of the 60th Anniversary Korean War Commemoration Committee. He traveled from the Pentagon for the event.

"They bloodied the nose of the Communists," he said. "Historians are only now beginning to recognize the impact the war had."

A Korean-American, Yong Kim, whose grandfather's image is the second image on the memorial, was there to celebrate what he said was a special day and represent the city's Korean-American community.

Kim was a 12-year-old living in Seoul during the war. His family hid men under a trap door who feared North Koreans would force them to fight for the Communist invaders or even execute them for their loyalty to South Korea. The family and country suffered until Americans arrived, he said.

"In Korea, the day is celebrated still," said the Lenexa, Kan., resident. "It's called Ku Yi Pal Su Bok in Korean, or September 28th, Recapturing Seoul."

Kim said it was a happy coincidence that the memorial was dedicated on Sept. 28.

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