The Korean War is sometimes referred to as America’s “forgotten war,” but a group of Central Kentucky veterans has quietly spent years working to turn that around.
After at least four years of saving and planning, Chapter 219 of the Korean War Veterans Association has succeeded in getting a Korean War memorial in Lexington.
The monument marking “the unforgotten war” will be unveiled at 2 p.m. Sunday at Veterans Park.
“Nobody knows anything about the Korean War,” said Bob Niles, who served in the Marines from 1948 to 1952.
On Thursday, he was one of five local veterans from Chapter 219 who gathered to finalize plans for the dedication ceremony.
They said it’s important to them to keep alive the memory of the war and those who served in it.
“We need to tell our story,” said Charles Davis, 86, who leads the group.
Davis, a U.S. Army veteran, said he had never heard of Korea when the United States entered the war in 1950, but he soon became one of more than 38,000 Kentuckians sent there.
His skill at the typewriter meant that one of his duties was to write letters to the families of those killed in action.
“You had to make seven copies, and no mistakes and no smudges,” he said.
Other memories are less grim. Davis remembers the day a flatbed trailer pulled up for Bob Hope’s USO show.
“That was great,” he said. “The blonde beauty was Marilyn Maxwell (a blonde actress and entertainer who was popular in the 1940s and 1950s). ... Bob Hope came strolling out there with a golf club across his shoulder and that smirky grin on his face.”
After returning home, the sergeant was glad to be finished with that chapter of his life.
“I’m glad I did what I did,” he said, but “I had enough of the have-tos. I wanted my freedom.”
Davis, who now lives in Danville, spent 45 years as a master plumber.
He enjoys getting together at the Korean War Veterans Association meetings. The group meets at noon on the second Thursday of each month at American Legion Post 341 at 1493 Leestown Road.
As with World War II veterans, the number of Korean War veterans is dwindling. Just this year, Davis said, chapter 219 has lost six members, some of whom had worked hard for the Lexington memorial.
“They would be very proud to see the monument,” said Charles Flora, who served in the Army’s military police from 1951 to 1954, first in Korea and then in Germany. “Everybody should be recognized for their services.”
The men said raising $21,120 for the monument was no easy task.
The Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs donated more than half the cost of the memorial. The money came from a fund sustained through fees from special military license plates, the veterans said.
“They generously pushed us over the top,” Flora said. “We just had a long, hard struggle to get this monument up, and it means a lot to us.”
Korean War monument ceremony
Chapter 219 of the Korean War Veterans Association will unveil the Korean War Memorial at 2 p.m. Sunday at Veterans Park, 650 Southpoint Dr., Lexington.
This weekend marks the 67th anniversary of what has been considered a turning point in the Korean War: the Inchon invasion.
On Sept. 15, 1950, U.S. troops under the command of Gen. Douglas MacArthur invaded Inchon, a port city on the west coast of Korea. From there, they broke North Korean supply lines, traveled the 25 miles to Seoul and recaptured the South Korean capital from Communist control.
For more information about the local chapter of the KWVA, contact Charles Davis at 859-936-9965.