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Korean Memorial Planners Now Worried About Vandals, Weather

August 28, 1989

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Korean War may have been fought to contain communist aggression, but the planners of a memorial for the conflict’s veterans are more concerned about acts by vandals, pigeons and Mother Nature.

It seems the planned location is a little remote and it may be vulnerable to flooding.

″It’s going to be way out there by itself, and the potential for vandalism is pretty high,″ said Air Force Lt. Col. Mark Coon of the American Battle Monuments Commission.

″It’s very tempting to go up and rub the statues and touch and maybe break off a finger or two. One lady even wrote about pigeons sitting on them or dropping on them,″ Coon said.

Think building a monument is easy?

Organizers of the $6 million project won the government’s blessing in 1986 for a spot on the Mall, near the Tidal Basin and directly across the Reflecting Pool from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Backers of the project include President Bush and advice columnist Abigail Van Buren.

The design - submitted by Pennsylvania State University architects - was supposed to be a secret until Bush presided over the unveiling as a military band played patriotic songs at a White House ceremony on Flag Day last June.

But, in typical Washington fashion, word leaked out beforehand that the architects contemplated statues of 38 soldiers marching unevenly down a tree- lined path toward an American flag.

While the design was praised by veterans’ groups, the planners face some vexing problems.

This summer, The Washington Post published a map showing how much of the Mall would be under water when the region gets the type of flooding that is expected to occur every 50 years. The Korean memorial site was in a prime flooding spot. ″Somebody, someday will have to be concerned about that,″ Coon said.

The four Penn State architects are already concerned about it, although lately their efforts have focused more on getting their design approved by a battery of planning and parks commissions.

The designers were picked by a jury of Korean War veterans from among 1,019 entrants, and they are not about to let their work be ruined by water or vandals.

The flood forecast represents ″a geotechnic problem that has to be addressed. We’re talking to engineers,″ said Don Leon, an associate architecture professor who is one of the designers.

As for vandalism, ″You address those problems by understanding the type of materials to be used,″ Leon said.

The group is considering making the statues out of granite.

The commission has raised $3.5 million of the $6 million it estimates the memorial will cost. The money must be on hand by the time the project’s legislative authority expires in October 1991 or the collected funds are supposed to be returned, according to Coon.

″That’s a nightmare thinking about returning all the money. Somebody would come through before that, I’m sure,″ Coon said.

He said an informational flyer about the memorial was sent recently to 1.2 million recipients of Veterans Administration checks, and that several ″Dear Abby″ advice columns about the project had also helped generate interest.

The designers don’t expect the memorial to stir the controversy that surrounded the Vietnam memorial, which some veterans criticized as unheroic.

The Vietnam memorial is a V-shaped wall bearing the names of those killed in the war. A statue of three battle-weary soldiers stands nearby as a concession to the critics.

Coon said some people have questioned why the names of Korean War veterans will not also appear on a wall at the new site.

They were told that simply wasn’t the plan.

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