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Revised Korean War Memorial OKd, but on New Site in Park

July 09, 1989|MARC LACEY | Times Staff Writer

Supporters of a Korean War memorial have won half a loaf from the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Commission, which accepted their redesign of the memorial but said it must be moved from the Korean Friendship Bell to another site in Angels Gate Park in San Pedro.

The decision was dubbed a partial victory by both the veterans who have been fighting for the memorial and a group of San Pedro residents who argue that any battle scene in the park would shatter the serenity surrounding the bell.

The 3-1 vote with one abstention approved a bronze sculpture of a battle scene with soldiers in combat but not poised in firing positions. The commission sided with the residents when they moved the statue to what the veterans called a second-choice site south of the Osgood-Farley Battery.

'It's Much Better'

"I'm not quite sure we won the battle," said Colleen Clement, head of the citizens group fighting a memorial in Angels Gate Park, "but it's much better away from the bell."

Memorial Committee Chairman Jack Stites said: "I think we prevailed," but he refused to predict whether the veterans group would accept the new site, which is next to a military museum.

The decision follows an April ruling by the commission which deemed a design with 12 soldiers in the heat of battle inappropriate for the bell site. The Friendship Bell, a gift of the South Korean government to the city of Los Angeles in 1976, is suspended from a colorful pagoda-shaped belfry, high atop a bluff in the sprawling city park at San Pedro's southern tip.

A task force appointed by Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley ordered a redesign of the monument if it were to remain next to the Friendship Bell. The panel's members said the monument must undergo a "major redesign" and "reflect a non-aggressive image of war" to fit that setting.

Alternative Plan

Or, they told the veterans group, it could slightly alter the battle scene and build the monument elsewhere in the park.

Sculptor Terry Jones spoke to the commission, describing his redesign of the 20-foot by 35-foot bronze as fulfilling the task force's stipulation for a less warlike monument.

Stites said he will present the commission's ruling to the board of directors of the Chosin Few, the veterans group that has sponsored the memorial. Previously, the veterans board had favored keeping the sculpture at the bell site, and Stites said he did not know if the veterans would prefer to take the memorial to another city, as they had threatened to do in the past.

The redesign of the bronze sculpture, which is to be the centerpiece of the memorial, is similar to the original design, but guns are repositioned, and a hand grenade has been removed from a soldier's hand. The veterans also agreed to make the 10-foot tall soldiers depict various ethnic groups.

The commission majority maintained that the new design is still a battle scene that would conflict with the Friendship Bell's setting.

Commission Member Roori J. Rodriguez abstained. She said she disagrees with the proposal to have women represented by a statue of a nurse away from the main memorial but must respect the veterans' right to represent the war their way.

"If I feel I do not want to see this, I will go sit by the Friendship Bell and not look at this," Rodriguez said.

At the hearing before the vote, opponents pleaded for the commission to preserve the spirituality of the Friendship Bell site.

Dubious About Message

"Do the people of Los Angeles really want to put a statue of war and warriors next to a statue of peace?" asked Alan L. Tolkoff, a San Pedro resident. "What are we telling the world if we do?"

"It's still a bit ghastly and grisly," said Robin Doyno, another resident. "Ten-foot-tall, one-ton warriors are not an example for my children to learn from."

A steady stream of veterans, however, scoffed at the criticism and said the bell and the war memorial enhanced each other.

"The monument depicts what agony and suffering our Allied forces went through to bring the bell here," said Lawrence Fitzgerald, 67, a two-time Purple Heart recipient and San Pedro resident whose Navy career spanned three wars.

Nick Capalia, a leader in the San Pedro Elks Club, said: "My God, if it hadn't been for the guns you see on the monument, do you think the Communists of Korea would have let the people send the Korean Bell?"

He wondered aloud how many of the memorial's opponents "would pick up a gun and fight" if the Communists invaded the United States. "Shame on you!" he said, as he left the microphone.

The veterans must get commission approval of final plans for the monument and the surrounding area before they can proceed. The memorial must also be approved by the state Coastal Commission and the Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Commission.

The International Korean War Memorial was conceived by the Chosin Few, members of the 1st Marine Division, which fought in the battle of the Chosin Reservoir in 1950.

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