Korean War Memorial riddled with errors, veterans families seek change

Defense Dept. calls errors an “unfortunate mistake”
Published: Jan. 18, 2023 at 3:59 PM CST
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Terri Mumley went to the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C. to pay respects to her grandfather Loyd Smith Jr. who was killed during the conflict conducting reconnaissance off the coast of China.

“They were shot down January 18th, 1953,” Mumley said. “Today is the 70th anniversary of that shoot down.”

There was a big problem with Mumley’s effort. Her grandfather’s name is not on the wall.

“We don’t have a body, so we don’t have a memorial to go to,” Mumley said. “We don’t have a stone to go to a cemetery and pay our honors to him. And to come here and still not have a place that says his name, it’s heartbreaking to my family.”

The Korean War Project keeps a database of those killed in the war. The group counts more than 1,000 misspellings and 500 names that should be on the wall but are not. They also found names that are on the wall that should not be.

Megan Marx says it’s especially hard learning a loved one’s name isn’t on the wall when they never made it home.

“It’s sort of the only way left that we have to bring him home, and it felt like we were leaving him behind again,” Marx said.

Mumley and Marx are now working with lawmakers to attempt to change the memorial. Korean War Project founder Hal Barker said he and his brother Ted alerted the government to mistakes in 1996, but have yet to achieve significant results.

“We have tried to get recognition of the fact that there is a problem, and we were basically ignored,” Barker said.

The Department of Defense sent this statement on the errors on the wall:

“The errors are a very unfortunate mistake and the DOD is working in tandem with the Dept. of Interior to correct those mistakes. We are also aware that some names are on the Wall of Remembrance which were not included on the Department’s final list of Korean War casualties. The respective Military Departments reviewed every name on the Korean War Casualty List for correctness against available official military records. Though not common, the official records themselves may have contained errors making this review challenging. Additionally challenging was determining if a deceased service member that was previously considered a Cold War era loss should be re-categorized as a Korean War loss. We encourage all family members or concerned citizens to notify the Department of any names that were omitted, misspelled, or included in error.

Public Law 114-230 required the Secretary of Defense to establish the eligibility criteria for the inclusion of names on the Korean War Wall of Remembrance and provide the Department of Interior a final list of names for inclusion on the Wall of Remembrance. The Defense Human Resources Activity (DHRA), who is responsible for maintaining the official Korean War casualty list, provided the Military Departments with the official Korean War Casualty list and some additional names to review in order to certify them as Korean War Casualties. Each Military Department reviewed their respective service members against official military records such as casualty reports, official military personnel files, or the individual deceased personnel files. The Military Departments also reviewed the names of other deceased service members, previously not listed on the Korean War casualty list, to determine if their death met the established eligibility criteria. Upon completion of the Military Department’s review of more than 36,000 names, DOD updated the official Korean War Casualty list and forwarded the list to the Department of Interior.

The Barkers have provided valuable assistance to the Department on a number of occasions in the past, and DOD is currently reviewing information provided by the Barkers to determine if any changes to the Korean War Casualty records is warranted.”