Busan citizens to honor American General
Retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Richard Seabury Whitcomb, who was said to “love Korea more than Koreans love Korea,” dedicated his life to rebuilding Busan after the Korean War. To honor his legacy, Busan citizens will erect a memorial for him in the U.N. Memorial Cemetery, where he was laid to rest after passing in 1982.
Whitcomb was born in the U.S. state of Kansas. After serving in World War I and II, he was appointed as the commander of the U.S. 2nd Logistics Support Base in Busan in 1953. In November of that year, a large fire destroyed much of the area between Busan Station and Gukje Market. Already suffering the ravages of war, the fire displaced 30,000 people.
Whitcomb provided military shelter and supplies to aid the victims. Since he lacked the regulatory authority to provide these supplies, he was summoned to appear before the U.S. Congress. Asked to explain his actions, Whitcomb answered, “War is done by weapons and it remains undone, unless it is done for the sake of the people in the country.” He received a standing ovation and was granted additional relief supplies to help the people of Korea.
Upon his return to Busan, Whitcomb led the reconstruction of areas destroyed by the fire. His efforts included building permanent housing to shelter those displaced. After retiring in 1954, he remained in Korea to help the city, and the nation in general, rebuild.
Whitman is credited with pioneering the care of war orphans, establishing hospitals, furthering education and developing infrastructure. He also served as an advisor to President Rhee Syngman and played a vital role in the U.S.-Korea relationship. Additionally, he dedicated his life to finding and returning the remains of fallen U.S. soldiers.
For his outsized role during and after the war, the Korean government posthumously awarded Whitman the Mugunghwa Medal, the highest Order of Civil Merit, in 2022.
In March 2023, the civic committee overseeing the Whitman memorial selected a statue by the artist Kwon Chi-gyu. It depicts Whitman walking hand in hand with war orphans, referencing his reputation as the “father of war orphans.” The committee is asking for donations of 10,000 won to help cover the cost of the memorial. The fundraising campaign will run until November 2023.
Those interested in donating can send money to the account of the Commemorative Organization for World Peace (BNK Busan Bank 101-2073-6988-01). A donation receipt can be issued upon request.
Inquiry: United Nations Peach Memorial Hall (051-901-1407)
The official website of the Commemorative Organization for World Peace: cowp.or.kr