Filipino WWII Veterans Memorial

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Filipino World War II Veterans Memorial
Lake Street Park, Historic Filipinotown,
227 N. Lake Street, Los Angeles, CA
Designed by Cheri Gaulke, Artist
Commissioned by L.A. City Council District 13, Eric Garcetti, Councilmember
Unveiled on Veterans Day, November 11, 2006

Project Description The memorial honors the struggles, victories and patriotism of the Filipino World War II veterans. Five large black granite monoliths (5-7’ tall x 3-4’ wide) rise from the ground and two granite benches (1.5’ tall x 2-5’ wide) allow viewers to sit in meditation before them. Etched onto the face of the monoliths are photographs and text that tell the story including: the historical relationship between the United States and the Philippines, the invasion of the Philippines by Japan, the brave defense and battles of WWII, the surrender and horrific Bataan Death March and prisoner of war camps, General MacArthur’s return to the Philippines, the independence of the Philippines resulting in the loss of veterans’ benefits, and the ongoing struggle to receive recognition by the US government.
Materials In the space between the second and third monolith rises a vertical sheet of dichroic glass that shifts in color from warm copper to cool blues as the viewer moves in front of it. The shimmering dichroic glass serves as a contemporary eternal flame. The materials are both traditional (exquisite black granite with engraved text) and contemporary (dichroic glass and etched photographs on granite). The front and back surfaces of the black granite are highly polished and the top and sides are a natural broken surface. The black granite speaks to the strength and substance of the story; the broken edges give an earthy quality befitting a memorial; the highly polished surface reflects the viewer calling them to involve themselves in the story. The first four monoliths recount the war experience and the fifth tells the story of the quest for benefits. The space between the fourth and fifth monolith forms a V, subtly representative of veteran, valor and victory. The two granite benches have the word “valor” etched in English and Tagalog.
Placement The monoliths are arranged on a slope between the street and the recreation center at Lake Street Park in the Historic Filipinotown section of Los Angeles. The street side of the memorial has the word “valor” etched quite large, a map of the Philippines, and a quote from a survivor of the Bataan Death March which states, “Bataan was not our last battlefield. We are still fighting for equity.” At the recreation center side, viewers can walk towards the monoliths and read the story, or stop and sit on the benches and contemplate history. The intention of the memorial design is to be a place where the veterans themselves can tell their stories, as well as a place that teaches future generations about these important historic events.

Cheri Gaulke, Artist

Filipino WWII Veterans Memorial Dedication


Dedication speech by artist Cheri Gaulke at the unveiling of the Filipino World War II Veterans Memorial that she designed, Veterans Day, Saturday, November 11, 2006, Lake Street Park, Historic Filipinotown, Los Angeles, California

When I was growing up, my dad was a war history buff and family vacations often included visiting battlefields and war monuments. Mostly I hated it, angry about what I thought was a glorification of violence. In school, history was one of my least favorite subjects because it seemed to focus almost solely on war. I am perhaps not the most likely candidate to design a war memorial. I’m not even Filipino. But I love a challenge! And I am grateful to City Council President Eric Garcetti (CD13) for giving me that challenge.

I was asked to design this Filipino World War II Veterans Memorial almost three years ago. When art consultant Lesley Elwood told me the veterans’ story, I was intrigued. Then Joseph Bernardo from Eric Garcetti’s office took me to the Filipino American Services Group to meet two veterans. I came into their tiny office with maps and photos on the walls. They were in the 80s and full of passion as they told me their stories and I strained to understand their words and the horrors of what they were describing. These men brought their war experience alive for me and I was moved. It has been said that as a people we are doomed to repeat history if we do not truly understand our past.

These men were once young and full of optimism and hope. They willingly stepped forward to serve our country. Thousands of them faced horrific torture, thousands did not survive. Civilian men and women were deeply affected too. They all have memories that they live with every day.

No longer young, these same men and women are still full of optimism and hope that we as a people and government will give them the respect, honor and benefits that they were promised and so deserve. I have been honored to tell their story and to use my skills as an artist to draw attention to their plight.

On this historic day, let us all understand history and not be doomed to repeat it. Let us honor their valor by making sure that injustice and unfair treatment of our veterans will never happen again.