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Capt. James Tranoris, Commander, Naval Forces Korea speaks in front of a photo of William Hamilton Shaw, a Korean-born U.S. Navy officer who died during the Korean War. A new memorial park will be built next year in Seoul to replace a small memorial to Shaw in a children's playground.

Capt. James Tranoris, Commander, Naval Forces Korea speaks in front of a photo of William Hamilton Shaw, a Korean-born U.S. Navy officer who died during the Korean War. A new memorial park will be built next year in Seoul to replace a small memorial to Shaw in a children's playground. (Ashley Rowland / S&S)

SEOUL — The television cameras captured the 1956 ceremony in fuzzy black and white: Masses of people — Americans and South Koreans — in their military uniforms or their Sunday best, dedicating a small stone monument on the outskirts of Seoul to an American who had become something of a national hero in South Korea.

On Monday, exactly 58 years after William Hamilton Shaw died, several hundred South Koreans gathered again to honor him and to unveil plans for a new, grander memorial park not far from where he died fighting to recapture Seoul during the Korean War.

"He didn’t look away from the pain and suffering of his second homeland," said Roh Jae-dong, district mayor of Eunpyeong-gu, the area in northwestern Seoul where Shaw was killed.

Shaw was born to Christian missionaries in Pyeongyang, now the capital of North Korea, in 1922. He joined the U.S. Navy, fought in World War II, and was attending Harvard University with plans to return to Korea as a missionary when the Korean War began in June 1950.

He quickly volunteered to return to Korea and fight. He was 29 when he was killed, three months after the war began.

The new park will be built at a now dingy intersection near the children’s playground where the current monument to him stands. The building-sized monument and tree-lined plaza will be completed in September 2009, and will cost 42 billion won, or about $36.8 million.

"Yes, this is a lot of money," Roh said. "I strongly believe it is worth every penny."

Commander Naval Forces Korea Capt. Jim Tranoris, one of a handful of U.S. Navy and Marine Corps officials who attended the ceremony, told the crowd that Shaw was an "example of patriotism and moral courage" who returned to Korea to demonstrate his love for the country.


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