Al Jolson Home Page|The Man|Jolson's Legacy|Memorials to Jolson|Korean War Memorial

Although not a member of the Armed Forces, Al Jolson had a special love for those he considered his favorite audience. Entertaining troops since his youth, in both World Wars, his trips during the Korean War ultimately cost him his life.
Model of Korean War Memorial In October, 1992, a gathering of Jolson fans at the headquarters of the Korean War Vererans Committee of Massachusetts included the viewing of a model of a memorial to be placed at the Charlstown Navy Yard, to be unveiled on July 27, 1993, the fortieth anniversary of the cease fire. The impressive model was dedicated to the memory of those who gave their lives during the Korean War.

In commemoration of Al Jolson's wartime activities, and in fraternity with Jolson's last audience, the International Al Jolson Society authorized the purchase of a brick to be placed in the plaza of the memorial. For a cash-strapped organization, it was just the right thing to do. It was radio personality Joe Franklin who had said, "Al Jolson died as much a casualty of the Korean conflict as any fighting man." Jolson brick

And yet, the group of Jolsonaires present that day felt that there was more that could be done to honor Al Jolson's memory. Learning of memorial stone benches to be placed around the site, Bruce Wexler came up with the idea of inscribing one such bench in Al Jolson's memory. In deference to Jolie's being the first entertainer to go to Korea, the first bench at the entrance of the memorial was offered to be dedicated to Al Jolson.

A fund raising project to cover the cost of the bench was proposed to the membership of the IAJS, and sufficient funds were raised to allow the bench to be placed in time for the dedication of the memorial. Donations came from all quarters, with a substantial amount from UK members, who likely would not come to see the memorial in person.

Memorial Ceremony On June 27, 1993, Tom Connolly, Dave Griem, Dwayne Hagerty and Bruce Wexler joined the dignitaries present for the dedication of the Korean War Memorial. General William Westmoreland is pictured in the center of the photo of the assembled, along with representatives of the Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, and the Republic of Korea. The bench dedicated that day by the members of the International Al Jolson Society, shown below, truly serves as a tangible reminder of Al Jolson's service.

In years to come, let this be one of the strongest of memories of the career of Al Jolson. To those who would wave a finger, question the morals, motivations, or image of the man, let them remember the joy and solace he gave, and paid the ultimate price, in a land far from home.

Jolson Memorial Bench

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This listing and material Copyright © 2007 Marc I. Leavey, M.D. Baltimore, Maryland
Updated 20 May 07 - Armed Forces Day