skip to Main Content


West Liberty, Kentucky; July 4, 2015: Months of devoted fund raising, exhaustive planning, clay modeling, bronze casting, and cultivation of community support, culminated on Independence Day, as a magnificent life-size statue of Colonel William Earl Barber, U.S. Marine Corps, Commanding Officer, Company F, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine regiment, 1st Marine Division (Reinforced), during the Korean War, was dedicated at the Old Morgan County Courthouse. Present for the unveiling and dedication ceremony was Stephen J. Tirone, a Marine Corps veteran and retired professor of art at Morehead State University, Morehead, Kentucky, who sculpted and cast the “We Will Hold” statue depicting then Captain Barber exhorting his Marines to hold a vital frozen mountain pass at the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea, thereby enabling entrapped elements of the 1st Marine Division to breakout in their march to the sea. For his intrepid leadership under fire, then Captain Barber was awarded the Medal of Honor. Also in attendance and afforded seats of honor were Marine Corps vetrans of the Chosin Reservoir campaign, as well as other military veterans of wars ranging from World War II to the current Global War on Terrorism. Marines from the Marine Corps League, Department of Kentucky, representing detachments in Richmond, Frankfort, Lexington, Louisville, Owensboro, Paducah, and Winchester, who made significant contributions toward the completion of the memorial statue, were also in attendance. Conceived and funded primarily by Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post #7225 (Morgan County), this memorial recognizes not only one of their own, but also one of our own, and the Marine Corps community of Kentucky is extremely grateful to the wonderful people of Morgan County for the opportunity to join with them in this long overdue recognition of a true Marine Corps legend. During the dedication ceremony, Ed Armento, Secretary of the Marine Corps Coordinating Council of Kentucky was asked to offer some remarks on behalf of the Marine Corps community in Kentucky, excerpts of which follow: ” It is indeed a pleasure for me to be here this afternoon to participate in this momentous occasion and I thank the good people of Morgan County for making this wonderful grass-roots recognition of Colonel William Earl Barber a reality…My involvement in this memorial project, as a representative of the Marine Corps community in Kentucky, has enabled me to gain some wonderful new friends, such as fellow veterans Lynn Nickell, Norvin “Shorty” Terry (Co-Chairmen) and Stephen Tirone (Sculptor), all of whom I deeply respect for their devotion to our nation, their communities, local veterans, education, and an admirable sense of history. As millions of our fellow citizens gather across America today at parades, picnics, concerts, and fireworks displays, to celebrate the 239th anniversary of the founding of our great nation and our independence from Great Britain, we are assembled here together in the center of a town devastated by a tornado just three short years ago, to commemorate for future generations the extraordinary valor of a son of Morgan County. I cannot help to reflect on the courage and resilience of the people of Morgan County, as you strive daily to rebuild your community, in the aftermath of this natural disaster, in much the same way that Colonel Barber and his Marines held off a numerically superior enemy force during the Korean War. Although the circumstances are vastly different, the human will to overcome adversity both on the battlefield of war and on the streets of this city, is quite similar…It is almost as if the courage and determination of Colonel Barber pervades this city and its determination to rebound. Born on November 30, 1919 in Dehart, Kentucky, Colonel Barber completed Morgan County High School here in West Liberty, Kentucky and attended what was then known as Morehead State Teachers College, prior to enlisting in the Marine Corps in March 1940. Commissioned in August 1943, then Second Lieutenant Barber participated in combat operations in World War II, as both an infantry platoon commander and acting company commander during the epic Battle of Iwo Jima and later during the initial occupation of Japan. To commemorate his service on Iwo Jima, where he shed his blood with thousands of his fellow Marines in the defense of our nation, some black lava sand from the beaches beneath Mt. Suribachi, has been symbolically infused into the concrete base of this memorial statue…In the history of the United States Marine Corps there have been many iconic figures, who are remembered by all Marines, for their conspicuous valor in battle. Colonel Barber is numbered among them. Kentucky Marines, who I am privileged to represent today, especially honor his combat service in three wars and are thrilled that the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #7225, here in Morgan County, Kentucky, has chosen to memorialize this “Legendary Kentucky Marine” in the county in which he was reared. The magnificent statue, which will soon be unveiled, depicts then Captain Barber rallying his Marines at the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War, in a desperate five-day defense of a frozen mountain pass vital to the 1st Marine Division’s breakout to the sea. Fighting in sub-zero temperatures against overwhelming odds, then Captain Barber was wounded on the first night of the action, but refused evacuation and remained in command of his company, prompting his men to provide him with a tree limb for support and mobility…For this action, President Harry S. Truman presented then Captain Barber with the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest award for valor, on August 20, 1952, in ceremonies at the White House. Military historians agree that the actions of then Captain Barber and the men of Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division (Reinforced), at the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War, undoubtedly saved the lives of thousands of Marines, who would have perished, had not then Captain Barber refused orders to withdraw and held his ground against the enemy onslaught. With us this afternoon are several Kentucky Marines, who fought at the Chosin Reservoir in Korea and may very well owe their lives to the valor of Colonel Barber and his men. They are but a few of those, who shortly after World War II answered America’s call to arms, and served in what is sometimes referred to in America and Canada as the “Forgotten War.” Because of Colonel Barber’s refusal to abandon his position, from which his company was providing cover to Marines on their march to the sea, they were able to return home safely and pursue their individual American dreams and I am privileged to have the opportunity to introduce them to you at this time: JOHNNY JOHNSON, Richmond, Kentucky; Anti – Tank Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division; JACK DITMER, Waco, Kentucky; Artillery Battery, 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment; and JOE HEAD, Louisville, Kentucky; Anti – Tank Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. Also with us today is TOM VARLEY, Anchorage, Kentucky; Headquarters and Service Company, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, who with his legendary leader, then Col Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, USMC, helped clear the way at Koto-Ri, as the embattled Marines fought their way to the sea. Gentlemen – Korea may be known as America’s “Forgotten War,” but I believe that I speak for the people of West Liberty, a city named for what we all celebrate today, when I tell you that you and Colonel Barber will never be forgotten for your courage and valor at the Chosin Reservoir and its environs…Having never had the opportunity to serve under Colonel Barber during my active duty years in the Marine Corps, I did have the privilege of being with him on two separate occasions, as fellow veterans. In 1996, Col Barber presided over the dedication of a beautiful stained glass window in the chapel of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, South Carolina, which had been donated in his honor by his fellow Kentucky Marines. Earlier in the day he had stood at rigid attention for colors, as our National Anthem and “My Old Kentucky Home” were played by the base band. Later in the day, Colonel Barber was asked to review the troops during a graduation parade. As the South Carolina sun warmed hundreds of proud parents, families and friends, newly minted Marines passed in review to the strains of the “Marines’ Hymn,” hoping to get a glimpse of the single heroic figure in civilian attire standing before them. It was a homecoming for Colonel Barber, who 56 years earlier had marched in a similar graduation parade over the same ground, as a young Marine. Two years later, in 1998, Colonel Barber was the initial “Guest of Honor” at the inaugural “Salute to the Legends of the Corps,” hosted by Kentucky Marines at Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, for the benefit of the Marine Corps University. On both these occasions, Colonel Barber conducted himself with utmost grace, class and style, befitting of the true Kentucky gentleman, he was known to be. Throughout his life, Colonel Barber exemplified the core values of his beloved Marine Corps – Honor, Courage and Commitment – passing the torch to a younger generation of Kentuckians, who were to fight and bleed not in the frigid mountains of Korea, but in the steamy jungles of Vietnam.” (Photo by Ed Armento, MCCCK)(Additional photos in “Galleries” section)

Back To Top