WASHINGTON -- The architects who designed a new Korean War veterans memorial say federal bureaucrats "brutally changed" their design and intend to build a "radically different" memorial that "glorifies war."
An official of the American Battle Monuments Commission, defending the changes, said control over the design belonged to the government, not the architects.
The fight over the memorial, which is to be built near the heart of the Washington Mall, is becoming a battle over the way in which the Korean War will be remembered.
The architects' design won a national competition last year, with a 10-member jury of Korean War veterans selecting the work over 540 competitors.
It depicted, with heroic statuary and subtle symbols, a unit of 38 soldiers on patrol on a mountain ridge, struggling to come home alive. Home is represented by an American flag beyond the highest point of the ridge.
But the design has been subjected to "total changes" by a half-dozen federal agencies and retired military officers, said John Paul Lucas, a principal of Burns Lucas, Leon, Lucas, the firm in State College, Pa., that designed the memorial.
The revised memorial "has taken on a radically different character . . . one that has to do with a moment in combat," Mr. Lucas said.
"Only fragments of our design remain," Mr. Lucas said. Sketches of the new design obtained yesterday appear to bear only a passing resemblance to the original. They include ceremonial plazas, murals, maps, pools and other new elements.
The winning architects have protested the changes in their design, to no avail.
Pictures of the model taken at the unveiling have been sent to thousands of veterans in a private fund-raising effort for the memorial. But the picture of the model bears no resemblance to the memorial the federal bureaucracy is building.
Mr. Lucas said he and his partners had been "put into isolation, told not to say anything" and "muzzled" by federal officials.
Cooper-Lecky Architects, a Washington firm, is carrying out the changes in the memorial. It also executed politically controversial design changes in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, adding larger-than-life statues of soldiers to the stark black stone memorial with the names of the war dead.