|From 1999 to May 1, 2001, Lynnita Jean Aldridge Sommer (Brown) conducted
a privately-funded oral history project to document the memoirs of Korean War veterans,
Gold Star family members, DMZ vets, and others who were involved in any way with the
Korean War. She was the sole sponsor of the project. [Background and personal information
about Lynnita can be found on the Korean War Educator website on the page "About Lynnita Brown."]
Effective May 1, 2001, Lynnita ceased her independent research. She now conducts
interviews with Korean War veterans under the auspices of The Korean War Educator
Foundation. The Foundation holds the copyright to all interviews conducted by Lynnita
Brown after May 1st. The interviews she conducted prior to May 1st will be absorbed
into the holdings of the Foundation.
INVITATION TO KOREAN WAR VETERANS & OTHERS
Korean War veterans who have not written their military/war memoirs are cordially
invited to participate in the Korean War Educator Foundation's oral history project.
Likewise, immediate relatives of Korean War veterans who were killed in the war are
encouraged to participate. Interviews are conducted in-person, via US mail, or online.
For more information on how you can be interviewed, contact Lynnita Jean at
Lynnita can also be reached by telephone at 217-253-4620, or by writing to her at
111 E. Houghton Street, Tuscola, IL 61953. There is no fee to participate in this
oral history project.
The primary goal of the history project is to get the memoirs of Korean War veterans
down on paper so that Korean War veterans will leave a legacy of understanding about
the war to the current general public and future generations. The Foundation's organizers
strongly believe that the Korean War is not the "forgotten war". Rather, it is the
"unknown war". Most Americans are not familiar with the Korean War because they have
received little or no education on the subject. The Korean War Educator Foundation
was created to be an educational resource to spark public interest in the Korean War
and its veterans.
Another goal of The Korean War Educator Foundation is to publish as many memoirs
of Korean War veterans and Gold Star family members as is possible in book form. Retrieving
and preserving those memoirs, as well as publishing them, will help educate the American
public about a deadly war that was much, much more than the "conflict" it has been
labeled for more than 50 years. One hundred percent of the profits from any book sales
will go to the Korean War Educator Foundation.
THE INTERVIEW PROCESS
The interview process takes at least two hours, with the average interview of a
combat veteran lasting three hours (and sometimes twice that long or longer). This
is most particularly the case when the veteran being interviewed has never talked
to others, especially a "civilian", about his or her experiences in the Korean War.
The informal interviews are recorded on cassette tapes, and questions are divided
roughly into three categories: the pre-military life, military life, and post-military
life of Korean War veterans. Lynnita interviews combat veterans, support personnel,
and Korean War-era veterans who served elsewhere in the world during the war years.
She also interviews Gold Star family members, those who remember the limited home
front efforts stateside during the Korean War, and the children of MIA/KIAs. Lynnita
also interviews wives who know the emotional struggles their husbands have faced and
still face due to traumatic Korean War experiences. Korean War veterans who served
in all branches of the Armed Services are encouraged to participate in the oral history
All veterans have the right to make corrections or additions, and they have the
right to request that a full manuscript of the interview be placed in a public repository
of choice (unless it is against the best interests of the Foundation) so that the
general public can gain a better understanding of the Korean War. The tape recording
from in-person interview sessions will also be copied if the interviewee wants his
or her interview in a non-transcribed form.
Transcribing in-person interviews
Transcribing the in-person interviews is a very slow process because there are
no funds available to hire a full-time transcriber. Only two volunteers transcribe
the tapes, and they each hold full-time jobs. Lynnita Brown, text editor of this website,
does some of the transcribing. At one point in her life, she was the director of word
processing at the National Council of Teachers of English, and thus has transcribing
skills. She uses a transcribing machine that was donated to the project by USMC veteran
Ray L. Walker of Brentwood, Tennessee. Ray is a veteran of the Inchon landing and
the Chosin Reservoir campaign.
niece, Buffy Hahn Topper has transcribed about a dozen of the oral history interviews.
Like her aunt, Buffy transcribes on a volunteer-basis, receiving no remuneration for
the long hours involved. A graduate of Tuscola High School in 1986, Buffy graduated
from Sparks Business College in Shelbyville, Illinois, in 1988. She married Bryan
Topper of Mt. Vernon, Indiana, and the couple lives in Pocahontas, Arkansas. Buffy
has been a court reporter for 13 years. Currently, she is the official court reporter
for the Honorable Judge Howard Templeton, based out of Jonesboro, Arkansas. She provides
real-time translation in court every day. She also serves as Continuing Education
Chairperson for the Arkansas Court Reporters Association. She holds an Arkansas Certified
Court Reporter Certificate, as well as the Registered Professional Reporter certificate
issued by the National Court Reporters Association. She is also an Arkansas Notary
Public. She received the Arkansas Court Reporter of the Year award in 2000, partly
based on her volunteer work to transcribe Korean War veterans' memoirs.
It is estimated that there are some 81,000 hours of tape-recorded Korean War memoirs
in this huge oral history project. Less than 1,000 hours have been transcribed due
to lack of funds. In spite of the slow turn-around time in the transcribing process,
it is important for Korean War veterans to take this opportunity to share their war-time
experiences. Although it takes months to get a completed transcript of an in-person
taped interview, the interview process nevertheless provides a means for veterans
who have heretofore been silent about their participation in the war, to now document
their memories on a cassette tape recording. According to government statistics, some
100,000 Korean War veterans die every year. Most of them leave this earth without
sharing their thoughts on the Korean War with members of their family or the general
public. Because of this, the history of the Korean War is being lost. Unless its veterans
step forward to break their silence, the Korean War could truly and permanently become
"the forgotten war."
Online and via US mail interviews
Faster results are available in an online or via-US-mail interview. Interviewees
who make a copy of answers to online or US mail questions will have their memoirs
documented on paper by the time the interview is completed. The in-person, online,
and U.S. mail interviews will eventually be combined into a publication featuring
segments of the interviews, related photographs, and educational materials about the
Korean War. The publication will be available to the general public.
Veterans who have access to the Internet can do interviews with Lynnita at
In an online or US mail interview, a veteran receives sets of questions, and answers
them at his or her leisure, sending them back to Lynnita when that particular set
of answers is completed. Often another set of questions about answers in a particular
set will follow. It goes back and forth like this about 15-20 times. Questions are
asked regarding a veteran's life from birth to present, and in three categories. Those
categories are: pre-military, military, and post-military. Depending on when the veteran
served in Korea and what he or she was doing in Korea at the time, there are some
200+ questions in the interview process. Some questions are very easy to answer. Some
are more complicated. Some cause laughter. Others evoke unpleasant memories.
PERMISSION TO INTERVIEW FORMS
All interviewees must sign a Permission to Interview form. (Along with the permit
form, DD214 forms are suggested for all veterans participating in copyrighted interviews.)
Signing the release form is a legal protection for the Foundation and the person being
interviewed. No interview will be conducted until a signed form is received. The mailing
address is: Korean War Educator Foundation, c/o Lynnita Brown, 111 E. Houghton St.,
Tuscola, IL 61953. Text of the form is printed below. Readers interested in doing
an interview should feel free to download it, sign it, and forward it to the Foundation.
Interviews will begin upon receipt of the signed permit form.