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Documenting Veterans' Memoirs

Memoirs Index 


 Documenting Memoirs 


 Participants to Date
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.


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@koreanwar-educator.org. 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.


In-person Interviews

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 project.

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.

Lynnita's 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 lynnita@koreanwar-educator.org. 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.


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.

Permission to Tape Record
or Record by Written Interview

Choose from a file-type for the form:

MS Word Document (Windows platform)
(If you have Microsoft Word, then you can download this file, fill it in, save it and send it to
Lynnita as an email attachment... or print it, fill it out and mail back to Lynnita)

PDF File (Multi-platform)
(This form can only be printed, filled out and mailed back to Lynnita)


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