WebWarrior: The Korean War Educator
The Korean War Educator (www.koreanwar-educator.org) is a most aptly named website, because it does that and so much more. Lynnita Brown and her small staff of Korean War armchair historians help tremendously to see that this is no ?forgotten war.’
As expected, the KWE site is home to all manner of information regarding the Korean War, including AAR’s, unit histories, photographs, POW’s/ MIA’s, and links to other related sites. What the KWE does differently is place a great emphasis on looking at the war through the primary accounts of the soldiers who fought in it. "About, by, and for Korean War vets," sums up the KWE site. The best information here can be found in the Memoirs section. There are things in these oral histories that you’ll not find in any of your standard history reading. Look in the Reunions section for a forum of where the warriors who fought in the war are planning meetings. Did you or someone you know serve in the Korean War, and would like to know reunite with friends and unit members? Click on the Buddy Search section, and hopefully it’ll work for you.
Lynnita Brown was very generous in answering my pat list of questions, so I’ll get out of the way now. Enjoy!
1. What was the thing that got you interested in military history? What’s the story behind it?
I have been the volunteer director of the Douglas County Museum in Tuscola, Illinois since 1989. It is a small, national award-winning local history museum. Years ago, its trustees decided that, to avoid a "been there, seen it, done it" attitude from patrons, the Douglas County Museum’s exhibit policy would be to change exhibits twice a year rather than have permanent exhibits. I am also the exhibit designer and coordinator. In 1995, the museum’s exhibit was, "Where Were You During World War II?" It was the most successful exhibit to date, drawing thousands of people who could easily answer that question. Quite a lot of Korean War veterans came to see the exhibit, and many asked, "When are you going to do an exhibit about our war?" I promised them that the Douglas County Museum would stage a Korean War exhibit the next year.
Unfortunately, when it came time to do the exhibit, I didn’t have a clue where to begin. I was born in November of 1950, so I was just a babe while the war in Korea raged. Also, I don’t recall any mention, however brief, of the Korean War in my high school classes. The two colleges I attended didn’t offer courses on the Korean War. Contrary to popular belief, museum directors don’t know all there is to know about history. Even for them (especially for them!), learning about history is an ongoing process throughout their museum career.
To gain an understanding of the Korean War, I began to do taped interviews with local Korean War veterans. What an eye-opener that was! The exhibit was a huge success, and I have to admit that I cried when it was time to take it down. The Korean War veterans who visited the Douglas County Museum’s exhibit, "The Korean War: Cold, Bloody, and Forgotten" were extremely grateful that someone had finally acknowledged their contribution to world peace. They left with tears in their eyes, and the memory of those tears has forever remained in my heart. Although the exhibit ended, my work with Korean War veterans had just begun. I didn’t start out as a Korean War military historian, but I think it is certainly more than safe to say that I am one now!
You can find more background information about me here:
2. What, if any, computer training/experience did you have prior to starting your own site? What did you learn before starting it? What have you learned since?
I have no computer training. I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants with computers since I first sat down in front of one. I have learned by hit and miss, and with the help of some very patient webmasters. I’ve always been amazed that someone as "computer dumb" as myself (although I am learning!) could have such a superb website. It all boils down to three webmasters who have all had great compassion for Korean War veterans, as well as compassion for me–someone who desperately wanted to help those veterans, but didn’t have the computer skills necessary to do it. I am an excellent, fast typist, and do know many rudimentary things about operating a computer. However, web skills have been an acquired thing, and I am still learning some very basic computer skills that I should have had since day one, but didn’t have.
3. How did you come to bring your military history and computer interests together?
I first created a military website for a local veterans group in 1997. I determined that that group was a bit unethical and not entirely truthful to veterans, so I created the Korean War Educator Foundation, a federally-tax exempt non-profit organization. Its purposes can be found at:
http://www.koreanwar-educator.org/aboutus/foundation.htm#2 . I am the CEO of the KWE, which is now probably the most above-board Korean War veterans organization in the whole world.
The Korean War Educator website is the means by which the KWE Foundation carries out its mission to educate the public about the Korean War. Jim and I update the site almost every day.
4. What training/experience in military history do you have?
None before I began to work with Korean War veterans. Now, my specialty is oral history of the Korean War. I have interviewed over 400 Korean War veterans in full-length interviews that have lasted from three to nine hours. I ask them questions from the time they were born until present. The interviews are extremely comprehensive. I have done some reading on the history of the Korean War, too, but I get most of my knowledge about Korea from the veterans who served and fought there. It has been an honor and privilege to be the "middle man" between Korean War veterans and the general public. I am helping them get their story before the public. I interview them, then change questions and answers into narrative form. The public sees only the written word. However, I see something more. During the interviews, I see the veteran choke up and see tears trickle down their face when they talk about buddies injured and killed, or about the little children and civilians who were the victims of that horrible war. It’s just too bad the public can’t see what I see. Maybe then they would smarten up and honor all of the outstanding men and women who have paid the high cost of freedom here in the USA and around the world.
5. Has anyone helped you to build your site? In what ways, if so?
Not knowing anything about how to create a website, I approached USMC veteran Julian "Buck" Blagg of Tuscola for help in establishing the Korean War Educator. Finding material and photos for the site was not the problem–I had tons of it. What I lacked was the expertise. Julian did not know how to do a website either, but his passion was computers, and he was willing to give it a try. He charged me very little for hours upon hours of work to establish the KWE on the Internet. I am a stickler for correct spelling, and Julian couldn’t spell worth a hoot, but other than that, we made a great team. We both got a tremendous amount of satisfaction in seeing the Korean War Educator come alive on the Internet. My dear friend Julian died of lung cancer on June 1, 2003. I was at his bedside night after night while he lay dying in the hospital. He wanted so much to live.
When Julian’s health began to fail, he knew he could no longer work on the KWE. The web work for the site was then carried forth by Ron Janowski, the son of a Korean War veteran. Where Julian knew very little about the intricacies of web design, Ron had attended college and had a great deal of experience with websites. He changed the templates on the KWE, and gave it a much more professional look. He helped me learn how to do some of the web work myself, teaching me on the Dreamweaver program. After several months of great devotion to the website, Ron had to give up a lot of his web work due to family and church commitments.
I was sorry to see him go, but was happy to find a new webmaster who is as much of a "workaholic" as I am. Jim Doppelhammer lives in Charleston, Illinois. He currently does all of the web work for the Korean War Educator at no cost to the foundation. He says he loves a challenge, and I sure gave him one with the KWE! The first thing he did was change the site from Dreamweaver to FrontPage. Then, like Ron, he started to teach me how to do more and more of my own webmaster work. I’m not proficient, but I’m better than I was. I can’t yet put new pages up, but I can make improvements and changes to any existing text, and I can now type directly onto the behind-the-scenes templates. The general public and Korean War veterans who visit the site have no idea how many hundreds and hundreds of hours of work have gone into making the Korean War Educator one of the world’s best resources to find information about the Korean War. Jim and I work late nights to process the material and photos that are on the site. Neither one of us gets paid to do it.
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