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Veterans share experiences for oral history

June 24, 2010 at 1:24 a.m.

Korean War veteran Duane Cook, left, points out his portrait on the wall to fellow veteran Henry Alex at the Museum of the Coastal Bend at Victoria College on Thursday. Cook and other Korean War veterans came to the conference at Victoria College to discuss their war stories.


Korean War veterans who are interested in sharing their history for the Korean War Conference Oral History Project can contact Barbara Parson Smith at 361-573-6815 or or by mail at P.O. Box 144 Victoria, TX 777902-0144.


Friday, June 25

7:30 a.m.

"Memorial Service - Korean War Monument,"

Speaker: Judge Joseph P. Kelly

Greenbelt Park, Victoria

8 a.m. Registration - Victoria College Fine Arts Auditorium

9 - 10:15 a.m.

THEME: Crises Management in the War

"Crises in Command: the Truman and MacArthur Controversy," presented by: James Smallwood, Oklahoma State University

"Doc: The Company Aid Man," presented by Carroll J. Scogin, Lavaca County Historical Commission

Chair: Dora Guerra, University of Texas, San Antonio


10:30 - 11:45 a.m.

THEME: American Minorities and the War

"Hispanics and the War," presented by Cecilia Venable, Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi

"African Americans in the Korean Conflict: Forgotten Warriors of the Forgotten War," presented by George Cooper, Lone Star College

"The Korean Conflict as a Watershed Moment in American Race Relations," presented by Ron E. Armstead, executive director, Congressional Black Caucus Veterans Braintrust

Chair: Richard McCaslin, University of North Texas


11:45 - 1:30 p.m.

THEME: The Fight

"Inchon," Robert Citino, University of North Texas

"United States Foreign Policy and the Korean War," presented by Michael Nojeim, Prairie View A&M University

Chair: Caroline Crimm, Sam Houston State University


1:30 - 2:45 p.m.


3 - 4:15 p.m.

THEME: The War from Inside: Panel Discussion

"Cold Feet, Soggy Food and 'R & R'"

Chair: Kenneth Howell, Prairie View A&M University


6 p.m.

Jim Lehrer Banquet

SPEAKER: Jim Lehrer, PBS NewsHour and Victoria College Alumnus

Master of Ceremonies: Michael Hummel, Victoria College

Victoria College Student Center

Saturday, June 26

8:30 a.m. Registration - Victoria College Fine Arts Auditorium

9 - 10:15 a.m.

THEME: The War in Pictures

"Sketches of Sgt. Ralph Schofield, 1st Marine Division Combat Artist," presented by Craig Livingston, Lone Star College

"Frankly Mac, this 'police action' business is going too damn far! Armed Forces Cartoons in the Korean Conflict," presented by Cord Scott, Triton College/Loyola University

Chair: Suzanne Kutach, Texas A&M University at Galveston


10:30 - 11:45 a.m.

THEME: The 45th Division 60 Years Later

Video Documentary: "The 45th Division: 60 Years Later," presented by Robert Paniagua, free-lance video journalist


SPEAKER: Bill Sloan, author of: "The Darkest Summer: The First Three Months of the Korean War"

Introduction: Charles Spurlin, Victoria College (retired)

University of Houston-Victoria, University Center


Hundreds of veterans, family members, historians and two foreign dignitaries attended Thursday's reception honoring Korean veterans.

The Museum of the Coastal Bend hosted the reception and exhibit, which featured hundreds of veterans' black and white photos from the from war.

"We are a chosen few," said Charles Maples, an 81-year-old Marine who served in Korea, standing next to his photo. It showed Marines marching through snowy mountains. "We lost about 8,000 Marines in that two to three week battle. We were surrounded, and we had to fight our way out."

Veterans saluted each other and exchanged war stories over refreshments after Mayor Will Armstrong gave a welcome address. Others welcomed were dignitaries from South Korea, Norway, pulitzer-prize nominee Bill Sloan and journalist Jim Lehrer.


To watch a live simulcast of Jim Lehrer's speech at Victoria College Student Center visit at 6 p.m., Friday.

The war memories come easily to Duane Cook, a Korean War veteran who served in the Army during the conflict, but not painlessly.

"You remember all the details, this and that, and suddenly it becomes a nightmare," he said.

Cook will be interviewed this week as a part of the Korean War Conference oral history project. The project involves a handful of veterans and historians and runs concurrently with the this week's Korean War Conference at Victoria College.

"If we wait too long, a lot of those stories will get a way from us," said Joe Dahlstrom, director of libraries for the college and University of Houston-Victoria.

The interviews will last at least two hours and will focus on veterans' experiences, and - for local veterans - their experiences in Victoria, Dahlstrom said.

At the end of the project, the veterans will receive a copy of the audio recording. Dahlstrom hopes the recordings will be transcribed and used in future research projects.

"This is an excellent opportunity to get first hand accounts of the Korean War from the actual participants," he said.

The project will join a collection of local oral histories at the library that focus on everything from immigrant experiences to World War II veterans.

For Cook it's the first time he feels ready to talk.

"I dreamed about it for the first time in a long time," he said. "I want to tell it now. I want to get it over with."

Others aren't as ready.

"This happened 60 years ago and it's kind of hard," said Armando Aguilar, who served for three years in Korea. His voice broke and hands began to shake when he spoke.

"There's not too many good things that happened," he said.

Historians believe the oral histories are more important than written experiences because they share intimate details that often aren't otherwise recorded.

"We all experience history very differently," said Stephen Sloan, with the Baylor University Institute of Oral History. "Our written sources tend for favor more formal information but often the informal things are what's more important in our lives."



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