Aubergine

Korean War photos seeking connections

August 7, 2014

A U.S. Department of Defense collection of Korean War photographs is in the care of Betty Perkins-Carpenter, who is working to pass them on to those in the pictures or to their families. 

Tiana Stephens identified her grandfather, Crawford Flynn, in this 1950 photo in the Snapshots of the Korean War collection. (Official Department of State photo)

Tiana Stephens identified her grandfather, Crawford Flynn, in this 1950 photo in the Snapshots of the Korean War collection. (Official Department of State photo)

By Tae Hong

Two years ago, Tiana Stephens thought she saw her late grandfather during his days as a young soldier in the Korean War on her local news channel.

There he stood, one of 14 men, pouring soda into a cup held by another soldier, captured in a black-and-white photo.

Could it really be Crawford Flynn, Air Force veteran, her late grandfather?

Once the actual photo was laid down in front of Stephens, a glossy 8-by-10-inch print released by the U.S. Department of Defense in a collection numbering 138, she found herself jumping up and down in joy — “It’s him, it’s him, oh my gosh, look at that!”

There was no mistaking his posture, the face, the hair.

She’s since joined hands with Betty Perkins-Carpenter, a former veteran and the driving force behind Snapshots from the Korean War, to help the hundreds of faces in the collection find their rightful names and, hopefully, families.

The daughter of a Korean War veteran kept the collection before it was passed onto Perkins-Carpenter, who came into possession of the photos through a Korean War veterans association in New York.

The caption on the back reads: "South Korean troops prepare chow on the front lines. Rice Its the main part of the meal. 14 July 1950." (Official Department of Defense photo)

The caption on the back reads: “South Korean troops prepare chow on the front lines. Rice Its the main part of the meal. 14 July 1950.” (Official Department of Defense photo)

Taken during the first three months of the war in 1950, the photos depict both American soldiers and South Korean soldiers and civilians. Stephens, who describes the photos in the collection as “pristine,” said some of them have names printed on the back but that most bear only descriptions.

Those faded blue ink descriptions only say so much about the Koreans in the photos — a group of soldiers preparing rice, a farmer smiling while standing in a field, a soldier aiding a wounded buddy, workers dumping rocks onto a strip of construction.

Stephens, who works for the city of Rochester, said she knew she had to be at Perkins-Carpenter’s side in helping connect more people to the collection.

The caption on the back reads: "A South Korean soldier aids a wounded buddy before he is evacuated to the rear. 1 July 1950." (Official Department of Defense photo)

The caption on the back reads: “A South Korean soldier aids a wounded buddy before he is evacuated to the rear. 1 July 1950.” (Official Department of Defense photo)

She soon found a friend in a document imaging and photo solutions company in town — Kodak Alaris was happy to scan each image, front and back, in high resolution for the blossoming project. The Democrat and Chronicle, a local newspaper, picked up on the effort and offered to set up an online gallery.

“That’s how it all came together,” said Annette Meade, multimedia manager at the Democrat and Chronicle. “Just two people connecting.”

The project, now available for viewing online, invites anyone who may spot a familiar face to contact organizers.

The paper is supporting the project partially in commemoration of the July 27 anniversary of the war’s ceasefire, Meade said. The goal now is to spread the word about the collection to as many people as possible.

It has been a difficult process, especially because the elderly who may recognize people from the photos may not be as comfortable or familiar with using the computer.

Stephens is hoping that daughters, sons and other relatives can learn about the collection and pass it along to their families.

For Stephens, the photo was a chance for her family back in Denver — especially her grandmother, Nobuko — to reminisce about her grandfather and tell the story of how the American soldier, stationed in Japan after the war, convinced a proper, reluctant Japanese woman to marry him.

The project has so far been successful in connecting four families with photos, Meade said.

To view the Snapshots of the Korean War gallery, click here

One Comment

  1. Tammy Wilson-Miller

    June 14, 2016 at 6:22 AM

    Hello, my name is Tammy Wilson-Miller. I found a photograph of Korean War soldiers that you are in possession of. I am particularly interested in a photo of soldiers enjoying a soft drink. The young man holding the Army metal cup, is my Father. He has passed now, but I have compared this photo to others I have and I KNOW it is him. I am thrilled to have found it. Thank you for any info you can provide.

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