Lesson Plan: Oral Histories of the Korean War

The Korean War

A overview of the origins and legacy of the Korean War. A U.S. Information Agency video provides the background of the conflict and author Charles Hanley discusses the legacy of the war in Korea.


This lesson looks at the Korean War through a collection of oral history interviews conducted by the Korean War Legacy Foundation. This lesson uses these oral histories to explore the lives of American soldiers and personnel, combat during the war, interactions with civilians and the legacy of the Korean War.


  • WARM-UP:

    To begin class, have the students address the following tasks about the Korean War.

    • Make a list of what you already know about the Korean war.

    • What questions do you have about the Korean war?

    After reviewing student answers, explain the background of the Korean War and the purpose of the war. You can opt to have students complete view and complete the following video clip with questions below to provide this information.

    Students can access this video clip and all activities in the lesson using the handout.

    Handout: Oral Histories of the Korean War (Google Doc)

  • Video Clip 1: The Korean War (5:55)

    • How was Korea divided after World War II? How were the two Koreas different after this division?

    • Why did North Korea invade South Korea?

    • What was the impact on the Korean people?

    • Describe the different sides of the conflict.

    • Why was the Korean War significant?

    To explore the oral histories of the Korean War, have students view each of the following clips using the handout. Students should take notes on the following information. Student will use this information later to explain themes relating to these accounts of the war.

    Teachers can adapt this lesson by reducing the scope of the lesson to just the wartime experiences (Clips 2-7), soldiers’ experiences (Clips 2-5) or the legacy of the war (Clips 8 & 9). This can also be adapted to be a jigsaw activity where students are assigned a video clip and report their findings.

    Handout: Oral Histories of the Korean War (Google Doc)

    • Life during the War

    • Combat during the War

    • Interactions with Civilians

    • Legacy of the War

    To apply this knowledge, students can choose to demonstrate their learning by choosing to address one of the following prompts with a written response. Teachers can also assign a specific prompt to students.

    • Based on these oral histories, identify and explain three themes relating to these veterans’ experiences and memories of the war.

    • How do the living conditions and combat described in the oral histories of the Korean War compare to other wars that you are familiar with?

    • Why is the Korean War sometimes called the “Forgotten War? Do you think this is accurate?

    • Based on what you learned, describe the legacy of the Korean War.

    • How do you think the South Korea people might view the legacy of the Korean War?

    As an exit slip, have the students review the questions they created during the warm-up and if able, provide an answer. If students still have questions, they should write those questions on the exit slip.


    Korean War Veterans Memorial- Read the description of the Korean War Veterans Memorial from the American Battle Monument Commission website. Based on the oral histories, how does the Korean War Veterans Memorial reflect the experiences described by those veterans.

    Mapping the Korean War- Using the history of the war included on the Korean War Legacy Foundation website, use a blank map of the region to create a map that includes 5-10 significant events that impacted the war. For each event, include the location, date(s) and an explanation of what occurred.

    Exploring Oral Histories- Using C-SPAN’s American History TV archive of Korean War oral histories, choose one person and view their entire oral history interview. Based on this create a timeline of that person’s experience leading up to and during the Korean War. Include information relating to the following categories:

    • Personal Background

    • Their Entry into the War

    • Significant Events/Battles during the War

    • The End of the War

Additional Resources


  • Artillery
  • Bunker
  • C-ration
  • Chosen Reservoir
  • Communism
  • Field Hospital
  • Incheon
  • Infantry
  • Mortar
  • Trench


U.S. HistoryWorld History


High SchoolUniversity