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Orange County Great Park Oral History Project to Capture the Voices of Military Veterans
Natalie Fousekis with her students interviwing Lt. Col. William Kogerman
Natalie Fousekis, associate director of the Center for Oral and Public History, smiles as students record the remembrances of Lt. Col. William Kogerman. During the 1960s, the decorated combat pilot was based at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, which is being transformed into the Orange County Great Park. With funding from the Great Park Corp., CSUF students are compiling oral histories of veterans who served at the base.
Special oral history project will be record interviews with 75 World War II and Korean War veterans and preserving recollections of their life at the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.

March 7, 2007 :: No. 140

Retired Lt. Col. William G. Kogerman points to a dilapidated structure on the grounds of the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station that looks nothing like a building where you might hold weddings and military balls.

“That’s where my daughter got married,” the Vietnam-era veteran and decorated combat pilot told a group of Cal State Fullerton history majors on a recent tour of the 4,700-acre base.

“A lot of memories there,” he said, as he led the students on the next part of their tour.

Kogerman, a member of the Orange County Great Park Board of Directors, flew Crusader aircraft during the 1960s when he was stationed at El Toro. He is sharing his recollections of the base he called home for nearly 20 years to give the college students a feel for the place they will be hearing so much about from the former residents they will be interviewing in the months ahead.

In a special oral history project over the next six months, eight students who have been trained by the university’s Oral History Program will be recording interviews with 75 World War II and Korean War veterans and preserving recollections of their life at El Toro. Their efforts are being funded by the Great Park Corp. as part of its Great Park History Program to preserve the history of the Marine base and document its evolution into the Orange County Great Park.

“I’m excited about this both as a teacher and as a scholar,” said Natalie M. Fousekis, director of the project and associate director of the university’s Center for Oral and Public History (COPH). “This project is about the changes that took place in Orange County alongside the wars and the base.”

A member of Cal State Fullerton’s history faculty since 2002, Fousekis will oversee the students as they begin recording the oral histories this spring. The eight include two Marine reservists — one who served four years (at Camp Pendleton and in Okinawa, Japan) and another awaiting deployment to Iraq.

The project is the first phase of what Fousekis hopes will become a broad repository of oral histories, including those of at least 250 veterans of World War II and the Korean War and others who have significant memories of El Toro during the Cold War, Vietnam and Gulf war eras. All the interviews will be recorded, transcribed and made available for public review at the Orange County Great Park, at the university’s Center for Oral and Public History and online.

Those who were stationed at or have memories of the El Toro Marine Air Station and want to participate in the oral history project are invited to call 657-278-8415 or send contact information to

Information about the CSUF Center for Oral and Public History can be found on the COPH website at More information about the Orange County Great Park can be found online at

About the Center for Oral and Public History at California State University, Fullerton
Founded in 1968 as California’s fourth university-based Oral History Program, the Center for Oral and Public History (COPH) houses more than 4,000 carefully researched interviews of people who can provide firsthand description and interpretation of historically salient events, people and places. The COPH archives reflect the vast ethnic, linguistic and cultural diversity of the Southern California region. Notable subjects explored in the audio archives include the prepolitical experiences of President Richard Nixon, the World War II exclusion and detention of West Coast Japanese Americans, the Vietnamese American immigration/refugee community in Orange County, political conservatism in Southern California, uranium mining in the American West, and Mexican American repatriation in the 1930s. The center’s largest holdings focus upon Orange County and constitute, in effect, this region’s collective memory.

About the Orange County Great Park History Program
The purpose of the Orange County Great Park (OCGP) History Program is to build a comprehensive program that documents and preserves the history of Great Park lands both prior to and during the transition from the Marine Corps Air Station at El Toro to the Orange County Great Park. The Great Park History Program consists of the Archives Project, the Oral History Project, the Legacy Project, and a proposed Registry Project modeled on the Ellis Island archives.

About the Orange County Great Park
The Orange County Great Park, which is almost twice the size of New York’s Central Park, will be a major metropolitan park and the focal point of the redevelopment of the 4,700-acre former Marine Corps Air Station at El Toro. The Great Park will include extensive natural areas and open space in addition to recreational and cultural uses.


Media Contacts:

Natalie Fousekis, CSUF History Department,
657-278-2763 or
Marsha Burgess, OCGP Public Affairs, 949-724-7404 or
Chris Bugbee, CSUF Public Affairs, 657-278-8487 or
Paula Selleck, CSUF Public Affairs, 657-278-4856,

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Lt. Col. William Kogerman
Lt. Col. William Kogerman reviews the map of the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.

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