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DATE=10/4/1999 TYPE=U-S OPINION ROUNDUP TITLE=U-S KOREAN WAR MASSACRE ALLEGED NUMBER=6-11499 BYLINE=ANDREW GUTHRIE DATELINE=WASHINGTON EDITOR=ASSIGNMENTS TELEPHONE=619-3335 CONTENT= INTRO: The Associated Press reported last week that, after a long, and painstaking investigation by several members of its staff, it had proof of a massacre by U-S troops early in the Korean War. The wire-service story was front-page news across the nation. The Pentagon at first denied it, then promised a renewed and thorough investigation. In Seoul, the South Korean government also demanded a new U-S probe, even though just a year ago, it had denied compensation claims from the survivors and their families. The story has caused a good deal of comment from the U-S press in editorials, and we get a sampling now from __________ in today's U-S Opinion Roundup. TEXT: The A-P story said that during the early months of the war, as North Korean troops moved southward toward the U-S and south Korean lines, they drove thousands of refugees ahead of them. At times, the North Korean troops mingled with the refugees. Some U-S commanders are said to have ordered their troops to fire on civilians as a way of stopping the advance of enemy infiltrators. In the incident in question, hundreds of unarmed, South Korean men, women and children, trapped under a railway bridge at the village of No Gun Ri, were allegedly killed by U-S machine-gunners. Several former U-S army soldiers, contacted by the Associated Press, corroborated most of the story. We begin our sampling of press comment in California, where The Fresno Bee says in part: VOICE: The U-S Army Center for Military History says it can find no evidence that the massacre ... actually happened during late July 1950, a month after the war began. But one can not ignore the detailed accounts given by a dozen U- S veterans to a team of Associated Press reporters. If the story is true, it may be partly explained by the inexperience of many U-S soldiers who have been rushed to Korea to defend against North Korea's lightning invasion of South Korea, and by the confusion created by U-S units' retreat in the face of the North Korean onslaught. None of this justifies indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians... TEXT: The New York Times delves into the original story for some of the servicemen's comments, before its conclusion. : VOICE: "It was just wholesale slaughter," a former rifleman, Herman Patterson, told the A-P. "We just annihilated them," recalled Norman Tinkler, a former machine gunner. Another American veteran ... remembered his commanding officer as saying: "The hell with all those people. Let's get rid of all of them." ... A full inquiry will take time and money, but it is vital to see whether an injustice has been done and whether its victims are due reparations or compensation of some kind. TEXT: The Chicago Tribune, under a headline reading; "The Ghosts of No Gun Ri," suggests: VOICE: If the report is true ... the slaughter would be one of only two known cases of killings of noncombatants by American ground troops this century. The other was the slaughter by U-S soldiers of an estimated 500 Vietnamese at My Lai in 1968. Conscience does not allow such events to be buried permanently. Like ghosts, they haunt the living. And eventually they must be brought to light. That ought to be the end result of the inquiry into last week's report by the Associated Press of the killings... TEXT: To the East, Ohio's [Akron] Beacon Journal agrees with the Tribune: VOICE: Only a thorough review will do, no matter how grim its findings. The American military calls on its troops to meet the highest standards of conduct. An essential part of that requirement is an unwavering pursuit of accountability. ... If the bridge at No Gun Ri proves as horrible an episode as the A-P report suggested, the U-S government will be obliged to offer deepest apologies and compensation to survivors and victims' families. TEXT: The Washington Post is also upset at the tale, but suggests that it must be placed into the context of the war at that early stage, and the later triumph, which led to a democratic South Korea. VOICE: In retrospect, there is a tinge of inevitability to the report by the Associated Press that American soldiers massacred perhaps hundreds of civilians early in the Korean War at a place called, ironically, No Gun Ri. ... At the time, it seems, the incident drew no special attention. A war was on that otherwise, at least at the outset, was supported broadly if not warmly by a majority of Americans. It is possible to believe that American soldiers were not as sensitive to local populations as they subsequently became, and that a single atrocity in Korea did not stand out against the real- life back-drop of multiple crimes against civilians on both sides. ... Any flaws shown in the American military's performance must be measured against the American success in rescuing south Korea from Communist aggression, and enabling it eventually to become a democratic and prosperous country. There is no call for a showy guilt trip, but the truth needs to be told. TEXT: The San Francisco Chronicle disagrees, but adds that: VOICE: Justice would demand stern punishment for the officers who ordered such war crimes, but the passage of time ... [makes] that all but impossible. TEXT: Picking up that idea from The Chronicle, The Washington [D-C] Times agrees that the idea of assessing guilt, and even of possibly recommending punishment, will be made virtually impossible by the passage of time. VOICE: Some perspective may be in order about the "forgotten war" before the No Gun Ri episode turns into a frenzy about supposed American awfulness. Fifty years ago next June 25, the North Koreans invaded the South. In three days Seoul was captured, and five days later President Harry Truman ordered U-S ground troops to assist South Korea under United Nations auspices. The 24th Infantry Division, soft from garrison duty in Japan and under-strength and under-equipped, was rushed in piecemeal from Japan --and decimated as it valiantly tried to blunt the massive Communist onslaught. ... The American and South Korean forces steadily were being pushed back toward the southern seaport of Pusan and there was growing fear that a "Dunkirk" loomed. ... That was the fog of war in those brutal days. But the emphasis of the news reports is on alleged orders for the G-I's to open fire on the refugees under the bridge. Little else is clear -- and the 50 intervening years hardly will add clarity for the investigators. TEXT: On that note, we conclude this sampling of comment on new allegations that U-S troops fired on civilians, killing hundreds during the early days of the Korean War, almost 50 years ago. NEB/ANG/WTW 04-Oct-1999 16:19 PM EDT (04-Oct-1999 2019 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .