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DATE=10/7/1999 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=KOREAN G-IS - MASSACRE NUMBER=5-44439 BYLINE=ANDRE DE NESNERA DATELINE=WASHINGTON CONTENT= VOICED AT: /// Eds: This is the first of a two-part series on the alleged massacre of South Korean civilians by U-S soldiers during the Korean War /// INTRO: American veterans have spoken out for the first time about an alleged massacre of South Korean civilians just several weeks after the outbreak of the Korean conflict. Correspondent Andre de Nesnera has talked with three of these former soldiers and reports they have conflicting views as to what exactly happened on July 26th, 1950 in the South Korean hamlet of No Gun Ri. TEXT: The U-S Defense Department has ordered a new investigation into allegations American soldiers gunned down South Korean civilians - including women and children - under a bridge near the hamlet of No Gun Ri. For years, survivors and families of the victims said American G-I's killed about 300 people. The Koreans have asked for compensation - but their claims have so far been rejected. But now, The U-S Defense department has decided to reopen the No Gun Ri investigation after American soldiers -- who either participated in or witnessed the killings -- decided to speak out. Some say it is a question of personal guilt. Others are responding to newly-released military documents on the Korean War. What is emerging from their testimony is conflicting accounts of what exactly happened under the bridge at No Gun Ri almost 50 years ago. Most Korean War veterans agree U-S troops were still retreating from the northern part of South Korea a month after North Korean troops invaded the country (invasion started June 24th, 1950). Henry Patterson was an 18-year-old rifleman with the U-S Army's First Cavalry Division at the time. He remembers thousands of Korean civilians fleeing southwards - and he says there was a lot of confusion, fear and even panic. On July 25TH, 1950, as the First Cavalry Division decided to stop near No Gun Ri. Mr Patterson says the unit came under heavy sniper fire. The next day he says hundreds of South Korean civilians gathered on nearby railroad tracks. /// PATTERSON ACT /// We sent a jeep down to the civilian people and told them to disperse, that we were setting up our front lines there and we could not let them stay there. And they didn't disperse. So a (U-S) Navy fighter (jet) came in and strafed (fire near with bullets) beside them. /// END ACT /// Mr. Patterson - and other veterans - agree that after the strafing, the several hundred South Korean civilians sought refuge in a concrete bridge, underneath the railroad tracks. Edward Daily was a 19-year-old machine-gunner at the time. /// DAILY ACT /// So they went in there. And of course, they were all jammed in there. What I think more than anything else, they were seeking cover from a possible air attack by the U-S Air Force. But we were told then to keep an eye on those refugees in this concrete structure because there were rumors that there were North Korean soldiers mixed with them - and they were dressed as refugees. So we set up machine gun positions. I set up on the west side, Jim Kerns - one of the other machine-gunners - was on the other side. And we had our machine guns aimed at the refugees, but above their heads. /// END ACT /// But here is where the agreement ends. Mr. Daily says he began shooting at the civilians after gunfire came from underneath the railroad bridge. /// SECOND DAILY ACT /// Once that firing started, I started firing also and then of course, the ricocheting bullets were hitting the refugees because they dropped all the way down, flat as they could get. And we lowered our machine-guns on to the bodies and that firing went on for approximately half an hour. And there was a lot of screaming and a lot of cries coming from the women and children. /// END ACT /// But Jim Kerns - another 19-year-old machine-gunner across the bridge from young Daily - says he did not see any civilians being shot. /// KERNS ACT /// I did not see them being shot. But we stopped them from coming through and the (machine) gun I was on, we were firing over their heads. /// END ACT /// For his part, rifleman Henry Patterson - who was placed several hundred meters behind the machine- gunners - acknowledges the refugees were shot by American soldiers. But he says he heard only rifle shots - not machine-gun fire. The veterans also disagree as to who gave the order to shoot the refugees under the No Gun Ri bridge. Some veterans - including machine-gunner Daily - say the order came from officers on the ground. Mr. Daily also says he recently saw documents quoting senior U-S military officers saying refugees should be treated as the enemy. But other veterans - including rifleman Patterson - say there were no orders to shoot civilians. /// SECOND PATTERSON ACT /// No sir. We were ordered not to let them cross our front lines, yes sir. But we were not ordered to shoot them or anything like that. We just were ordered not to let the civilian population cross our front lines or get behind us or amongst us, because there were suspicions of North Korean infiltrators. Now we did have that order. But nobody ever gave an order to shoot that I know of. /// END ACT /// The veterans who say they shot at the refugees are also unclear as to how many civilians were killed - but many of them reject the South Korean claim that as many as 300 were gunned down. The U-S Defense Department investigation into No Gun Ri is expected to take a year. Military analysts say it is unlikely official Defense Department records contain a detailed account of the events on July 26th, 1950. So investigators will have to rely on - among other things - the testimony of U-S G-I's - which may or may not help uncover what happened.(Signed) NEB/ADEN/JO 07-Oct-1999 14:34 PM EDT (07-Oct-1999 1834 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .