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DoD News Briefing


Thursday, September 30, 1999 - 2:15 p.m.
Presenter: Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera

Rear Admiral Quigley: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.

Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera will start the brief off this afternoon with remarks on the incident at the bridge at Nokuen-R. He will have time for just a few questions and then must move on to another appointment.

When he has completed, I'll be back up here to do the regular press brief.

Mr. Secretary?

Secretary Caldera: Thank you all very much.

Secretary Cohen has asked me to lead a review on behalf of the Department of Defense to determine the full scope of the facts surrounding press reports of civilian deaths near Nokuen-R Korea, in 1950, early in the Korean conflict. He has asked me to use whatever resources are available, to do a quick and thorough review of these matters, including all military departments and other governmental agencies that are necessary to do as quick a review as possible.

Today I'm directing my Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Mr. P.T. Henry, to help me oversee this matter.

These reports are, of course, very disturbing. Earlier this year our Army Center for Military History did a search and found nothing in the official records that substantiates the claims that U.S. Army soldiers perpetrated such massacres. This review, of course, is going to go beyond a search of the documentary records. It will be an all-encompassing review. I am committed to finding out the truth of these matters as best we can after these many years.

Although it would not excuse the alleged acts, history records that the early weeks of the Korean conflict were very chaotic. U.S. soldiers, although they fought with great courage under very harsh conditions, were ill trained and ill equipped to fight because of the large reduction in resources available to the military for training and equipment following World War II. More than 30,000 Americans lost their lives in the Korean War. We owe these dead and the vast majority of our veterans of the Korean War our nation's gratitude for their sacrifices on behalf of our country.

Regardless, we owe the American people, our veterans, and the people, our friends and allies of the Republic of Korea, a full accounting of these matters. I am confident that the review that I've ordered will provide just that.

I would be happy to take a few questions.

Q: Just a year ago the Army and the Armed Forces Investigative Agency found that these troops, American troops, were not located near the bridge at the time in question. The Associated Press account looked up the records for this unit, found them there at the time, and talked to people in the unit. Isn't this a coverup by the Army?

Secretary Caldera: The review that was done by the Center for Military History was a documentary review of the records of the units. The Associated Press has clearly gone further in looking up individuals from those units and seeking out individual testimonials, and so clearly has raised new information that demands that it be looked into. Because of that story we will clearly be doing a full and comprehensive review to try to get down to the truth of these matters as best as we can.

Q: Absent the interview with the individuals, the eye witness accounts, the records show the unit was there at the time. The Army said it was not there at the time.

On the surface of that it's either a misreading of the records or lack of an adequate search of the records.

Secretary Caldera: We will also look into the investigations that we've done to date to ensure that there was no such misreading of those records.

Q: Mr. Secretary, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, is there a statute of limitations on such crimes? Or can there still be prosecutions perhaps if you find people who are culpable?

Secretary Caldera: I don't want to speculate on the statute of limitations. I believe the answer is no, but I think we need to get you a correct answer, talking to the lawyers first.

I think the point, though, is it's important to do this review to get down to the truth of these matters as best as we can, and rather than speculating at this point about what the consequences would be, that we need to get down to the truth of these matters and then take the appropriate action for our nation with respect to the victims of any such massacre if it did occur.

Q: How are you actually going to conduct the review? Are you going to go back and talk to the people who were there? What else are you going to do?

Secretary Caldera: It's really too early to outline the full scope of the review except I want to tell you that we will commit the resources that are necessary. We'll use all the investigative agencies that we have available to us that it makes sense to dedicate to this effort. And we certainly will be talking to members of those units.

Voice: The Secretary has time for one more question.

Q: Are you going to be using the results of the review or investigation to consider compensation for the victims? At least the 30 Koreans who were mentioned?

Secretary Caldera: I think it is important that we do this review to get down to the truth of the matters as best as we can, and if the review shows that something that was inappropriate did occur, then I think it would be appropriate for our country to take the appropriate actions. I would certainly recommend that to the Secretary of Defense and to the President. It's still really too early to speculate on what those actions would be. I think we need to do the review first. These kinds of reviews take time. We anticipate it could take a year, at least a year to do the kind of review that is warranted in this kind of situation. But we are willing to work to get down to the truth of these matters. I'm personally committed to seeing that we do that. As best as we can we will do that, and then we will make that information available to the public.

Q: Will the Army veterans be granted immunity in this...

Q: You've got time for one more question. Come on. The Army's reputation is at stake here. Walk off to some phony appointment.

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Q: To get back to the investigation, will this involve not only U.S. forces in Korea but also the Korean government? Is this going to be two countries looking into the same...

Rear Admiral Quigley: I'm not going to be able to provide too much more detail today. I don't know how much further I can go than what Secretary Caldera provided. He would be the first to admit that this is a process that's starting today, and the scope, he has not decided on the full scope or the mechanics of what he will do. He has simply, to this point, made the commitment that he'll be as thorough as he can and use the assets that he needs to and he'll be able to have a very far-reaching ability to conduct the sort of review of this that he wants to and thinks is necessary. But I can't provide a whole lot of details on that.

Q: Will U.S. Army veterans who come forward to tell their stories be granted any kind of immunity? If not, how can you be sure that you'll get their cooperation?

Rear Admiral Quigley: I think it's more about getting to the historical accuracy of things is the overarching goal here. We don't know where the road will lead, so I can't speculate as to what we might do when such and such might be encountered. I don't know.

Q: Has the Army disqualified itself to conduct a second investigation? I mean hasn't their credibility suffered already enough?

Rear Admiral Quigley: No.

Q: Why don't we have an outside investigator, someone who is not responsible for overseeing the Army, someone who can be independent and arrive at a fair judgment? Clearly the Army has fumbled this once or twice maybe already. Is there any consideration of that?

Rear Admiral Quigley: I disagree with your characterization completely. I don't know how I can say that more forcefully.

The Army did a records review. That was all they attempted to do to this point. Now Secretary Caldera has committed to going further, and I have every confidence that the Army can and will be completely thorough and candid in its findings.

Q: The AP did a records review and they came up with the guys that shot these people.

Now clearly the Army's record review was inadequate. How can they be...

Rear Admiral Quigley: A record review did not result in the interviews that the Associated Press did. If you'll recall the article from yesterday, the Associated Press looked at many of the same records and did not dispute the Army's previous statement that there was nothing in those records to indicate that this event had occurred.

So given the scope of the review that the Army conducted to this date, I see nothing there that says to me that we should suspect the Army of anything other than taking the review to a certain point, and now they've committed to go further.

Q: Admiral, one document that was found, or a couple of documents, did show that there were orders to shoot civilians. If a record like that were found... Shouldn't a record like that have been found? And if that had been found wouldn't that have been considered some evidence that...

Rear Admiral Quigley: These are all good questions that we're going to find out in the weeks and months to come.

Q: The key question in the AP story was where the unit was located. The Army, as I read the AP account, said the unit in question, the 1st Cav unit, was not in this area at the time according to their search of the records. The AP search of the records found the units precisely in this location at the key time.

Rear Admiral Quigley: I will refer you back to Secretary Caldera's answer to that same question.

Q: Isn't it a bit disingenuous just to have done a records review? Because allegations of this nature, did anybody ever expect to find documents to support allegations like that?

Rear Admiral Quigley: I don't know. I don't know how to answer your question in a more thorough way.

When we try to discover events the first logical place that we would do that is looking at the historical documentation that exists. That's command histories, it's combat records, it's things of that sort. That is what the Army did through the Center for Military History, that is what they found. I'm sure as we take another look at that it's probably going to say the same thing.

But what Secretary Caldera has committed to is going beyond that point.

Q: Was there any attempt to interview any U.S. soldiers? Did you ever talk to anybody besides just look at the records?

Rear Admiral Quigley: No.

Q: The 30 Koreans who did file a suit did mention the 7th Cavalry, and from what I understand of the documents the Associated Press found, some of them were in the National Archives. They were not...

Rear Admiral Quigley: Yes.

Q: Why would that not be through military records? Why did that escape you all?

Rear Admiral Quigley: It did not. I mean a lot of the records that the Army looked at, the Associated Press looked at as well. And some were, indeed, in the National Archives.

Q: General Keene's directive regarding the civilians, that was not a clue to you all?

Rear Admiral Quigley: I don't know the specifics as to what was found where.

Q: The limiting of the search, the review you described to a documentary review, was that a matter of policy? If so, what kind of policy? Or was it a decision taken by someone in some command to limit this strictly to a documentary review?

Rear Admiral Quigley: No. It was a logical first step and when you have nothing beyond that point, that was what was asked of us when the Associated Press, you'll see Mr. Bacon is quoted in the Associated Press original piece, and I think that paragraph starts off by saying when, I don't remember exactly, but it was something like when asked a question several months ago, Ken Bacon had said. When the AP came to Mr. Bacon they requested to see if there was anything in the records that would support this or refute this.

We went to those records and said what we have said. So it was a starting point. I don't think it was...

Q: Was it then Mr. Bacon's decision to limit this to a documentary review when you were presented with allegations of this nature?

Rear Admiral Quigley: I don't know. I don't think the full scope of the story was available some months ago when that request was made.

Q: The AP did not come to you at any point to say that they had first person interviews with...

Rear Admiral Quigley: I don't know, Roberto. I'll try to find out the answer to that.

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Q: Getting back to the Korean situation, are surviving members of the 2nd Battalion of the 7th Cavalry, are they being asked to come forward with their stories?

Rear Admiral Quigley: Tom, this effort starts today.

Q: Viktor Chernomyrden was at the Press Club a little over an hour ago, and he said from his experience and his knowledge in the government that bin Laden has put both leadership and money into terrorist camps that are within Chechnya, and that it is bin Laden who has basically drawn the blood of the Russians. And they say we're in the same boat. The United States and Russia are in the same boat on fighting terrorism. I would ask if the Pentagon is involved with the Russian government in counter terror, specifically with regard to bin Laden? Is it already established?

Rear Admiral Quigley: Those are details I'm not going to go into, Bill. I will tell you that we have shared information on terrorist threats with the Russian government, and other governments around the world. This is certainly an area of common interest to all of us, but I will not be specific as to what areas we get involved in.

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Q: A two-part question. Did Secretary Cohen personally approve the Army investigating itself on this Korean massacre? And two, was this decision run before the oversight committee?

Rear Admiral Quigley: We'll get you a copy of the letter that Secretary Cohen sent to Secretary Caldera on this issue, and the answer is yes to the first. Repeat the second, I'm sorry, Pat.

Q:...informed the committee this is what they were going to do, have the Army...

Rear Admiral Quigley: I don't think so yet because, again, this is something that was an action taken just today. But this is something certainly we would do and tell them of this ongoing action.

Tammy?

Q: Are you concerned, or is the Department concerned that the Army denied claims based on a less-than-thorough investigation?

Rear Admiral Quigley: No. Not based on the information that was in hand. When we get further down this road we'll see where it leads, but we don't know. It's not certainly a judgment we come to today.

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Press: Thank you.

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