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55 Years After No Gun Ri
"On summer nights when the breeze is blowing, I can still hear their cries, the little kids screaming," said Edward Daily. This U.S. Army veteran of the Korean War was talking about the killing of hundreds of refugees, mostly women, children and old men at No Gun Ri on July 26-29, 1950.
Norm Dixon has written about No Gun Ri for Green Left Weekly. "According to Korean survivors’ and victims’ relatives," he says, "following a surprise U.S. air raid that killed about 100 villagers who had been evacuated from their village by U.S. troops, 300 other villagers, overwhelmingly women, children and old men, had taken refuge in a narrow culvert beneath the bridge."
"The bloody atrocity at No Gun Ri, a hamlet 100 miles south of Seoul, has been known in South Korea for decades," adds journalist Esther Galen, "but a series of pro-U.S. military dictatorships suppressed any public protest or investigation."
The incident came to light when veterans of the U.S. Army 1st Cavalry Division told their stories to the Associated Press in 1999.
"Army units retreating through South Korea in the face of the North Korean offensive at the beginning of the war had been ordered to shoot civilians on the pretext that North Korean soldiers might be hiding among them," says Galen.
Veterans of No Gun Ri told AP that Captain Melbourne C. Chandler, "after speaking to superior officers by radio, ordered machine-gunners from his heavy weapons company to set up near the bridge tunnel openings and open fire. U.S. commanders had claimed there were ‘infiltrators’ among the villagers." Chandler told his men: "The hell with all those people. Let’s get rid of all of them."
Survivors of the massacre told of the experience. Park Hee-sook, a girl of 16 in 1950, said, "I can still hear the moans of women dying in a pool of blood. Children cried and clung to their dead mothers."
Chun Choon Ja, 12 years old at the time, said the U.S. troops, "dug into positions over hundreds of yards of hilly terrain" where they could fire on the civilians. "The American soldiers played with our lives like boys playing with flies," said Chun.
"The U.S. Armed Forces Claims Service told AP that there was no evidence that the First Cavalry Division was in the area," Dixon says. "AP reporters using map coordinates from declassified documents have established that four First Cavalry Division battalions were in the area at the time."
The AP investigation unearthed other U.S. war crimes against Korean civilians. "On August 3, 1950," Galen reports, "a U.S. general and other army officers ordered the destruction of two bridges, as South Korean refugees streamed across, killing hundreds of civilians. One bridge ran across the Naktong River at Waegwan." That same day, 7,000 pounds of explosives were used to destroy a steel-girder bridge crowded with "women and children, old men, and ox carts with their belongings."
"These two incidents were not aberrations or the product of exceptional circumstances, but rather characteristic of the entire American military intervention in Korea from 1950 to 1953, one of the bloodiest chapters in U.S. history," says Galen.
The notorious yet un-indicted war criminal and U.S. Air Force commander in Korea, General Curtis LeMay concurred with this observation, boasting that U.S. warplanes "killed off twenty percent of the population of Korea as direct casualties of war, or from starvation and exposure."
We’ve come 55 years…but the "bloody chapters" are still being written.