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Letter reveals U.S. intent at No Gun Ri

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070414/ap_on_re_as/shooting_refugees;_ylt=AsLsSngfMiF587o4EeyspI5vaA8F Letter reveals U.S. intent at No Gun Ri By CHARLES J.
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 13, 2007
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070414/ap_on_re_as/shooting_refugees;_ylt=AsLsSngfMiF587o4EeyspI5vaA8F

      Letter reveals U.S. intent at No Gun Ri

      By CHARLES J. HANLEY and MARTHA MENDOZA, Associated
      Press Writers 2 hours, 14 minutes ago

      Six years after declaring the U.S. killing of Korean
      War refugees at No Gun Ri was "not deliberate," the
      Army has acknowledged it found but did not divulge
      that a high-level document said the U.S. military had
      a policy of shooting approaching civilians in
      South Korea.

      The document, a letter from the U.S. ambassador in
      South Korea to the State Department in Washington, is
      dated the day in 1950 when U.S. troops began the No
      Gun Ri shootings, in which survivors say hundreds,
      mostly women and children, were killed.

      Exclusion of the embassy letter from the Army's 2001
      investigative report is the most significant among
      numerous omissions of documents and testimony pointing
      to a policy of firing on refugee groups — undisclosed
      evidence uncovered by Associated Press archival
      research and Freedom of Information Act requests.

      South Korean petitioners say hundreds more refugees
      died later in 1950 as a result of the U.S. practice.
      The Seoul government is investigating one such
      large-scale killing, of refugees stranded on a beach,
      newly confirmed via U.S. archives.

      No Gun Ri survivors, who call the Army's 2001
      investigation a "whitewash," are demanding a reopened
      investigation, compensation and a U.S. apology.

      Harvard historian Sahr Conway-Lanz first disclosed the
      existence of Ambassador John H. Muccio's 1950 letter
      in a scholarly article and a 2006 book, "Collateral
      Damage." He uncovered the declassified document at the
      U.S. National Archives.

      When asked last year, the Pentagon didn't address the
      central question of whether U.S. investigators had
      seen the document before issuing their No Gun Ri
      report. Ex-Army Secretary Louis Caldera suggested to
      The Associated Press that Army researchers may have
      missed it.

      After South Korea asked for more information, however,
      the Pentagon acknowledged to the Seoul government that
      it examined Muccio's letter in 2000 but dismissed it.
      It did so because the letter "outlined a proposed
      policy," not an approved one, Army spokesman Paul
      Boyce argues in a recent e-mail to the AP.

      But Muccio's message to Assistant Secretary of State
      Dean Rusk states unambiguously that "decisions made"
      at a high-level U.S.-South Korean meeting in Taegu,
      South Korea, on July 25, 1950, included a policy to
      shoot approaching refugees. The reason: American
      commanders feared that disguised North Korean enemy
      troops were infiltrating their lines via refugee
      groups.

      "If refugees do appear from north of US lines they
      will receive warning shots, and if they then persist
      in advancing they will be shot," the ambassador told
      Rusk, cautioning that these shootings might cause
      "repercussions in the United States." Deliberately
      attacking noncombatants is a war crime.

      Told of the Pentagon's rationale for excluding the
      Muccio letter from its investigative report, No Gun Ri
      expert Yi Mahn-yol, retired head of Seoul's National
      Institute of Korean History, suggested the letter was
      suppressed because it was "disadvantageous" to the
      Pentagon's case.

      "If they set it aside as nothing significant, we can
      say that it was an intentional exclusion," he said.

      Conway-Lanz called the Pentagon's explanation
      "thoroughly unconvincing."

      "The Muccio letter in plain English says, `Decisions
      were made,'" the historian noted.

      No Gun Ri survivors said U.S. soldiers first forced
      them from nearby villages on July 25, 1950, and then
      stopped them in front of U.S. lines the next day, when
      they were attacked without warning by aircraft as
      hundreds sat atop a railroad embankment near No Gun
      Ri, a village in central South Korea. Troops of the
      7th U.S. Cavalry Regiment followed with ground fire as
      survivors took shelter in twin underpasses of a
      concrete railroad bridge.

      The killings remained hidden from history until an AP
      report in 1999 cited a dozen ex-soldiers who
      corroborated the Korean survivors' accounts, prompting
      the Pentagon to open its inquiry after years of
      dismissing the allegations.

      The Army veterans' estimates of dead ranged from under
      100 to "hundreds." Korean survivors say they believe
      about 400 were killed. Korean authorities have
      certified the identities of at least 163 dead or
      missing.

      No Gun Ri, where no evidence emerged of enemy
      infiltrators, was not the only such incident. As 1950
      wore on, U.S. commanders repeatedly ordered refugees
      shot, according to declassified documents obtained by
      the AP.

      One incident, on Sept. 1, 1950, has been confirmed by
      the declassified official diary of the USS DeHaven,
      which says that the Navy destroyer, at Army
      insistence, fired on a seaside refugee encampment at
      Pohang, South Korea. Survivors say 100 to 200 people
      were killed. South Korean officials announced in
      February they would investigate.

      More than a dozen documents — in which high-ranking
      U.S. officers tell troops that refugees are "fair
      game," for example, and order them to "shoot all
      refugees coming across river" — were found by the AP
      in the investigators' own archived files after the
      2001 inquiry. None of those documents was disclosed in
      the Army's 300-page public report.

      South Koreans have filed reports with their government
      of more than 60 such episodes during the 1950-53 war.

      Despite this, the Army's e-mail to the AP maintains,
      as did the 2001 report, "No policy purporting to
      authorize soldiers to shoot refugees was ever
      promulgated to soldiers in the field."

      The 2001 official report instead focused on a single
      document issued the day the No Gun Ri shootings began,
      a Korea-wide Army order saying refugees should be
      stopped from crossing U.S. lines. That order did not
      say how they should be stopped, but retired Army Col.
      Robert M. Carroll, a lieutenant at No Gun Ri, said the
      meaning was clear.

      "What do you do when you're told nobody comes
      through?" Carroll said in an AP interview before his
      death in 2004. If they didn't stop, he said, "we had
      to shoot them to hold them back."

      Other ex-soldier eyewitnesses, including headquarters
      radiomen, told the AP that orders came down to the 7th
      Cavalry's 2nd Battalion command post, and were relayed
      through front-line companies at No Gun Ri, to open
      fire on the mass of village families, baggage and farm
      animals.

      Such communications would have been recorded in the
      7th Cavalry Regiment's journal, but that log is
      missing without explanation from the National
      Archives. Without disclosing this crucial gap, the
      Army's 2001 report asserted there were no such orders.
      It suggested soldiers shot the refugees in a panic,
      questioned estimates of hundreds of dead, and absolved
      the U.S. military of liability.

      The Army report didn't disclose that veterans told
      Army investigators of "kill" orders, of seeing stacks
      of dead at No Gun Ri, and of earlier documentation of
      the killings. Such interview transcripts have been
      obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests.
      Examples:

      _Ex-Air Force pilot Clyde Good, 87, of Melbourne,
      Fla., told investigators his four-plane mission, under
      orders, attacked 300-400 refugees in mid-1950 on
      suspicion the group harbored infiltrators. "I didn't
      like the idea," he said. "They had some young ones,
      too. ... kids on the road." A South Korean government
      report in 2001 said five ex-pilots told Pentagon
      interviewers of such orders. The U.S. report claimed
      "all pilots interviewed" knew nothing about such
      orders.

      _The U.S. report said the No Gun Ri shootings weren't
      documented at the time. It didn't disclose that
      ex-Army clerk Mac W. Hilliard, 78, of Weed, Calif.,
      testified he remembered typing into the now-missing
      regimental journal an officer's handwritten report
      that 300 refugees had been fired on. "If you see 'em,
      kill 'em" was the general attitude toward civilians,
      Hilliard told the AP in reaffirming his testimony.

      _The Army report said ex-GIs estimating large numbers
      of dead were using "guesswork," that none got a
      close-up look. But in a transcript obtained by the AP,
      ex-soldier Homer Garza told a Pentagon interrogator he
      was sent on patrol through one underpass and saw heaps
      of bodies.

      "There were probably 200 or 300 civilians there —
      babies, old papa-sans," Garza, 73, of Hurst, Texas,
      said in a subsequent AP interview. Most may have been
      dead, but it was hard to tell because "they were
      stacked on top of one another," said Garza, who
      retired as a command sergeant major, the Army's
      highest enlisted rank.

      In addition, the 2001 report by the Army
      inspector-general didn't disclose the existence of
      July 1950 mission reports from the Air Force's 35th
      Fighter-Bomber Squadron that said pilots attacked
      apparent refugee groups and struck at or near No Gun
      Ri on the dates of the killings.

      In describing another critical document, a July 25,
      1950, memo from the Air Force operations chief in
      Korea, the Army report dropped its key passage: a
      paragraph saying pilots, at the Army's request, were
      strafing refugee groups approaching U.S. lines. The
      Army report portrayed the strafing as a proposal, not
      a fact, as the Army now is doing with the Muccio
      letter.

      The Pentagon has told the South Korean government the
      ambassador's letter, evidence that senior Washington
      officials knew of a policy to shoot South Korean
      refugees, does not warrant a reopening of the No Gun
      Ri investigation.

      Seoul accepts that U.S. position, said a South Korean
      Foreign Ministry official, speaking on condition of
      anonymity.

      Informed of the Pentagon position, the No Gun Ri
      survivors issued a statement. "We cannot accept the
      U.S. Defense Department's false explanation and are
      indignant over the repeated lies by the U.S. Defense
      Department," it said.

      ___

      AP Writer Jae-soon Chang in Seoul and AP Investigative
      Researcher Randy Herschaft in New York contributed to
      this report.
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