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No Orders Issued to Kill No Gun Ri Refugees, Report

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 12, 2001 – American troops killed an unknown number of refugees near the Korean village of No Gun Ri in the early weeks of the Korean War, but no orders were found directing such attacks, DoD officials announced Jan. 11.

Senior Pentagon officials announced findings from a comprehensive, 15-month-long, U.S.-Republic of Korea investigation at a Pentagon press briefing.

The U.S.-ROK Statement of Mutual Understanding points out that, All the veterans interviewed by the U.S. Army who fired at refugees stated that they did not receive any order to fire. Some other veterans, however, stated that they believed that such an order must have been given.

While a comprehensive search of records and these veterans interviews did not disclose any evidence of the issuance of such an order, some other veterans, who themselves did not fire at refugees, assumed that there must have been an order to fire on refugees because they observed small arms, machine guns, mortar and artillery fire at refugees.

Defense Secretary William S. Cohen read from a prepared statement at the briefing. The passage of 50 years has reduced the possibility that all of the facts can be known about the tragic incident that took place in the vicinity of No Gun Ri in South Korea, he read. We have determined, however, that U.S. soldiers killed or injured an unconfirmed number of Korean refugees in the last week of July 1950 during a withdrawal under pressure in the vicinity of No Gun Ri.

The United States will erect a memorial in the vicinity of No Gun Ri dedicated to the innocent Korean civilians who were killed, and it will start a scholarship fund for South Korean youths, Cohen noted.

Answering accusations that U.S. planes strafed refugees at No Gun Ri in July 1950, the statement of understanding noted that research of official U.S. Air Force records and pilot interviews taken do not reflect a July 26 mission in the vicinity of No Gun Ri. However, the report noted, an air strike occurred July 27 in the vicinity of the village, so reviewers could not rule out the possibility of a July 26 strike.

Korean officials reported that an unverified total of 248 civilians were killed at No Gun Ri, according to the statement of understanding.

Earlier in the day the White House released a statement by President Clinton. On behalf of the United States of America, I deeply regret that Korean civilians lost their lives at No Gun Ri in late July 1950. The intensive, year- long investigation into this incident has served as a painful reminder of the tragedies of war and the scars they leave behind on people and on nations, Clinton said in the statement.

According to the statement of understanding, U.S. soldiers at No Gun Ri around July 25-26, 1950, were new to combat and concerned about the real possibility of North Korean infiltrators posing as refugees. Elements of the U.S. Armys 7th Cavalry Regiment were retreating through the No Gun Ri area during that time.

In the early period of the conflict, many of the U.S. soldiers deployed to Korea were young, undertrained, underequipped and new to combat. Units operating in the vicinity of No Gun Ri were under the command and control of leaders with limited proven experience in combat. They were unprepared for the weapons and tactics of the North Korea forces that they would face and the speed of the North Korean advance, the statement of understanding said.

On Sept. 30, 1999, Cohen directed the Army, in concert with a seven-member, DoD-appointed panel that included Korean War veterans, to conduct a full investigation of No Gun Ri.

A Pulitzer-Prize-winning Associated Press article published in 1999 reported that U.S. ground and air forces allegedly killed hundreds of refugees around and under a railroad bridge near a Korean village called Nukuen-Ri, often referred to as No Gun Ri.

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