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DoD News Briefing - Rear Admiral Quigley and Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera

Presenter: Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera
September 30, 1999 2:15 PM EDT

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.

[Secretary Caldera departs]

Rear Admiral Quigley: Ladies and gentlemen, with that I will, I have a couple of announcements I'd like to make today and we'll then open the floor up for questions.

There will be a background briefing tomorrow, October 1st at 11:00 o'clock here in the briefing room on the upcoming national missile defense intercept test which is scheduled to take place on Saturday, October 2nd. Again, that's 11:00 o'clock in the morning here, tomorrow.

Next, a company team from the Southern European Task Force or SETAF headquartered in Vicenza, Italy, will conduct an emergency deployment readiness exercise in Kosovo tomorrow. This peacetime training operation called Exercise Rapid Guardian is intended to exercise the ability of a combat force to rapidly deploy into a contingency area should the need arise. This exercise will provide training for both the deployment force and the air crews flying the mission.

Approximately 150 soldiers from the Army's A Company, 1/508th Airborne Battalion Combat Team will parachute into designated drop zones in Kosovo where they will conduct small unit tactical training.

The 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein Air Base in Germany will provide C-130 airlift for the drop.

This joint training opportunity will exercise units from the United States Air Force and the United States Army as well as KFOR elements already deployed in Kosovo. We do have some more details on this, and if you need those see Lieutenant Colonel Warzinski at the news desk, please.

With that, I will take your questions.

Ivan?

Q: Waiting to come in today we were held up about 15 minutes at the River Entrance while a motorcade arrived with guards in black ninja suits, which is unusual, to say the least. What's going on?

Rear Admiral Quigley: I don't know.

Voice: The Prime Minister of Armenia.

Rear Admiral Quigley: That was at 1:30, though. Is the timing about right? Yeah. That was announced I think either late yesterday or early this morning. It was a visit here, to the Pentagon, hosted by Dr. Hamre.

Q: Why the security? To keep everybody out, or...

Rear Admiral Quigley: I think you'll find that every one of the official arrival ceremonies for Defense Ministers or Chiefs of Defense or the like as they visit this building in an official capacity, we try very hard to do exactly what you saw today, to provide security as well as ease of traffic flow for the official party.

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.

Q: On Japan. Can you tell us what request for assistance has been made by the government of Japan regarding their nuclear reactor accident, and what, if anything, the U.S. is...

Rear Admiral Quigley: We checked with the State Department and the Embassy folks just before coming out here, Jamie, a little bit ago. So far there have been no requests made. As you know, all requests of the United States government would go through the State Department, through the Embassy in Japan. But as of just before we came out here there have been no requests of the Defense Department made so far.

Q: According to the Japanese news media, they said that the Defense Ministry there did request some assistance from U.S. troops and they were told that the troops were not equipped to respond to this kind of...

Rear Admiral Quigley: I think those reports are in error. The best I can discern is I think those reports are in error. We are aware of no requests that have come in for Defense Department help yet.

If there are things that we have that the Japanese would find helpful, of course we're going to be receptive to those requests. But it's analogous in many ways to earthquake or strong storm damage. We'll wait to see what is helpful to the government of the nation concerned. Going through the State Department channels to make sure that it's vetted there, we'll provide whatever help we could.

Q: Is the United States military in Japan equipped to deal with a nuclear reactor accident? Do they have any special capabilities?

Rear Admiral Quigley: We can do many things. If it's not in Japan, it could be elsewhere in the world. But again, we're going to wait to see what would be helpful to the government of Japan. Once that request is made we'll do our best to try to help.

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.

Q: Does the United States believe that bin Laden is putting money and leadership into terrorist organizations in Chechnya? Is that something you can respond to?

Rear Admiral Quigley: I can't go into that. I'm sorry.

Q: Craig, East Timor for a moment? Can you give us a dump on the number of U.S. troops involved in the East Timor operation now in Darwin, the number of U.S. troops now on the ground in East Timor? And also, is the 31st MEU still with OPERATION CROCODILE or has it moved?

Rear Admiral Quigley: No. Let me start with the last one first. It's still involved in the, I think the exercise goes until roughly the middle of October, I believe, and that is ongoing.

The number of U.S. troops on the ground in Darwin I think is 238, and those on the ground in East Timor is approximately nine. So the numbers are still very small. Very small.

BELLEAU WOOD, by the way, gets underway today from her home port of Sasebo, and her estimated time on station is the 5th or the 6th of October.

Q: Different subject. The anthrax hearing this morning. Congressman Walter Jones described what appeared to be a virtual hemorrhage of people out of various military units refusing to take their anthrax shots and resigning. For example, he said more than half of an airlift squadron out of Travis, and he named a number of other bases.

The Pentagon responded at that hearing by saying it didn't really track anywhere how many people specifically refused. But yet you say the numbers are very small.

So my question is one, is there a hemorrhage out of the military? And if not, how do you know there's not since you don't track it?

Rear Admiral Quigley: We think the numbers are very small. Our best estimate is somewhere in the vicinity of 200 or 300 total out of about 340,000 now individuals that have received the shot. That's 1.1 million shots total, I believe.

The reason we don't do that: this was a conscious decision on our part and something that we did indeed think through. But this is an administrative issue that we look to the services, and further, to local installation commanders to track.

The important issue is not the numbers. The important issue is the impact on the readiness of that unit to do its job. We look to those local commanders and the services to report that information up the chain of command.

If we would start taking and keeping statistics, we offer a great deal of discretion and judgment to the individual unit commander to handle individuals that refuse the anthrax vaccine in a variety of ways, as they see best. If they were aware of a numbers-keeping process, we could somehow influence their discretion and we don't want to do that.

So the issue for us is not the extremely small numbers. The issue is the impact on the readiness of the unit to whom they're assigned. We are very confident that the readiness of those units has not been adversely affected to date, and that is the key indicator for us. Not the numbers.

Q: Can I follow up on that? If 50 percent of the folks in a squadron are not taking the anthrax vaccine, how can you say that readiness isn't affected?

Rear Admiral Quigley: We have seen no numbers in that range, Tom. Fifty percent would clearly be a huge impact on readiness. That's my point. We have seen nothing of the kind. The numbers are very small on the individual unit basis.

When you have only 200 or 300 as a best estimate for the entire military, the numbers on the individual unit are therefore considerably smaller than that.

Q: Would you know if 50 percent of a unit had not taken it? Would you know it?

Rear Admiral Quigley: If 50 percent of a unit, the unit's commander would certainly see that as an adverse impact on his or her unit's ability to do their job. And yes, that would be reported. So an individual commander...

Q: (inaudible)

Rear Admiral Quigley: Yes. An individual commander would look at the numbers and say can I still do my job given all of these conditions, and that just being one of them, and yes or no. That would be brought to our attention.

Barbara?

Q: I don't get it. If you don't track the numbers, explain to me how you know it's just 200 or 300 and is Congressman Jones inaccurate in what he...

Rear Admiral Quigley: Again our estimate, and it's just that, is 200 or 300. These are some of the actual judicial proceedings throughout the military. So that is much easier. But administrative actions which are by far more numerous in number, we're not going to keep track of those.

Q: Do you have any idea how many people have faced administrative action for refusing their anthrax shot?

Rear Admiral Quigley: Perhaps on an individual service level, but it's not something that we're going to make a conscious decision to track the numbers here, again for that very reason. The influence that that might provide to limit a local commander's discretion as to how he or she feels best to handle it.

Q: So is it correct that the number 200-300 is based on a review of judicial proceedings, and you actually have no precise idea how may people have refused the shot?

Rear Admiral Quigley: It is not only judicial proceedings because there have been some very high profile, non-judicial proceedings here and there throughout the military as well. So no, it is just that. It is an estimate. It's a rough estimate. We have no intention of going with more precision than that.

Again, the indicator for us is the readiness of those units to carry out their mission. We look to those local commanders to report adverse readiness impacts from this, as well as from other reasons.

Q: Admiral, a rough estimate of...

Rear Admiral Quigley: Individuals who have ultimately refused to take their anthrax shots.

Q: And received what sort of administrative action?

Rear Admiral Quigley: Some sort. That could be judicial, it could be administrative.

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.

Q: Admiral, what does it mean that the BELLEAU WOOD is going to head over toward East Timor with 900 Marines? What are the orders? Are those Marines going to stay on the ship?

Rear Admiral Quigley: I don't have the number right handy, but I think the number is less than that. I think 900 is a fully-loaded ship, fully-loaded ship of BELLEAU WOOD types. But the principal reason for the ship to go there is that is the appropriate platform to base the CH-53 heavy lift helicopters, which was the request that the Australians made of us.

Now with that ship you have mechanic shops, you have spare parts inventories, fuel supplies. That's just the best place from which to base those helicopters. So you've got mechanics and parts and fuel and all that sort of stuff.

Q: So the Marines aren't going anywhere.

Rear Admiral Quigley: Not in the typical sense that you would use a three-ship amphibious ready group or something like that with a MEU. There are Marines on board that ship and those are the ones that are flying the helicopters, maintaining the helicopters. I don't have all the rest of the details. But there are a goodly number of Marines on that ship. But if you're thinking of the components of a full-blown Marine Expeditionary Unit that we would typically carry on three amphibious ships, that's not the mission, it's not the purpose, and it's not the load-out here.

Q: It will take another order for those Marines to be deployed on East Timor on the ground?

Rear Admiral Quigley: The process would be a request from the Australians for some other kind of support. We would evaluate that and just kind of see where that goes. But in this case, again, the request was for the helicopters that would be carried principally by that ship.

Tony?

Q: I want to shift from Marines to the Air Force for a second. Last night the F-22 issue was largely settled with a compromise of about a $1 billion to continue research and building up to six airplanes. At first blush, is the Pentagon. Is this an acceptable compromise? Again, at first blush, the details are still being worked out.

Rear Admiral Quigley: I will restate the strong desire on the part of the Pentagon for procurement of the F-22. We strongly support the procurement action that was in the President's original budget. Now as the conference action changes and takes shape over the last few days and in the coming days, I'm not going to get into commenting on that as a work in progress. When there's a final bill, we'll take a look at what it comes out.

Q: Governor Jesse Ventura has said in an interview that he believes that the military was involved in the assassination of President Kennedy. He cites his belief that the military industrial complex didn't want to withdraw from Vietnam and that was the motivation.

Can you address this at all?

Rear Admiral Quigley: He's certainly entitled to his opinion in that regard. It's not one that I share, but he's certainly entitled to his opinion.

Q: Can you deny it?

Rear Admiral Quigley: I don't have anything further on that. It's his opinion. I'll leave it there.

Q: Senator McCain is, as you know, running for President. He noted that there were 12,000 American servicemen now on food stamps. He said that's an outrage. Is that an accurate figure, and are the services doing anything to remedy that?

Rear Admiral Quigley: I don't have that figure. I'll take that question and we'll get those numbers as best we can.

Q: Did Japanese Defense Agency ask the U.S. forces in Japan for assistance about the nuclear incident?

Rear Admiral Quigley: For the reactor? Again, I just checked before we came out here with the U.S. State Department through which, and they checked with the Embassy, and so far there has been no request for assistance of the U.S. Department of Defense for that. We'll wait and see. If the Japanese government thinks that we can provide some assistance, we'll certainly do everything we can to help, but so far there has not been a request for that assistance.

Q: Is there a list of capabilities you could offer if in fact asked?

Rear Admiral Quigley: Not that I know of. It's such a hard one to answer because you can put different aspects and different components. Everything from information, technical manuals and things of that sort all the way up to some sort of disaster preparedness or disaster relief supplies. So there's a wide capability to do a lot of different things that are resident with U.S. forces in Japan. But the real question is what would be useful and helpful to the Japanese people? That's what... We'll try to do the best we can should those requests come.

Q: Do you have anything on the gunnery target down in Puerto Rico?

Rear Admiral Quigley: Vieques?

Q: Yeah.

Rear Admiral Quigley: No. Nothing new. There's still no final report from Mr. Rush in that regard.

Q: Isn't that due?

Rear Admiral Quigley: It's due very soon, but I don't have anything for you, Pat.

Q: Tomorrow?

Rear Admiral Quigley: I wouldn't expect it tomorrow.

Press: Thank you.

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