No Gun Ri Massacre

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Suppressed archival documents, showing U.S. commanders ordering troops to fire on civilians out of fear of enemy infiltrators, are now on display at the peace park's museum, illustrating a growing divide in how No Gun Ri will be remembered – or not – on two sides of the Pacific. ~ Charles J. Hanley

The No Gun Ri Massacre occurred on July 26–29, 1950, early in the Korean War, when an undetermined number of South Korean civilian refugees were killed by soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 7th U.S. Cavalry, and a U.S. air attack, at a railroad bridge near the village of No Gun Ri, 100 miles (160 km) southeast of Seoul. The South Korean government-funded No Gun Ri Peace Foundation estimated in 2011 that 250–300 were killed, mostly women and children.

Quotes[edit]

Sorted alphabetically by author or source
People pulled dead bodies around them for protection… Mothers wrapped their children with blankets and hugged them with their backs toward the entrances. ~ Chung Koo-ho
  • In the 15 years since the world first learned of this mass killing, it has become increasingly clear that the U.S. Army's 1999-2001 investigation of No Gun Ri suppressed vital documents and testimony, as it strove to exonerate itself of culpability and liability, and to declare – with an inexplicable choice of words – that the four-day bloodbath was "not deliberate."
    But these suppressed archival documents, showing U.S. commanders ordering troops to fire on civilians out of fear of enemy infiltrators, are now on display at the peace park's museum, illustrating a growing divide in how No Gun Ri will be remembered – or not – on two sides of the Pacific.
    • Charles J. Hanley, in "In the Face of American Amnesia, The Grim Truths of No Gun Ri Find a Home" in Asia Pacific Journal Vol. 13, Issue 10, Number 4 (16 March 2015)
  • The South Koreans had been trying for years to have this incident, and others, recognized. They had brought petitions to the U.S. government, and in the mid-'90s, the U.S. government gave them a response, which said that it didn't happen and that U.S. troops were not in the region.
    Around that time a South Korean AP reporter heard about this and began working on it. And in the United States we began working on it as well. We interviewed more than 130 veterans. We spent weeks and weeks and weeks at the National Archives. And in the end, we were able to document this with interviews from GIs who were there, with survivors of this incident in South Korea who were there, and although there wasn't, we didn't find the document that points to this particular incident, we did find many documents describing such instances across the warfront.
    And this past week, my colleague Charlie Hanley and I reported on the letter from the U.S. Ambassador to Seoul informing the State Department that American soldiers would shoot refugees approaching their lines. And this letter, that we just reported last week, is the strongest indication yet that such a policy existed for all U.S. forces in Korea. And it's the first evidence that that policy was known to upper ranks of the U.S. government.

War's Hidden Chapter: Ex-GIs tell of killing Korean refugees (1999)[edit]

"War's hidden chapter: Ex-GIs Tell of Killing Korean Refugees" by Sang-Hun Choe, Charles J. Hanley and Martha Mendoza of Associated Press (29 September 1999); this was the first of several articles which won them the 2000 Pulitzer Prize in Investigative Reporting, and publication of the book The Bridge at No Gun Ri: A Hidden Nightmare from the Korean War (2001)
  • The American soldiers played with our lives like boys playing with flies.
    • Chun Choon-ja, a 12-year-old girl at the time of the massacre.
  • People pulled dead bodies around them for protection … Mothers wrapped their children with blankets and hugged them with their backs toward the entrances. ... My mother died on the second day of shooting.
    • Chung Koo-ho, age 61 (thus about 10 or 11 at the time of the incident).
  • I can still hear the moans of women dying in a pool of blood … Children cried and clung to their dead mothers.
    • Park Hee-sook, then a girl of 16

Korean Villagers Recall Death and Terror Beneath A Bridge (1999)[edit]

We thought it was safe. The tunnel I was in was packed with people. I saw people from my village and thought it was okay. Then the shooting came. ~ Yang Hae-sook
"Korean Villagers Recall Death and Terror Beneath A Bridge" by Sang-Hun Choe (with Reid G. Miller) Associated Press (29 September 1999)
  • The planes came, raining down bombs and big bullets. The planes shrieked past repeatedly. People ran for the shrubs and trees. A lot of people died. Something hot dropped on my back. It was the severed head of a baby.
    • Chung Koo-shik, then 16
  • Dirt and gravel rained down. Oxcarts were burning ... Dead bodies and cows were everywhere, spewing blood.
    • Lee Yoo-ja, then a 26-year-old housewife
  • We thought it was safe. The tunnel I was in was packed with people. I saw people from my village and thought it was okay. Then the shooting came. Bullets ricocheted off the concrete and hit the people like popcorn in a frying pan. Mother wrapped me with a quilt and hugged me. It was shooting from both sides. When there was shooting coming from one side, we rushed to the other side. When the bullets came, we could not even raise our heads. We just dug under dead bodies.
    • Yang Hae-sook who was 12, who reports that she lost an eye in the original strafing, and was then herded into the No Gun Ri bridge tunnels with other survivors, where her grandmother, an elder brother and a baby brother, as well as an aunt and her husband and their two daughters were killed.
  • It was still the first day of the shooting, and after lying under corpses, I decided to crawl out … I squirmed through piles of bodies. I was all covered with blood. I stepped out and stood there and shouted the only English word I knew. I said, 'Hello! Hello!'
    I just stood there and cried. From the hill, a soldier looked at me for a while with binoculars. He beckoned me to come up the hill. Some soldiers came and looked at me without talking. One of them checked to see if I was injured. ... They later sent me to the south on a truck.
    • Park Hee-sook, who was 16, says she lost her father, mother and a sister before a U.S. soldier saved her.
  • It was dusk. My 5-year-old son kept crying for food. My 2-year-old daughter had already been killed when her grandmother took her and walked outside in the hope of appealing to the soldiers.
    I crawled out with my son and climbed a hill. A terrible crackle of shooting came down and my son was hit in his thighs. Both his thighs were torn with bullets. It was strange, but my boy kept saying he wanted food and he wanted to go see his dad.
    I saw an American soldier and begged for mercy. I shouted to him that we were not bad people, not communists. But he shot at us again.
    A bullet ripped through my waist and hit my son's chest. I lay there still, my mind blank. Two soldiers came over, a fat one and a tall one. They looked down at us and talked to each other. Later more soldiers came and they wrapped my son in a white bag and buried him. They took me to an ambulance.
    That day, I saw the two faces of America.
    • Park Sun-yong, then 25

U.S., S. Korea Gingerly Probe the Past (1999)[edit]

They were shooting at us from this side. We ran out the other side, but they were shooting at us there, too… ~ Keom Choja
"U.S., S. Korea Gingerly Probe the Past" by Douglas Struck, in The Washington Post (27 October 1999)
  • I remember the American troops searching all of us, and I remember I was very hungry … Suddenly, there were planes and bombs. My uncle covered his child, and I heard him say, "Oh, my God." I looked and saw his intestines had come out. The bullet had passed through his back and killed his daughter.
    • Yang Hae Suk, then a girl of 13
  • They were shooting at us from this side. We ran out the other side, but they were shooting at us there, too. … I told my mother, "I've been shot," but she had my brother and sister, and she had to save them. She said, "Follow me if you can" and went on.
    • Keom Choja, a woman who was then 12

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