U. S. Killed Civilians as "Policy" In Korean War

June 6, 2006

A recently uncovered document reveals that U.S. official policy during the Korean war (1950-53) was to murder civilian refugees.

On May 30, the AP reported that the document - a letter from the U.S. ambassador to Seoul - stated that U.S. policy ordered soldiers to shoot at civilians approaching them.

"If refugees do appear from north of U.S. lines they will receive warning shots, and if they then persist in advancing they will be shot," wrote Ambassador John J. Muccio, in his message to Assistant Secretary of State Dean Rusk in 1950.

According to the letter, this decision was made at a high-level meeting in South Korea on July 25, 1950, the night before soldiers from the 7th U. S. Cavalry Regiment shot hundreds of refugees at No Gun Ri. Korean eyewitnesses to this massacre have stated that about 400, mostly women and children, were killed at the village 100 miles southeast of Seoul. Hundreds more refugees were killed in later, similar episodes, according to testimony by survivors.

Previous Pentagon "investigations" into the No Gun Ri massacre and similar incidents had claimed that the killings were not deliberate, but an "unfortunate tragedy" carried out by soldiers who acted without orders.

In a 1998 interview, the late Army Col. Robert M. Carroll, a lieutenant at No Gun Ri, said that he remembered the order radioed across the warfront on July 26 to stop refugees from crossing battle lines. "What do you do when you're told nobody comes through? We had to shoot them to hold them back." Many other soldier witnesses verified the radio orders to open fire at No Gun Ri.

Since then, research by the Associated Press uncovered nearly 20 other declassified U.S. military documents showing commanders ordered or authorized such killings in 1950-51.

In a statement issued on May 29, a No Gun Ri survivors group called that incident "a clear war crime," and demanded an apology and compensation from the U.S. government.