Doubts About a Korean 'Massacre'
American soldiers allegedly slaughtered hundreds of innocent refugees at a place called No Gun Ri. A new review of the facts challenges that claim
What catapulted the No Gun Ri story into the journalistic stratosphere, however, was not the AP story or the accolades it received but the follow-up accounts by other news organizations. Many of these stories failed to reflect the ambiguities in the AP story. Assertions, in some of the follow-ups, took on the air of hard fact; the narrative line became more dramatic.
The principal source for many of these stories was Edward Daily. In the AP story, he was quoted as saying: "On summer nights when the breeze is blowing, I can still hear their cries, the little kids screaming." He added: "The command looked at it as getting rid of the problem in the easiest way. That was to shoot them in a group. Today," Daily concluded, "we all share a guilt feeling, something that remains with everyone."
Daily told the reporters following up on the AP account that he was a machine gunner with H Company of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry, at No Gun Ri on July 26, 1950, the day of the alleged massacre. Daily said he fired his .30-caliber machine gun at refugees huddled beneath an isolated railway trestle near No Gun Ri, possibly killing hundreds. In subsequent news accounts, Daily cast himself as a central figure at No Gun Ri. NBC's Dateline flew Daily to Korea to visit the No Gun Ri site. Daily told Tom Brokaw about receiving the order to fire on the refugees under the railroad trestle. "Just shoot them all," Daily quoted the order. Brokaw: "You heard that order?" Daily: "Yes, sir." Brokaw: "Kill them all?" Daily: "Yes, sir." In February, the Washington Post Magazine put Daily's picture on the cover and said he "was in charge of the lone machine-gun post" on one side of the railroad culvert. The Los Angeles Times, Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News all published stories citing Daily's account of No Gun Ri.
Christmas dinner. But Army personnel records show that Daily was not at No Gun Ri on July 26, 1950; nor was he a machine gunner, as he claimed. The records, obtained by U.S. News, show that Daily was a mechanic with the Army's 27th Ordnance Maintenance Group from March 18, 1949, to March 16, 1951. On July 26, 1950, the Army records show, Daily and his unit were just arriving in Korea, at a little fishing village called Pohang, more than 80 miles away from No Gun Ri. Daily did serve a brief stint--54 days--in H Company, 2nd Battalion. But records show that that began on March 16, 1951--his last day with the 27th Ordnance Maintenance Group--more than eight months after the alleged massacre at No Gun Ri. "To the best of my recollection, I served my whole time in H Company, 2nd Battalion, in Japan and Korea," Daily told U.S. News, when asked about the apparent contradiction. But the roster for the 27th Ordnance Maintenance Group's formal Christmas dinner in 1949 lists Edward Daily among the unit's 300 members at the time. Asked again about his assertion that he spent his entire tour of duty in Korea with the 2nd Battalion's H Company, Daily said: "My memory is that I was there at No Gun Ri and did what I said I did. But you know, I have been sick for years, I have been in therapy in the V[eterans] A[dministration]. It was my nightmares from Korea that cost me my job. I take three strong pills for mental illness."