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
Another veteran cited by the AP as having witnessed the alleged events at No Gun Ri may also have been somewhere else at the time. Rifleman Delos Flint told the AP he piled into one of the two tunnels in the railroad culvert filled with refugees after being strafed by U.S. Air Force jets. In the tunnel, Flint told the AP, "somebody, maybe our guys, was shooting in at us." According to the 7th Cavalry's war diary, reviewed by U.S. News, Flint was transferred on July 25 from No Gun Ri, more than a full day before the alleged massacre. War diaries were updated sometimes days after events, typically at the regiment level, and can be inaccurate. Asked about the apparent discrepancy between the 7th Cavalry war diary and his statement to the AP, Flint told U.S. News, "My memory is not so good." The Army inspector general is also examining the accounts Hesselman and Flint provided to reporters, officials with knowledge of the inquiry say.
"No rumor, no scuttlebutt." Other veterans cited in the AP account say some of their statements were misused. Herman Patterson, a rifleman in the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry, was quoted in the AP account as saying, "It was just wholesale slaughter." Interviewed by U.S. News, an angry Patterson denies that's what he said. "I told AP that when we were knocked back to the Naktong River a few days later, it was damn near a massacre--of us," Patterson said. "Their story, when it came out, quoted me as saying that No Gun Ri was a massacre, and that wasn't what I said at all."
James Kerns was also assigned to H Company, 2nd Battalion, at No Gun Ri and was cited in the AP account. The AP quoted Kerns, a sergeant who was manning a machine gun, as saying he fired over the heads of the refugees. "I would not fire into a bunch of women," he told the AP. Interviewed by U.S. News, Kerns confirmed that account but sharply disputed the number of refugees in the tunnel. "There weren't over 125 people in there," he said. "You couldn't get more to fit in there with all their A-frames and baggage and carts."
Col. Robert Carroll, then a 25-year-old first lieutenant, was described in the AP account as having encountered 7th Cavalry riflemen firing on refugees near the railroad culvert and ordering them to stop. A reconnaissance officer assigned to 2nd Battalion's H Company and its machine gunners, Carroll says emphatically that he told the AP there was no order telling the machine gunners to open fire on the refugees and that none did. "No one ever mentioned anything like this," Carroll told U.S. News. "There was no rumor, no scuttlebutt, no nothing. Not then or later--not until 50 years later." Hanley, the AP reporter, said his team accurately reflected the views of the veterans with whom they spoke.
In re-examining the events surrounding the actions of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry, at No Gun Ri, U.S. News reviewed previously unavailable Pentagon records and personnel dossiers, gained independent access to testimony and other evidence provided to the Army's inspector general, and interviewed more than 23 of the 7th Cavalry veterans who were at No Gun Ri at the time of the alleged massacre.