Korean villagers recall death and terror beneath a bridge

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Korean villagers recall death and terror beneath a bridge

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Doc: 00361872


Sang-Hun Choe (Associated Press Writer)

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Reid G. Miller (Associated Press Writer)

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Copyright 1999 By The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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NO GUN RI, South Korea (AP) _ Some tell the story haltingly, others in a rush of words, a few in tears _ a tale of terror and death in the early days of the Korean War.
They are old now, some in failing health. But the former Korean refugees still offer vivid descriptions of what happened here in late July 1950, of being strafed by U.S. planes and then fired on by U.S. soldiers.
Chung Koo-shik, then 16, told The Associated Press that "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."
Lee Yoo-ja, then a 26-year-old housewife, says "dirt and gravel rained down. Oxcarts were burning ... Dead bodies and cows were everywhere, spewing blood."
Yang Hae-sook says she lost an eye in the strafing, and was herded into the No Gun Ri bridge tunnels with other survivors. She was 12.
"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 says she lost her grandmother, an elder brother and a baby brother, as well as an aunt and her husband and their two daughters, at No Gun Ri.
Park Hee-sook, who was 16, says she lost her father, mother and a sister before a U.S. soldier saved her.
"It was still the first day of the shooting, and after lying under corpses, I decided to crawl out," she said. "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 Sun-yong, then 25, says she was desperate by the second day in the tunnels.
"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."

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Sang-Hun Choe (Associated Press Writer), “Korean villagers recall death and terror beneath a bridge ,” No Gun Ri Digital Archives, accessed February 23, 2020, https://nogunri.rit.albany.edu/omeka/items/show/53.