Army seeks link between strafing of civilians, No Gun Ri incident

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Title

Army seeks link between strafing of civilians, No Gun Ri incident

Alternative Title

Doc: 00271175

Creator

Robert Burns (Associated Press Military Writer)

Date Created

2000-06-06

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Copyright 2000 By The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ Military investigators are searching for a link between an Air Force memo on strafing of refugees in the early weeks of the Korean War and reports that American GIs gunned down large numbers of civilians at a village called No Gun Ri during the same period.
The memo is dated July 25, 1950, the day before the alleged atrocities at No Gun Ri. The memo said Air Force planes had strafed columns of civilian refugees at the request of Army commanders, but it lacked details such as locations of the strafing, exact dates and the number of people involved.
Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, a Pentagon spokesman, said investigators have no reason to question the document's authenticity but have yet to find other evidence to confirm that strafing occurred. Neither have they determined whether the strafing was related directly to what happened at No Gun Ri.
"We're still looking for something that would either tell us for sure, yes or no, that there is a tie," Quigley said. "It's kind of fuzzy right now in that regard."
Army investigators found the Air Force memo while searching for documents that may provide information about events around the time of No Gun Ri.
"There's no particular reason to connect this to No Gun Ri, and perhaps there is no connection. We just don't know that yet," Quigley said.
Air Force officials said they are deferring to the Army on all matters related to the No Gun Ri investigation, even if they involve Air Force records.
The Air Force memo adds to statements from U.S. veterans and documents uncovered by The Associated Press indicating that as American troops retreated toward the southern tip of the Korean peninsula in the chaotic opening weeks of the war, the U.S. military deliberately fired on civilian refugees.
Also, the memo emphasizes that U.S. ground commanders were fearful their lines were being infiltrated by civilian refugees who might include or be controlled by North Korean soldiers.
The document was first reported Monday by CBS News. A copy on file at the National Archives was provided to the AP.
The Army opened its investigation after the AP quoted U.S. veterans and South Korean survivors as saying soldiers carried out a mass killing of civilians July 26-28, 1950, at No Gun Ri. Ex-GIs spoke of 100, 200 or simply hundreds dead. The South Koreans say 300 were shot to death.
The Air Force memo is titled, "Policy on Strafing Civilian Refugees."
"It is reported that large groups of civilians, either composed of or controlled by North Korean soldiers, are infiltrating U.S. positions," the memo said. "The Army has requested that we strafe all civilian refugee parties that are noted approaching our positions. To date, we have complied with the Army request in this respect."
The memo was signed by Air Force Col. Turner C. Rogers, deputy chief of staff for operations for the 5th Air Force. It is addressed to "Gen. Timberlake." Quigley said that referred to Lt. Gen. Edward Timberlake, who was vice commander of the 5th Air Force at the time.
Quigley said investigators had interviewed Rogers, but Quigley would not reveal what Rogers told them.
In his memo, Rogers noted the sensitivity of the problem of stopping civilian refugees from passing through U.S. lines.
"Our operations involving the strafing of civilians is sure to receive wide publicity and may cause embarrassment to the U.S. Air Force and to the U.S. government in its relations with the United Nations," Rogers wrote.
"It is not understood why the army is not screening such personnel or shooting them as they come through, if they desire such action," he wrote. The Air Force believed "more suitable targets" were available for the air campaign, he added.
Rogers recommended that a policy be adopted whereby Air Force planes would not attack civilian refugee groups "unless they are definitely known to contain North Korean soldiers or commit hostile acts."

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Robert Burns (Associated Press Military Writer), “Army seeks link between strafing of civilians, No Gun Ri incident,” No Gun Ri Digital Archives, accessed August 5, 2020, https://nogunri.rit.albany.edu/omeka/items/show/65.