A SOLDIER’S STORY STIRS THINGS UP
Questions about Edward Daily and Nogun-ri
By Brian Duffy and Joseph L. Galloway
U.S. News & World Report, May 29, 2000
A former GI, who has emerged as a key figure in a Pentagon investigation into the alleged killings of unarmed refugees in the early days of the Korean War, has sparked a fierce debate among some veterans’ groups, which have accused him of falsifying portions of his service record.
Edward Daily, who has become a widely quoted source in news accounts of the alleged massacre near the Korean village of Nogun-ri, claimed to have received the Distinguished Service Cross and to have been taken prisoner by North Korean forces in the summer of 1950. But Morris Worley, the national adjutant of the Legion of Valor of the United States, said he reviewed Daily’s claim that he was awarded the DSC, the nation’s second-highest award for valor in combat, and found that it was untrue. Worley says he informed Daily of his decision by letter about 12 years ago, and Daily responded "with various rationales, argument, and debate." None of it persuaded Worley to reconsider his decision. "If you can’t validate the award, membership cannot be extended," Worley said, nothing that his organization has fewer than 800 members, all of them recipients of the Medal of Honor or military services crosses like the Army’s DSC. "Mr. Daily couldn’t validate [his claim for membership] because the medal didn’t exist…He was awarded membership under false pretenses.
The questions about whether Daily was ever a POW are more difficult. Claude Watkins, the membership chairman of American Ex-POW, says he began reviewing Daily’s claim that he was a prisoner of war after being questioned about it by the Baltimore Sun. Daily’s only support for having been a POW was a letter from a chaplain in the Army’s 7th Cavalry Regiment, the unit Daily says he served with in Korea. But Watkins questioned the chaplain, and he said his knowledge of Daily’s claim "wasn’t firsthand." Interviewed by U.S. News, the chaplain, retired Col. Frank Griepp, said he never met Daily until about 1990, when he was completing research on the book The Circuit-Riding Combat Chaplain. "Everything I put in my book about Daily came directly from Daily’s mouth," Griepp said. "I had no proof of it … Of firsthand knowledge, I had none." Griepp furnished a letter to Watkins in April 1996 validating his claim to have been a POW. Watkins said last week that he is removing Daily’s name from his organization’s membership rolls. "He hasn’t got any proof," Watkins said. "I’m going to toss him out—and he’s lying about those decorations."
Daily has declined to respond to written inquiries and telephone messages. He was quoted as one of several sources in the Associated Press account of the killings at Nogun-ri that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting in April. Last week’s issue of U.S. News cited Army records indicating that Daily may not have been at Nogun-ri on the day of the alleged massacre, July 26, 1950, as he said. The records say Daily was a mechanic with a rear maintenance unit that was just arriving in Korea on July 26.
Late last week, the Pentagon issued a statement nothing that some recent press reports had quoted unnamed Defense Department officials saying that American soldiers had intentionally fired at refugees at Nogun-ri. "No such conclusions, or any other conclusions, have been reached within the Department of Defense," the Pentagon statement said. The Army inquiry into Nogun-ri is not expected to be completed for several months.
Daily has been questioned by Army investigators about the discrepancies in his service record. One piece of evidence Daily has produced in support of his claim that he was a prisoner of war is a letter from the Army’s adjutant general to Daily’s mother. The letter, dated Aug. 31, 1950, states that Daily was reported missing in action on Aug. 12, 1950, and cites Daily’s military identification number, 0-5380215. Pentagon officials who have reviewed the letter say that ID number was never assigned to Daily; it was assigned to a Navy enlisted man who left the service after 1963.
After a 1973 fire destroyed the service records of many Korean War veterans, Pentagon officials invited the servicemen to help reconstruct their service files by furnishing discharge letters, movement orders, training records, and the like. One letter supplied by Daily, purporting to be from the Army’s adjutant general in 1950, carried a ZIP code. The U.S. Postal Service did not begin using ZIP codes until 1963.