By Joe Christopher, Tucson, AZ

January 2000



Letís visit about Nogun-ri for a minute and get unpleasant stuff out of the way.A few have misread my remarks or maybe I wasnít clear.First: I am not for the Koreans who seek redress, nor am I accusing anybody of anything.A few men are confessing and making statements, which appear in newspapers and TV news.They condemn themselves.

††† Many think that Nogun-ri was just another, in heat of battle "oops Iím sorry" kind of thing.Everyone who has been in combat in any war knows that those things often happen.War is like that.That was not the case at Nogun-ri.

††† A digest of confessions printed in newspapers and shown on TV follows:These are not accusations but freely admitted information by the confessors: Strafing airplanes killed large numbers of refugees whom GIs had rousted from nearby villages because the North Koreans were coming.Survivors, perhaps 300, nobody knows for sure, took refuge under the end of a bridge.These were old men, women of all ages, children and babies.There were very few young men.

††† Suspecting there were North Koreans among them, a unit of the 7th Cav held them under the bridge as prisoners for part of that day.They had plenty of time to search the refugees and weed out those with weapons, radios, and uniforms under white clothes.This was not done.

††† Late in the day, somebody said that somebody said, "we have orders to shoot all civilians trying to come through our line."So they did.Firing took place over two days or so, sparing no one except a few that managed to slip away in the dark.The confessors tell in horrible detail how it went on and on, with screams, moaning, crying, and pleading.

††† Of course the GIs who still survive that shameful slaughter blame commanders who are now dead.Where were these guys while the officers were still living?Why did they wait 49 years to ease their burdened hearts?Is it because that final records check is coming up?

††† It wasnít but a few years before Nogun-ri, that German and Japanese war criminals were tried for the same thing.It seems that many people can rationalize away such things as long as our own men do it.

††† Many of us were only a few miles away from Nogun-ri, coping with the same problems.Our frustrations and losses caused by North Korean soldiers didnít drive us to mass murder South Korean civilians.For those who call me a wimpy, bed wetting, sniveling liberal because I am sickened by this tragic event, or think that all is made better by tears and apologies:I say I am not sniveling.I am disgusted.

††† But thatís not my beef either.

††† What I object to, are confessions and statements to news media, which in turn smears the 1st Cavalry Division and the 1st Cavalry Division Association.One of these men is an officer in the association.

††† Dick Whalen, G Co., Rotterdam Junction, NY, Ed and Ann Galligan, Bay Village, OH and Wayne Houchin, Louisville, KY, send newspaper clippings about Nogun-ri.They go into more detail then my poor synopsis, much worse than we care to review here.Many newspapers (Arizona) did not carry these accounts, so I depend on contacts in the outside world.I will carry these clippings with me to Killeen for the association board meeting in February.



Letís see whatís in the letterbox and maybe sort through some of this stuff piled on my desk:


From Frank Harris, A Co., Austin, TX, we get copies of 8th Cav war diary from 18 July 50 to 30 July 50.Gee Frank, this is good stuff.Thanks a lot.It mentions verbal orders (from who?) to allow refugees to pass through the line during daylight hours at certain checkpoints.Frank tells, "but when a lot of people rush at your line you donít have much time to think.Mistakes are made."

††† Youíre right Frank.Of course, people fleeing for their lives usually are in a hurry and maybe donít know what the rules are.However, the situation at Nogun-ri was not like that at all.It could be added that events and thought processes at that time were confused and chaotic as well as disorganized and calamitous (and that was in headquarters).Also, without time for indoctrination and motivation, occupation troops in Japan were snatched out of a laid back life and dumped straight into combat within a few days.When told that a roadblock had set up behind us, I had no idea what that meant.Many men blamed all Koreans for their misfortune.We also got some of the most stupid information, like, "The enemy has ran out of food and ammunition and will start surrendering at any time.Donít shoot until you give them that opportunity."I assure you I heard this drivel at a platoon briefing.Is it any wonder they kicked our butts all the way to the Pusan perimeter.NO, they did not surrender.

††† This part of the War Diary that Frank sent also covers F Co, parts of H Co, and 71st Tank Bn being separated from SCRAPPY WHITE for a couple of days and thought to be lost.Some of you know how seven M-24 tanks bogged down in deep rice paddy mud while circling around roadblock or ambush knoll.It wasnít even a hill.Four tanks did get through to the road, but took off for Yong dong without helping the infantry who then hiked over hill and dale, with wounded, for three days to contact battalion and regiment.Communications were as bad as information about the enemy.Frank, I wish this copy of the diary included 3 Aug.That day, as different elements were withdrawing south to the Pusan Perimeter just beginning to form, Fox Co attacked and wiped out an ambush on the west side of the Naktong River.Our gallant Company Commander Lt MATTA and one Trooper were lost in that otherwise successful action.