News-Gazette, Champaign, IL

November 11, 1999



CLEVELAND (AP) – Four South Koreans and three U.S. Army veterans sat down together in a church Wednesday, sharing painful memories and praying to heal the wounds from Nogun-ri, site of an alleged mass civilian killing by American troops a half-century ago. 

    The featured speakers at the "recognition and remembrance" included Chung Eun-Yong, 77, a man who lost two children at the South Korean hamlet where witnesses say U.S. soldiers killed hundreds of refugees early in the Korean War.  "We believe God will forgive the veterans and the U.S. government when they repent the sins committed and apologize officially for their wrongdoing," he said. 

    Robert C. Gray, a former 7th U.S. Cavalry Regiment sergeant speaking on behalf of the veterans, offered no immediate apology.  South Koreans must understand the "mentality" of young American soldiers in those first chaotic days of the Korean War, when veterans say American soldiers were attacked by North Korean troops dressed in white peasant garb and mixed with refugees, he said. 

    "We want them to understand what we had gone through in the first days of the war," Gray, 74, said during a news conference with the Koreans after the church service.  "You couldn’t tell the difference between a friend and a foe because of the way they were dressed.  The mentality was to stay alive," he said. 

    The service at Cleveland’s Old Stone Presbyterian Church was sponsored by the U.S. National Council of Churches and its South Korean counterpart as part of what the groups called a "long process of healing and reconciliation between our two countries and our peoples." 

    The Associated Press reported in September that U.S. Army veterans, corroborating the accounts of Korean villagers, said their unit killed a large number of civilian refugees at Nogun-ri in July 1950.  The villagers say about 400 were killed, including 100 in a preceding attack by U.S. warplanes. 

    Some ex-GIs said they were fired on from the refugee throng, which the Korean survivors dispute."