ARMY MAY EXPAND WAR INQUIRY
News-Gazette, Champaign, IL
October 21, 1999
WASHINGTON (AP) – The Army may expand its inquiry into the mass killings of civilians at Nogun-ri to include other Korean War incidents and will eventually take up the possibility of compensating victims’ families, the Pentagon’s spokesman said Wednesday.
Kenneth Bacon said the investigation has begun with a new review of documents related to the killings but has not yet included interviews. The Pentagon has said it will for the first time talk about the killings with veterans, including those who told The Associated Press they witnessed or participated in the incident under a railroad bridge at Nogun-ri in late July 1950 during the early days of the Korean War.
Officials have said previous examination of military records found no evidence of a massacre and were the basis for U.S. and South Korean rejections of pleas from victims’ families and survivors seeking acknowledgement of the killings and compensation.
Defense Secretary William Cohen ordered the Army to conduct an inquiry after the AP on Sept. 30 reported the killing of up to 400 men, women and children under the Nogun-ri bridge. Subsequent AP stories reported the killing of U.S. forces of hundreds more refugees in other incidents, including the blowing up of two strategic bridges with clear indications that officers giving the orders knew they would be crowded with fleeing civilians. The incidents occurred as U.S. soldiers feared throngs of refugees fleeing the battle were infiltrated by North Korean soldiers.
Bacon said other incidents reported by the AP could be included in the review and inquiry which would first focus only on Nogun-ri. "I think it will be broader than Nogun-ri," he said at a press conference for foreign reporters based in Washington, "but how broad I cannot tell you at this stage."
Bacon said he also could not tell how long the investigation would be. Army Secretary Louis Caldera had said it could take more than a year.
This is serious business," Bacon said. "It’s very complex and we’d rather take the time and do it right rather than do it too hastily." He noted that the AP reports contained some conflicting accounts of the incident which he said would have to be sorted out. He said the military’s top priority is to gather information about Nogun-ri.