Fishhook Junction, Alaska

Source: Shirley Watkins’ KWVets

October 8, 1999



Guerilla activity was a fact of life in those days.  They did slip through our lines with the refugees, and hundreds, if not a few thousand, young American boys lost their lives.  Rumors would have run rampant about everything.  North Koreans mixed in with refugees.  Orders not true.  Orders that were true.  "The captain said kill them all."  "He told you that?" "No, I heard it from someone."  Orders that were lawful.   Rumors that were unlawful.  Lack of communications breaking any semblance of the chain of command.  The whole North Korean army about to be on top of them.  Spread out too thin for the senior non-coms and officers to have control over the series of events about to unfold.


Let’s set the stage at Nogun-ri….


Green troops land at Pohangdong and two days later they are in the area of the enemy.  In reality there was no front line.  They were segments of lines.  They would have heard the stories and rumors of Suwon and Taejon and be expecting the worse.  No interpreters was unforgiveable!!

    Being strafed by our own aircraft, who very well could have mistaken our troops mixed in with the refugees as the enemy, adding to the confusion.  Some of our own men took cover under the railroad bridge to escape the strafing, and riflemen opened up on them along with the refugees.  Panic, confusion and orders/rumors too vague were passed down the chain of command, i.e., "Don’t let any refugees thru lines."  How do you stop thousands of refugees from coming thru?  There were over five million refugees in the Korean War, and many of them occurred in the first few months.  One of my clearest memories is the long lines of refugees with their back-breaking A-frames.  Fire on them, but use discretion where it involves women and children???  What the hell is that supposed to mean? 

    Enemy disguised as refugees!  How does one discern foe from innocent???  What does one do?  When does one do it?  Where is the lieutenant?  Can’t let them out from under the railroad bridge—by now they are sure there are enemy in with them.  Machine gun positions would have been on each side of the railroad tracks so there would be a field of fire on each side.  That is normal, not a positioning to execute the refugees. 


A Korean survivor claims the machine-guns opened fire after dark.


Darkness falls and the ghosts of death began to stir in the green troops.  Far off sounds seem close, and the dark reveals shifting shapes which are not there.  One rifleman or machine gunner panics and fires at some damned imagined movement or sound.  The whole area erupts in gunfire directed at the culvert where they believe the enemy is.  As the tracers ricochet through the culvert, the ones on the other side believe they are under attack from the culvert, and return the fire which ricochet through into our troops on the other side.  Now each side of the culverts know the enemy is in the culverts.  So goes the battle.  So goes mixed up confusion.  So goes the lives of innocents and so goes an unintended massacre by green, under-trained, confused and frightened American boys.  Had this been an ordered massacre the refugees would have been all killed in a short period of time.  It doesn’t take three nights to kill a few hundred trapped inside a culvert.  According to one Korean survivor, we helped bury some dead the next morning and gave medical care to the survivors.  DOES THAT SOUND LIKE AN INTENTIONAL MASSACRE? 

    American boys will/would carry the pain of this time with them unto the grave.  Only death will relieve the guilt and pain.  This is quite sad.  The investigative reporters did not go far enough.  They went just far enough to meet their agenda (of attempting) to disgrace the values of the Korean War and the honor of some green troops of long ago or visions of a Pulitzer prize.  Nay, worse yet, they would bring disgrace on all who fought in Korea and in the minds of many Americans their agenda will be met.  They mention RUMORS of other massacres.  They did not investigate.  Only planted the seed in America’s mind and America will believe. 

    Where pray God are competent journalists to follow through and get the facts of those times, those specific conditions?  The hoards of refugees, in many cases mixed with the enemy, troops barely trained for conventional combat let along guerilla warfare which America had never fought.  No training in counter-guerilla tactics. 

    We were not cold-blooded killers of civilians, otherwise there would have been literally tens of thousands killed by the ground troops as the million or so passed through our lines.  Nor would we have taken hundreds of thousands of POWs.                                                       

   I for one am in need of a response to this besmirchment of my/our honor.  You see, a response can never be made by myself, by my buddies, or by the Army.  Most will not believe us.  Most will refuse to believe our upbringing and honor preclude cold-blooded killing of the innocent. 

    There will be a few who have fought this war for fifty years who will now decide it is time to go to that land beyond the sky.  The battles they fought for fifty years a few journalists will finally kill them.  ---- God Bless America.