News-Gazette, January 11, 2001




SEOUL, South Korea (AP) The United States and South Korea have concluded after 15 months of investigation that American soldiers killed "an unknown number" of refugees during the early days of the Korean War at Nogun-ri, where poorly trained troops were under the command of "leaders with limited proven experiences in combat," a joint summary says.

President Clinton planned to express U.S. regret over South Korean civilian deaths at American hands in a statement later today after the results of the investigation are officially released in Washington and in Seoul.

A joint "statement of mutual understandings" says the investigations found no proof of orders to fire on civilians. The report cites military documents that U.S. troops in the war zone at the time were operating under what it calls "guidelines on shooting refugees" to prevent them from crossing U.S. front lines.

It does not explain what that meant, but the declassified record found in archives by The Associated Press shows that U.S. units had various orders to "fire" on, "shoot" and "stop" Korean refugees trying to cross U.S. lines to safety.

The joint statement said that the soldiers were "young, under-trained, under-equipped and new to combat," and that their leaders were untested in battle.

Units operating near Nogun-ri "were under the command and control of leaders with limited proven experience in combat. They were unprepared for the weapons and tactics of the North Korean forces that they would face and the speed of the North Korean advance," the joint statement said.

The summary adds that "U.S. soldiers were legitimately fearful of the possible infiltration of North Korean soldiers who routinely entered American lines in groups disguised as civilians in refugee columns and then attacked American positions from the rear."

Korean survivors say as many as 300 people, including women and children, were killed over three days in late July 1950 at Nogun-ri by the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment after 100 were killed in an Air Force strafing.

The joint statement notes that Korean officials have compiled a list of 248 names of dead, wounded and missing. It says ex-GI witnesses gave lower estimates.

The refugees were killed by "small arms, machine guns, mortar and artillery fire," the summary quoted American veterans as saying.

The report notes that Korean witnesses said refugees were strafed by U.S. airplanes about noon on July 26, 1950, and that some U.S. veterans stated that they saw strafings in the Nogun-ri area in late July. But the joint statement says an official search of their records "do not reflect any mission flown on the 26th of July in the vicinity of Nogun-ri."

AP obtained a copy of the seven-page document from a source close to the Korean investigation.