Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Items I come across while researching: "Kill 'em All': American Korean War atrocities

While looking for supporting materials I often come across material that had no relevance to the subject matter of my research, but still become an item of interest because of its content. This particular atrocity drew my attention because the US just doesn't do these things do they?

The Korean War began in 1950 as part of the ever increasing tensions between the United States and Russia (Soviet Union). It seems a wonder that the US was even able to fight the North Koreans to the standoff that still exists today. A war never formally declared nor its end. That is another story.

But it is the atrocities by the US military that startled me. "Declassified military documents recently found in the US National Archives show clearly how US commanders repeatedly, and without ambiguity, ordered forces under their control to target and kill Korean refugees caught on the battlefield." [BBC: Kill 'em All': The American Military in Korea, last updated 2-17-2011].

This particular event was horrific. The US military seemed to be panicking because of the effect the number of refugees, some 2 million, from the North were crossing into the South through US battle lines. An order was given: 'No, repeat, no refugees will be permitted to cross battle lines at any time. Movement of all Koreans in group will cease immediately.'

"On the very day that the US 8th Army delivered its stop refugee order in July 1950, up to 400 South Korean civilians gathered by the bridge were killed by US forces from the 7th Cavalry Regiment. Some were shot above the bridge, on the railroad tracks. Others were strafed by US planes. More were killed under the arches in an ordeal that local survivors say lasted for three days."

A US  veteran recalls: "There was a lieutenant screaming like a madman, fire on everything, kill 'em all. I didn't know if they were soldiers or what. Kids, there was kids out there, it didn't matter what it was, eight to 80, blind, crippled or crazy, they shot 'em all.'"

It wasn't until September 1999 that this story came to light through the efforts of Associated Press team. This nation can't afford to lose this kind of journalism that never stops. The mere existence of the Internet cannot be viewed as a substitute for aggressive and effective news organizations.

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