Army Chief Backs No Gun Ri Finding
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Army’s top soldier said Wednesday there was never an attempt to ignore evidence that American soldiers killed large numbers of civilian refugees early in the Korean War.
``When the Army checked, there was no credible evidence that they could pursue,″ Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, said in an interview with defense reporters.
``The change here recently,″ Shinseki said, was an Associated Press report Sept. 29 that U.S. Army veterans, corroborating Korean villagers’ accounts, said their unit killed refugees at the village of No Gun Ri in July 1950. The villagers say about 400 were killed, including 100 in a preceding attack by U.S. warplanes.
The AP researched declassified military records and searched out veterans of the units that were at No Gun Ri.
``The soldiers involved said, `Yes, we were involved in this incident,′ which has changed the Army’s ability now to pursue what had been rumor or, you know, innuendo earlier,″ the four-star general said. ``Had these details been known earlier, the Army would have moved to investigate earlier, so I don’t think there’s any coverup or ignoring the facts.″
The Army, in a prior investigation of the allegations, did not interview soldiers from the units involved. The Army said it searched historical records and found nothing to support the claims of No Gun Ri survivors and victims’ families who repeatedly sought compensation from Washington and their own government.
Even when the AP told the Pentagon of its findings this year, officials said they had already investigated enough to satisfy themselves that there was no evidence to support the allegations.
After publication of the AP story, the Army said it would reopen the matter and work with the South Korean government to find the truth.
On Friday, five South Korean survivors of No Gun Ri will visit the Pentagon and meet with Army officials.