U.S. policy was to shoot Korean refugees – Yahoo! News

U.S. policy was to shoot Korean refugees – Yahoo! News

More than a half-century after hostilities ended in Korea, a document from the war’s chaotic early days has come to light — a letter from the U.S. ambassador to Seoul, informing the State Department that American soldiers would shoot refugees approaching their lines.The letter — dated the day of the Army’s mass killing of South Korean refugees at No Gun Ri in 1950 — is the strongest indication yet that such a policy existed for all U.S. forces in Korea, and the first evidence that that policy was known to upper ranks of the U.S. government.

I thought that was just a few “bad apples,” not a policy…

2 thoughts on “U.S. policy was to shoot Korean refugees – Yahoo! News”

  1. Complicating the matter is the behavior of the N. Korean army during the early stages of the war. I was stationed at Camp Carroll, which is very close to the Nakdong River and represents one of the places where the U.S./ROK staged a defense as they fell back to Pusan.

    Just outside Camp Carroll is Hill 303, where a unit of N. Korean soldiers took advantage of American confusion about which Koreans were the “good” ones, got inside their perimeter, took them all prisoner, then bound them with wire and executed them, except for the officers, whom they interrogated and tortured to death.

    That incident is reflective of the broader chaos that came with the opening stages of the war. Bad enough that at least one general resorted to leading soldiers in pitched battles in the streets of Taejon before he was captured, and another general said he’d summarily execute any U.S. officer who showed up in Taegu ahead of the retreating defensive lines.

    Talking about “fifth columnists” sounds quaint now, and it serves as a useful rhetorical tool to paint any policy that might have existed as simple Cold War paranoia, but at that stage in the war, there was no command and control linking U.S. and South Korean forces, and there was no way for U.S. forces to know who was who.

    It was a tragic policy with tragic outcomes, but it was probably inevitable in light of the situation at the time. Perhaps more tragically, N. Korea had a record up at least through the late ’90s of sending covert teams into S. Korea, fueling U.S. speculation that there are N. Korea sleeper teams already present in the south. Depending on who you talk to, there are many many support units that’ll be deployed to points near civilian areas where a “shoot to kill” policy will be in effect because the alternative would be running the risk that letting apparent civilians on site might involve opening themselves to attack. Some steps were taken to remedy the problem: The KATUSAs, Korean Augmentees to the United States Army, are English-speaking Korean soldiers who serve as part of American units. I think they’re better integrated in the combat units, but I never saw one working with a deployable team in a signal field unit when I was stationed in in South Korea.

    As with the situation in Haditha now, the takeaway shouldn’t be “the U.S. military is fucked up,” but “war is fucked up.” Put a person in combat long enough, and all sorts of shit goes out the window. Sending a general over to a rear area to deliver platitudes about how soldiers are supposed to be morally upright do-bees is, in some ways, even more appalling. The only people he’s fooling are the people who know little enough about what’s being done in their names to believe his lecture is going to do squat to dint battlefield psychosis.

  2. Oh, hell yeah, as far as “war is fucked up.”

    There’s a Tackhead song called “What’s My Mission Now?” which includes a lot of samples of military brass discussing war. I have no idea who the people are, but here’s some of the bits that are said:

    “So we said we can’t do that, we can’t do this, we can’t do that, and finally they stood up and said, ‘So what the hell CAN you do?’

    “The correct answer is ‘we can kill people, and destroy things, in the name of the United States’ — oh my god, you can’t say THAT — but that’s what we do! [laughter]

    “And if you don’t want that done, DON’T SEND IN THE MILITARY. Don’t send in the military and then say, ‘Oh my God. You hurt someone.’

    “Of course we did. That’s what you sent us there to do.”

    I wish I knew who was being sampled there.

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