Korean War Massacres Sanctioned By U.S. Officers

MA-Caver

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AP IMPACT: US wavered over S. Korean executions

By CHARLES J. HANLEY and JAE-SOON CHANG, Associated Press Writers Sun Jul 6, 1:42 PM ET
full story: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080706/ap_on_re_as/korea_mass_executions_us
SEOUL, South Korea - The American colonel, troubled by what he was hearing, tried to stall at first. But the declassified record shows he finally told his South Korean counterpart it "would be permitted" to machine-gun 3,500 political prisoners, to keep them from joining approaching enemy forces.

In the early days of the Korean War, other American officers observed, photographed and confidentially reported on such wholesale executions by their South Korean ally, a secretive slaughter believed to have killed 100,000 or more leftists and supposed sympathizers, usually without charge or trial, in a few weeks in mid-1950.
Extensive archival research by The Associated Press has found no indication Far East commander Gen. Douglas MacArthur took action to stem the summary mass killing, knowledge of which reached top levels of the Pentagon and State Department in Washington, where it was classified "secret" and filed away.
Now, a half-century later, the South Korean government's Truth and Reconciliation Commission is investigating what happened in that summer of terror, a political bloodbath largely hidden from history, unlike the communist invaders' executions of southern rightists, which were widely publicized and denounced at the time.
Wasn't sure exactly where to put this... War College? Horror Stories? Or here for serious discussion.
Seems like dirty little secrets, dirty little lies keep coming out of the woodwork with more frequency.

"Although we can't present concrete evidence, we bereaved families believe the United States has some responsibility for this," she told the AP, as she visited one of the burial sites in the quiet Sannae valley.
I would have to agree. It's the same responsibility of watching a crime in progress and doing nothing.
Question is what is the U.S. going to do by way of owning up to that responsibility?

Here's going to be what I think is the crux of the whole situation.
An American historian of the Korean War, the University of Chicago's Bruce Cumings, sees a share of U.S. guilt in what happened in 1950.
"After the fact — with thousands murdered — the U.S. not only did nothing, but covered up the Daejeon massacres," he said.
Another Korean War scholar, Allan R. Millett, an emeritus Ohio State professor, is doubtful. "I'm not sure there's enough evidence to pin culpability on these guys," he said, referring to the advisers and other Americans.
As much as I hate to say it, this is no different than late 1940's Nazi soldiers executing Jews simply because the enemy was advancing. In many cases however the Jews were simply left behind in hopes to slow up the advance of the oncoming Allied military.
Here however, the U.S. went to the aid of South Korea supposedly to help stem the spread of Communism. Well okay but I don't think we should've stood idly by while thousands were being massacred. This makes the U.S. just as guilty as if they had pulled the trigger themselves.
What is amazing is how long this has been kept secret.

One wonders what this will do (if ANYTHING) for how the U.S. is viewed militarily ... particularly with our presence in Iraq.
 

Ninjamom

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I just about cried when I read this article earlier today. I couldn't believe that our government would be party to such a thing, even at the height of the Cold War. I still have trouble believing it.

Perhaps it is my naivete', or partly a 'willing disbelief', but I still see holes in the article's case. 'Doing nothing after the fact' is a lot different than 'doing nothing to stop' massacres occurring realtime, and it is not clear from the article just how much was known about what was going on in-country, at the time. It also appears that all sides agree that the US did not order any of the massacres, so 'sanctioned' becomes misleading.

The record makes it clear that the one US Colonel implicated never believed the North Koreans would get anywhere near Busan. I could see someone in his position possibly trying to dissuade his South Korean counterpart from carrying out an imminent massacre by getting him to agree to 'wait until the communist troops get closer'. Unfortunately for the historical record (and the search for truth and accountability), that one Colonel has died - he will never get the chance to shed light on his thoughts and circumstances, or to defend himself from such heinous charges.
 

Twin Fist

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yeah,
bad things happen in war. I am shocked.......

Seriously though, some things to consider:

The US didnt do this
We couldnt have stopped it if we wanted to
Asian wars tend to be pretty horrendous. the Cultures involved all have traditions of "whatever it takes to win" look at the japanese actions during WW2, the chinese actions during thier so called "cultural revolution"

it prob comes from having too much surplus population.

Why was it covered up?prob to help legitimize the new South Korean Government after the war.
 

Archangel M

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What were they gonna do, fight the S.Koreans (who we were there fighting for in the first place) over it?
 
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MA-Caver

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What were they gonna do, fight the S.Koreans (who we were there fighting for in the first place) over it?
In a manner of speaking, yes. At the political table at least. There are alternatives to fighting as it's once sagely was said. As the primary peace-keeping force there and remember that it was a "police action" not really a "war" (a rose by any other name) said Colonel (and other officers whom undoubtedly witnessed (or knew) of similar massacres) still had to report it. Officers still have reports to fill out, paperwork so that military analysts can study them and decide the next best course of action. Higher ups (had to) know about these goings on.
If I understand right, the American soldier has that right to prevent or carry out immoral orders. Said Colonel knew that the massacre was going to take place, the only course of action he took was to delay it, but he didn't (what it seems so from the article anyway) try to stop his South Korean counterpart from doing it. He didn't try to convince the SK from marching the prisoners further south, away from the oncoming Chinese army, while there was still time. It's been done before, moving prisoners en-massed, Alvin York did it in WWI though maybe not with thousands but definitely a large number.
Point is that it wasn't prevented and that there was no real effort in preventing it. Then it was buried and kept secret.
That is just as wrong. That is just the same as pulling the trigger yourself.
 

Archangel M

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Oh, I agree it was wrong and there should have been some political pressure up the chain of command. im talking about the troops on the ground. What would you do as a platoon leader in that situation? open up on your allies?

On another note...this is more "lets feel bad about a historical event outside the direct blame of 90% of anybody alive". how far back should we "apologize" for our countries actions? WWII, Civil War, Revolution, French and indian War?
 

Makalakumu

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No side is ever going to come off clean in a war. This doesn't excuse anyone, but I think that it makes George Carlin's point in his seven words that can't be said on TV skit. War is the most obcene word in the english language.
 

aedrasteia

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it is good that war is so terrible, lest we grow too fond of it.

Robert E. Lee

an honest man to tell the awful truth that there _are_ those quite fond of war.

My father's close friend was an infantryman in Korea. As a child I remember him sitting with my Dad, drinking beer and talking in low tones so we kids wouldn't hear. That friend was the first grown man I ever saw cry, who was not at a funeral or a wedding. I asked my Dad why and he was direct - 'he had to do bad things in the war and he saw other people do terrible things and people die. The ones who plan this stuff aren't there when the bad times come and they forget about people like Ray'. My Dad was his true friend and sat with him many nights and just let him talk. Long before anybody felt it was OK to give those bad times a name or any help. People have mostly forgotten Korea and the terrible horrors there.

When we citizens agree, through our outspoken support or silent compliance, to send our soldiers somewhere to bring war on people, we must know that this is also an expected part of what war is and we must be absolutely sure that the conflict is worth the price.

Not what we are told, or what is implied or suggested or assured or assumed or hinted or guessed, but what _we_ are dead solid certain, based on our own knowledge, research and understanding of the history of the place and people involved. If those who make the plans do anything other than clearly and absolutely set forth the unshakeable reasons for force, they do not and will not obtain my support, because I owe it first to Ray and all those like him who are willing to put themselves on the line. If people like him will do that, I cannot do any less.
 

Archangel M

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I wish it was so easy to have "solid reasons" to go to war. But that is rarely the case except in movies or history books. Even wars we accept as "just" today, like WWII, had many "anti war"..."its their busines"...types. It took pearl harbor to wake us up.
 
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Empty Hands

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I wish it was so easy to have "solid reasons" to go to war. But that is rarely the case except in movies or history books.

If there are rarely "solid reasons", then perhaps wars should be fought much more rarely. I won't even decide which doctor to go to or what to do with my day without solid reasons, funny that massive death and destruction are held to a lesser standard.
 

Makalakumu

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If there are rarely "solid reasons", then perhaps wars should be fought much more rarely. I won't even decide which doctor to go to or what to do with my day without solid reasons, funny that massive death and destruction are held to a lesser standard.

People had to be convinced that the lesser standard was neccessary.
 

Archangel M

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Its the best argument a politician can make that gets us into war, always has been in our country. WWII was a pretty damn "solid reason" but back then some people didnt think so.
 

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WWII was a pretty damn "solid reason" but back then some people didnt think so.

We got into the war after being attacked, which seems pretty solid to me. I really don't think too many people at the time disagreed. The America First Committee closed up shop right after Pearl Harbor.

Unfortunately, none of the wars we have been involved in since have had such a solid rationale. The biggest until the Iraq Wars had the Domino Theory as a rationale, which history has been shown to be completely unfounded. For that matter, we still didn't have an honest rationale given to us by Johnson for the Vietnam escalation. The Gulf of Tonkin incident was mostly made up, and then covered up by the NSA - a report of which by an NSA historian was made publicly available in 2005.

War may indeed be terrible, but our leaders have nonetheless shown themselves to be quite fond of it.
 
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MA-Caver

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Its the best argument a politician can make that gets us into war, always has been in our country. WWII was a pretty damn "solid reason" but back then some people didnt think so.
Well eventually once Europe was wholly beaten then the next obvious (and stupid) choice would've been the U.S. Far sighted analysts saw it coming, but finding a good enough reason so that the American people would WANT to get involved, had to be postponed until the morning of Dec. 7th 1941.

I think the Korean conflict/war/police action was probably for the same reasons that the Vietnam conflict/war/police action was fought for (though Vietnam came later)... to show the cold war opponents that we were willing to spend lives... yet again... as if the sacrifice of the first and second world wars weren't enough. Something that I guess we had to keep proving.

Back on topic however for some reason it seems that seeing the horrors of the first two world wars had given license to commit atrocities and massacres or to turn a blind eye to them at any-rate.
 

teej

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I'm not exactly sure what you point is in this. I know it is an old post which I came upon by accident researhing something else. But let me tell you as cold as it may seem, I don't care!

My sisters father was a WWll combat vet and hero. 2 purple hearts and bronze star- captured by the Germans, surviving their prisoner death march when the Russians advanced and the Germans fled with their captives. Death march because if you couldn't keep up the Germans killed their unarmed prisoners.

Stuff happens in war.

So he goes on entering the Korean conflct as a Captain leaving my mother and 5 yr old sister behind. Gets captured again when the Chinese flooded troops in.

I've heard from a man, another officer who flew over there with him. He was also captured the same night. The Koreans took all the Americans and held them in some minning caves where in below freezing temps the Korean took all their captives boots.

This officer told me he credited my mothers husband, Captain Rodney F. Cloutman, with giving him advice in that cave that allowed him to survive captivity. In the cave Rodney identified himself to the other Americans as being a German prison camp survivor and proceeded to start giving advice on prisoner survival. Later the Americans were moved to camps in what became known as "Death Valler".

Supposedly Rodney died within 2 months of captivity this time. The American Dr. that signed his death certifiate arrived in the camp 6 weeks after Rodney supposedly died, going by a list of names given to him, he signed Rodneys death certificate.

I say supposedly died here as I've uncovered accounts from a N. Korean prisoner claiming to have seen 12 US prisoners in a facility up in N. Korea. And we have uncovered that a Lt prisoner in Rodneys unit ended up in Russia. Rodney was higher ranked and communications officer makes us think he would have been valuble.

But then a mysterious fire destroyed 90% of all Korean War vet records, so we have hit a dead end.

Back on topic. The Koreans did not provide much for the Amerians. No boots, wrapped in material, frost bite set in to fingers and toes. Prisoner accounts state is was SO freakin bad that they were able to just snap off toes and fingers. These N. Koreans you are so worried about put large pots out every night for the Americans to put body parts in. In the morning carts were loaded up with bodies and body parts and villagers came each morning removing and disposing of the loaded carts.

I'm not even going to go into the beatings and tortures!! But guess what, the N. Koreas also had their own death marches. I have seen photos of stretches of dirt road with American service men in uniform, HANDS TIED BEHIND THEIR BACKS murdered bodies lying in the ditch along the road.

Stuff happens in war. That is why it is called War. Don't you dare pick at my gov't without looking at both sides.

Morally murdering anyone is wrong. You think dropping H bombs on civilian cities was right? It saved How many Amerian lives and ended a war.

I don't care about the N. Koreans. They brought suffering to my family and my sister in her 60's cried recently recounting saying good by to Rodney, him telling her he was going to bring her a porclin doll. She even at 5 yrs old just knew she was never going to see her dad again. I can't even imagine the hell he went through.
 

billc

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The domino theory was only shown not to apply because we fought in Korea and vietnam. Remember, after Germany surrendered, Russia kept the countries they "liberated." The Chinese gave support to the North koreans, if we hadn't helped the south would the entire country of Korea be the gulag the north is? If a million or more north vietnamese soldiers hadn't been killed by Americans, slowing down the loss of the south, what would that have meant to the region if the south had fallen 15 years earlier. Looking back from your desk chair while reading posts is easier than living in the middle of the times. people today didn't live through world war two. Coming out of the fight with Germany, Italy and Japan, where they were expanding their territory, and having scene what not stopping Hitler earlier in his military advances meant to the world, is it any wonder people were concerned about korea, and vietnam and the domino theory.
People forget Austria, Alsace Loraine, The sudetenland, and the rest of Checkoslovakia, and the final straw of Poland. The time was different, the experience was different, and we can actually say the South Korea is better off having not lost its independence.
China, and vietnam may slowly be beginning to realize that the pursuit of communism is foolish, but they didn't back then. Just something to keep in mind.
 

Tez3

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The domino theory was only shown not to apply because we fought in Korea and vietnam. Remember, after Germany surrendered, Russia kept the countries they "liberated." The Chinese gave support to the North koreans, if we hadn't helped the south would the entire country of Korea be the gulag the north is? If a million or more north vietnamese soldiers hadn't been killed by Americans, slowing down the loss of the south, what would that have meant to the region if the south had fallen 15 years earlier. Looking back from your desk chair while reading posts is easier than living in the middle of the times. people today didn't live through world war two. Coming out of the fight with Germany, Italy and Japan, where they were expanding their territory, and having scene what not stopping Hitler earlier in his military advances meant to the world, is it any wonder people were concerned about korea, and vietnam and the domino theory.
People forget Austria, Alsace Loraine, The sudetenland, and the rest of Checkoslovakia, and the final straw of Poland. The time was different, the experience was different, and we can actually say the South Korea is better off having not lost its independence.
China, and vietnam may slowly be beginning to realize that the pursuit of communism is foolish, but they didn't back then. Just something to keep in mind.


No, we don't. Btw Austria, Alsace and the Sudetenland weren't exactly joined to Germany kicking and screaming, the last two were German enclaves and Austria well, they embraced Nazism with all the glee of a dog finding a leg of lamb.
I doubt China is thinking the pursuit of communism is foolish, it did more for their country whatever you think than capitalism ever did, think Opium Wars etc etc.

I don't know what you mean about people today not living through the Second World War? I know many people who have, including my father, who also lived through the Korea War, his regiment was there. You talk as if it were the Napoleonic wars!
 
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