Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.


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July 26-29, 1950, Korea. The No Gun Ri massacre. This was during the Korean War, very early, about a month after the start of the war. At least two hundred Korean civilians trying to flee south were killed by small arms fire, heavy weapons fire, and air attack. They were killed under and around the No Gun Ri railroad bridge, photographed above in 2018. The killers? The US Seventh Cavalry. Well, this is awkward. Little known outside Korea until 1999 when AP ran a story, including interviews with a number of US veterans corroborating Korean survivors accounts. Really awkward.

So what happened? I’ll get to that by and by. I remember when this story came out in the USA. Widely reported at the time, those who had an interest in such things paid note. An old friend of mine was indignant that this “old news” was coming up, he thought it best for all concerned that it be buried and forgotten about. I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but I had no problem with the massacre being investigated, which both the US and South Korea set out to do. I mean, it’s an incident of the mass murder of civilians, shouldn’t that be investigated? I was pretty shocked by my friend’s reaction, although when it comes to Americans and war crimes, it’s a very common attitude.

As history shows. Coverup and forget. The Biscari massacre in World War Two is all too sadly typical. 73 Italian and German prisoners were massacred in cold blood. Two guys were eventually prosecuted, both received essentially no punishment, one was acquitted even. He was “only following orders.” The My Lai massacre in Vietnam is likely the most infamous example in my lifetime. Hundreds of civilians including women and children were slaughtered. The army tried to cover it up, but eventually a journalist broke the story. Twenty six men were charged, one, Lieutenant Calley, served three and a half years of house arrest. We’ll get to him later too.

Well, in war, these things happen. Expose people to horrific violence on a regular basis, and it becomes normal. Secretly recorded German POWs casually bragged about rape and murder, it was just “locker room talk.” And I heard numerous stories from Vietnam vets during my service, good old American marines bragging about murders they’d committed in Vietnam. Another excellent reason war should be the extreme last resort, it makes good people do bad things.

That being said, Americans committing war crimes doesn’t make Americans bad people. Doesn’t make any people bad people. Where the evil comes in is when governments and commanders look the other way and cover them up. Or worse, and the ultimate in evil, is when leaders order troops to do bad things. Still, looking the other way and covering up crimes when they occur is still pretty damn evil. And unfortunately, for the most part, that’s where America falls. Disappointing for those that fetishize the American military, except of course they would deny it, so no disappointment.

Which brings us back to the No Gun Ri massacre. The Korean investigation showed that American troops had been ordered to fire to fire on the refugees, apparently because of fears that communist infiltrators we’re among them. The American investigation concluded it was panic, and just, you know, shit happens. And that American GIs who remembered being given such orders were just confused. Unfortunately, key records that might have shed light on the topic are mysteriously missing. Like the records of the communications the 7th Cavalry, the one day the massacre started is missing from the archives. Oops, just a coincidence no doubt.

Basically despite all the claims of western moral superiority, the facts are much messier. If one loses a war, yeah, some war criminals may get punished. Win the war, prosecutions for war crimes are rare to nonexistent. A few elderly Germans are still being dragged into court because they were teenage typists at concentration camps in the waning days of World War Two. The numerous wars and war crimes since then, not so much. It will be a great day when the species takes a stand against war crimes and all who commit them face justice. And while we’re at it, let’s give everyone a pony too. Sigh.

As for the aforementioned Lt. Calley, someday I will have to write about the My Lai massacre. It was a great example of how war crimes happen even though the intent to commit a war crime wasn’t there. One thing led to another. Still inexcusable, and the attempted coverup even more so. On the plus side, some soldiers refused to participate, and one Air Force hero actually intervened and saved lives. And decades later, Lt. Calley apologized for his actions that day. Gives me hope.

No real point here except the aforementioned war is bad, and Americans have committed horrible war crimes just like so many others. Have a great week everyone. Comments, suggestions, and especially shares appreciated.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: No Gun Ri bridge in 2018. The circles and such were put there by Korean investigators, they show where US bullets and ordinance struck.  Credit and copyright: Mary Dudziack. Used without permission, claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law as it is the perfect image for illustrating this post. And since the good professor seems to be of a similar mind to me, hopefully I can be forgiven for the use of her photo. In fact some of her books look interesting, if my local libraries have any, I will read and review for a future post.)

Written by unitedcats

July 29, 2019 at 4:33 am

Posted in History, Korea, War

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