DATE=10/8/1999 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=KOREAN MASSACRE NUMBER=5-44455 BYLINE=ANDRE DE NESNERA DATELINE=WASHINGTON CONTENT= VOICED AT: // Eds: This is the second of a two-part series on the alleged massacre of South Korean civilians by U-S soldiers during the first few weeks of the Korean War. The first part dealt with reminiscences of American soldiers who participated in or witnessed the killings. // INTRO: The U-S Defense Department has opened an investigation into allegations American soldiers (G- Is) killed South Korean civilians several weeks after the outbreak of the Korean War. In this report from Washington, correspondent Andre de Nesnera looks back at those first chaotic days in June 1950 when North Korean forces invaded South Korea (invasion began June 24th, 1950). TEXT: The alleged massacre took place on July 26th, 1950, under a concrete railroad bridge near the South Korean hamlet of No Gun Ri. For years, survivors and families of the victims said American G-Is gunned down about 300 people - many of them women and children. Some of the American soldiers who participated in or witnessed the killings recently have decided to speak out. But their recollections differ as to exactly what happened under that bridge almost 50 years ago. Some veterans say they machine-gunned the civilians; others say they shot over their heads. Some say orders to shoot civilians came from officers on the ground; others say no such orders were given. And those who shot at the South Korean civilians are unclear as to how many of them were killed. But many of the G-Is dispute the 300 casualty figure given by survivors and family members of the victims -- and some of them strongly reject the word `massacre' to describe what happened at No Gun Ri. Retired U-S Army Colonel David Hackworth - now a military analyst - is a decorated Korean War veteran. He was not at No Gun Ri, but says he understands how such an atrocity could have happened. He says the U-S soldiers sent to Korea during the first weeks of the war came from Japan, where they were essentially involved in peacetime duties. // HACKWORTH ACT // They hadn't prepared for combat. They had been doing garrison duty. They were `soft' and `green' and inefficient and not capable to confront the very first-class, hard- hitting, professional North Korean army. And so you had `soft,' summer soldiers fighting hardened warriors on a very, very difficult battlefield, with a very fluid front. And the enemy's primary tactic was to hit you hard with armor and with hard- hitting infantry columns. At the same time, they would infiltrate forces behind you in civilian clothes. So there you were, on a very confused battlefield, with your rear covered by the enemy, your flanks covered by the enemy. You didn't know who the good guy was from the bad guy. // END ACT // Colonel Hackworth says before judging the soldiers at No Gun Ri, one has to understand the horrific situation they faced during the first few weeks of the war, which included a collapse of the military command and control structure. // SECOND HACKWORTH ACT // For example, in the 24th Division sector, things were so confused that the commanding general - a major-general of that division, William Dean - was hunting enemy tanks with a bazooka because his organization was no longer effective: he couldn't call a regiment, or call a battalion and give them orders. So he was just a one-man rocket team acting as a private. That's how badly confused things were during that time. // END ACT // Another military analyst - retired Army Colonel Ralph Peters - agrees with Colonel Hackworth, saying the tragedy at No Gun Ri is the result of poorly trained troops and poor leadership. // PETERS ACT // I certainly do not believe that the United States military set out to kill South Korean civilians. We went out there to defend South Korea and the people. But down at the low-level, when people are hungry and sleepless, when they have seen their buddies get killed, they are really frightened and they are not adequately trained: people panic. // END ACT // While understanding the conditions facing U-S soldiers in the first few weeks of the Korean conflict, both military analysts say they welcome the U-S Defense Department investigation into the tragedy at No Gun Ri. But ex-G-I Jim Kerns disagrees. He was at No Gun Ri as a 19-year-old machine-gunner. He says he did not kill any civilians since he was shooting above their heads - and he says the U-S Defense Department investigation is not needed. // KERNS ACT // No, because I do not think we owe the South Koreans anything. They got a free country right now, plus we left 55-thousand men dead over there and nine-thousand more missing. // END ACT // U-S officials say the investigation into the No Gun Ri tragedy is expected to take one year. (Signed) NEB/ADEN/ENE/rrm 08-Oct-1999 13:09 PM EDT (08-Oct-1999 1709 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .