The untold human story of a massacre of Korean civilians by American soldiers in the early days of the Korean War, by the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists who uncovered it.
In the fall of 1999, a team of Associated Press investigative reporters broke the news that U.S. troops had massacred a large group of South Korean civilians early in the Korean War. On the eve of that pivotal war's 50th anniversary, their reports brought to light a story that had been suppressed for decades, confirming allegations the U.S. military had sought to dismiss. It made headlines around the world.
In The Bridge at No Gun Ri, the team tells the larger, human story behind the incident through the eyes of the people who survived it: on the American side, the green recruits of the "good time" U.S. occupation army in Japan made up of teenagers who viewed unarmed farmers as enemies and generals who had never led men into battle; on the Korean side, the peasant families forced to flee their ancestral village caught between the invading North Koreans and the U.S. Army. The narrative looks at victims both Korean and American; at the ordinary lives and high-level decisions that led to the fatal encounter; at the terror of the three-day slaughter; at the memories and ghosts that forever haunted the survivors. The story of No Gun Ri also illuminates the larger story of the Korean War-also known as the Forgotten War-and how an arbitrary decision to divide the country in 1945 led to the first armed conflict of the Cold War.
The AP investigation of a 1950 shooting of South Korean civilians by U.S. soldiers won Hanley, Choe and Mendoza the Pulitzer Prize in 1999 and ignited a series of controversies that as yet remain unresolved. In the early days of the Korean War, as defeat began sliding into disaster, inexperienced, poorly commanded U.S. troops received higher orders to stop, by force if necessary, civilian movement through their lines. They responded, the journalists found, by massacring a number of South Korean civilians near the village of No Gun Ri over a period of three days. This book delves further into the "larger human story" of the events, well establishing the terror and confusion of the South Korean refugees, caught up in a war they did not understand. The reconstruction is less effective from the American side. Relative to the number of alleged participants, U.S. interviewees are few. (A high proportion, the authors find, suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.) The authors take pains to establish the men of No Gun Ri as dropouts and throwaways teenage rejects of a postwar society obsessed with prosperity and anti-communism. That in turn makes it easier to show them, as well as the Korean civilians, as victims of a government that sent them to Korea to fight a civil war on the side of squalid local tyranny. That perspective is defensible but, experts might argue, scarcely definitive. This volume, with its focus on personal experience, is correspondingly best understood as advocacy reportage, eschewing critical analysis by concentrating on the victims on both sides of the rifles.