The Bridge at No Gun Ri is not another grisly account of an organized mass killing of South Korean villagers by American soldiers and pilots but it is a true, the most factual to-date, story of the Korean War, untainted by the usual flag-waving - "defending a peace-loving, democratic South Korea against an unprovoked foreign invasion".
The book recounts how two groups of humans - a group of South Korean villagers eking out subsistence living in dirt-poor Korea and a group of Americans carrying on the 'fabled' tradition of the US 7th Cavalry Regiment, the 'Custer's Regiment' - met at a place called No Gun Ri in South Korea, on July 26, 1950. The villagers, mostly women and children, were bombed and strafed by American war planes from the air and gunned down by American troops on the ground at point-blank. The "buffalo soldiers" made a fun game out of shooting toddlers and then driving over their victims - dead, dying and alive - and squashing their skulls.
An aerial map showing No Gun Ri and possible targets of American air attack sites. No Gun Ri is located a few miles south of Taejon, South Korea.
The No Gun Ri rampage was not an isolated incident. Studies made by American experts of Korean War veterans show that more than 30% of Americans killed unarmed people in Korea and that more than 30% had witnessed fellow Americans killing unarmed persons in Korea. More significantly, the rampage was not an isolated individual act, but it was an organized act ordered by US Army commanders.
The No Gun Ri rampage was not the first incident of American soldiers killing women and children. The book traces the checkered history of the 7th Cavalry Regiment. The US 7th Cavalry Regiment was formed in October 1866 with the mandate to pacify the Plains Indians. It was commanded by Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer, a "Brevet" Major General, the youngest ever at age 23 of the US Civil War. General Custer was mustered out of the Army when the Civil War ended and his rank was reduced to his "peace-time" rank of Lt. Col.
In November 1864, an Army unit attacked the Cheyenne village of Chief Black Kettle and killed 125 Indians, mostly women and children. This incident, known as the Sand Creek Massacre, made the Plains Indians fearful and hateful of the "buffalo" soldiers and Custer faced a hostile Indian nation. For some odd reason, Custer left his command without authorization to be with his wife and was arrested for AWOL. He was court-martialed, convicted and suspended from the Army for one year without pay. However, Customer's sentence was rescinded and he was reinstated.
On June 25, 1876, Custer let his 7th Cavalry and attacked an Indian village at the Big Horn Valley. Custer and 225 of his men were killed near the Big Horn River. The 7th Regiment, after losing almost half of its strength at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, was reinforced under a new regimental commander and went after the Indians to avenge the death of their comrades. On December 29, 1890, the 7th cavalry killed 370 Indian women and children at Wounded Knee, South Dakota.
General Custer's fictional 'Last Stand' at Little Big Horn.
The Indians under Chief Big Foot were being escorted to a reservation and the soldiers were supposed to protect them against Indian scalp hunters. Instead, the soldiers became scalp hunters themselves and hunted down those few women and babies who had escaped the initial volley. The book points out that the No Gun Ri victims were under American "protection" when the protectors turned into killers.
The 'official' history of the 7th Cavalry Regiment proudly proclaims that the its fine record of fighting 'savage Indians' were invisible struggle between the aborigines and an advancing civilization. For many Americans, the Wounded Knee Massacre was a "sweet" revenge for the "savage' murder of Gen. Custer and his brave men.
The 7th Cavalry saw some action in Cuba.. In 1904, the 7th was dispatched to the Philippines to fight Filipino nationalists guerrillas fighting to expel all foreign invaders. The Regiment was based at Camp McGrath, Batangas Province and later at Fort William McKinley, Rizal.
7th Cavalry Filipino scouts.
The 7th employed their tactics of scorched earth, proven so effective in subduing the Plains Indians, against Filipino nationalists. Whole villages were burned and wiped out and unarmed Filipinos, women and children included - were killed without mercy. To the troopers, all Filipinos looked alike and like the Red Savages, and in fact, they called the natives Apaches or gooks.
One trooper wrote home: "I am in my glory when I can sight my gun on some dark skin and pull the trigger". He went on to say that his squad killed more than one thousands dark-skinned Filipino gooks in one single village alone. Gen. Arthur MacArthur was the military governor of Manila at the time and defended his soldiers' civilian massacres as "carrying out the civilizing mission of its Aryan ancestors".
Decades later, the 7th Cavalry Regiment came under the command of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the son of the Aryan racist Arthur MacArthur. The 7th saw actions in the Pacific campaigns and when WWII ended, the Regiment's 2nd battalion was given the honor of escorting Gen. MacArthur to his quarters and later it was assigned to guard his residence in Tokyo until the Korean War broke out.
The 7th Cavalry was tasked to disarm and secure not only Tokyo but all of Honshu, which gave the troopers to steal valuable properties from the helpless defeated enemy populace. In the guise of disarming, the troopers confiscated samurai swords and arms centuries old and priceless, and many of these later showed up in antique shops un America. The troopers guarded captured Japanese gold and other valuables and felt free to steal gold bars.
Life was good and easy for the 7th Cavalry troopers in Japan. A lissome Japanese woman could be had for a Lucky Strike. An apartment could be bought for a few hundred dollars, that included a live-in 'gook girl'. Many troopers stole Army properties and sold them on the black markets - for sex and good life in Japan. Some of them sent money to their kin in America to share in the good fortune. The troopers spent some eight million dollars more than their military pay - every month in Japan. Corruption was not limited to the lowly privates and it went to high-ranks. For example, the Tokyo provost martial was found stealing from confiscated contraband and sent to America in disgrace.
The 7th Cavalry troopers did not stop at stealing: they raped some 300 Japanese girls every day, ran down Japanese pedestrians and interfered with buses. The Americans could not be touched by Japanese police and were free to commit crimes at will. Reporting on American crimes was forbidden and few knew about this dark side of the troopers. The 7th Cav troopers, all white, treated the Japanese as sub-humans and on commander or politicians back home told them otherwise. This racism ran to the top of the American command in Japan - "No American officers with yellow wives" was one of the standing orders.
The 7th Cav troopers came into contact with the one million or so Koreans resident in Japan. Gen. MacArthur helped rewrite Japan's post-war constitution that gives Koreans in Japan a second-citizen status - the 'niggers' of Japan. The Japanese Koreans were viewed as trouble makers just 'niggers' were in America. In 1948, US troops shot into a crowd of Koreans demonstrating for human rights in Kobe, killing five Koreans.
Three years earlier, Gen. Hodge, commanding a force of 78,000 troops to occupy South Korea, ordered his men to treat Koreans as 'enemies'. In fact, Hodge had the defeated Japanese as his friends and and allowed Japanese police and bureaucrats to stay put in Korea. Hodge rule of South Korea began on a sour note: he ordered his Japanese police to keep Koreans away and looked away when Japanese shot and killed Koreans welcoming the American occupiers.
Photo: left to right, Noble, Rhee and Hodge in Seoul, 1948.
By the time Hodge's military government was replaced by Rhee Syngman's Republic of Korea (ROK), ultra-rightists, pro-Japanese traitors and pro-American opportunists took over Korean economy, military and police organs. Most of the leftists and centrists were either dead or fled Rhee's American-supported tyranny or went into hiding or in jail. Today, South Korean historians refer to this era - the Dark Chapter of ROK.
In the early hours of June 25, 1950, North Korea's People's Army poured into South Korea and Rhee's 100,000 men Army crumbled. Rhee fled Seoul in panic leaving behind most of his cabinet members and troops and pre-recorded speech falsely claiming that his Army was beating back the invaders and telling the residents of Seoul to stay put. Rhee ordered to main bridge over the Han River blown hours before the invaders reached it. The premature blowing up the bridge killed several hundred civilians and soldiers, and stranded thousands of wounded soldiers and several ROKA divisions on the wrong side the Han River.
Rhee did not stand alone for long - his American friends came to his rescue. The 7th Cavalry Regiment came galloping to save Rhee Syngman's neck. The troopers boarded the USNS Shanks on July 22, 1950 and a few hours later landed at Pohang, miles south of the frontline. The 7th Cav troopers dug in north of Pohang and drew the first Korean blood - they shot and killed one ROKA soldier and a civilian, mistaking them for enemy soldiers. The troopers, mostly green and flabby from years of easy life in Japan, were told by their commanders that North Korean gooks would throw down their arms and flee at the first sight of white soldiers. Maj. Gen. Hobart R. Gay, commanding the First Cavalry Division, was worried that he might miss the action unless he hurried his troops to the front. The 24th Division of Maj. Gen. William Dean was already in combat with the invaders and was about to finish them up.
By July 13, 1950, the 24th Division lost more than 3,000 troops and its commanding general, Dean, was captured by the invaders. The 24th fell apart and Taejon fell. The defeat was a wakeup call to the over-confident commanders in Tokyo, who suddenly realized that they might be humiliated by a gook army. Pilots were ordered to bomb and strafe any "target" in Korea.
Photo: North Koreans moving into Taejon, after smashing the 24th Infantry of Maj. Gen. Dean, who taken prisoner.
Thousands of ROKA soldiers were killed by friendly fire by reckless pilots. US planes were ordered to bomb and strafe any group of people moving south - including South Korean refugees fleeing from the invaders. The book cites specific commands issued to kill unarmed South Korean civilians. Such military orders, issued by senior US commanders. are in violation of the 1907 Hague Treaty.
It is true that not all American pilots followed the order to shoot South Korean refugees. Col. Turner C. Rogers protested o his commanding general that the strafing of civilians "may cause embarrassment to the US Air Force and to the US government." The US Army commanders in Korea told the Air Force that groups of more than eight clad in white were to be attacked even in the area held by UN forces. Thus, for example, on July 25, Korean police, directed by 7th Cav officers, herded South Korean villagers into an open field near Kumchon and called in US warplanes to kill them. The US pilots logged in 13 enemy vehicles destroyed, 6 damaged, 125 enemy soldiers killed right in the backyard of the 1st Cav Divison HQ! The fact of the matter is that there were no North Korean troops in that area at the time and the pilots made it up.
With the defeat of the 24th Infantry Division, the 7th Cav Regiment was moved up to face the enemy at Youngdong. It was aided by its sister regiments of the 1st Cav Division, the 5th and 8th Cav regiments - some 10,000 men in all. Gen. Gay ordered all ROK forces, including the police, out of his war zone. He also ordered all civilians evacuated to the rear area and any civilian found in evacuated areas should be shot. Accordingly, troopers of the 5th and 8th regiments were sent out to force South Korean civilians to leave their ancestral homes to the "safety" of American protection. Village after village were emptied and torched. In one village, an old woman refused to leave her home of generations. This gook-bitch was silenced by a Cav trooper.
Not all of the Cav troopers were not sitting idle in their fiox holes. Some troopers raped South Korean women - young and old, desecrated ancestral burial grounds, destroyed village funeral hearse and insulted village elders. At No Gun Ri, there were some 500 South Korean evacuees from the adjoining villages. They were told to go south by American soldiers and in fact, some American soldiers were with them, when American planes dropped bombs and began to strafe. The survivors took cover under whatever shelter they could find. The 7th Cavalry troopers opened fire on them with heavy machine guns and M-1 rifles at point blank.
The carnage lasted three days. The 'buffalo' soldiers showed no mercy and killed women, children and even infants. A little boy trying to lead his little sister to safety became a shooting target. The troopers vied to be the first to kill the boy and the girl. As in the case the Wounded Knee Massacre, women and children under the protection of the 7th Cavalry Regiment were mercilessly butchered by the protectors.
The book's account of this and many other massacres of unarmed civilians by the American military is too painful to read through. The book also describes how the US and ROK governments have attempted to first suppress and then to white-wash the shameful acts of the American servicemen in Korea.
Any one who wants the truth of the No Gun Ri Massacre and also of the Korean War must read this book. This books belongs to the bookshelf of all those who seek the truth.
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The 7th Cavalry Regiment