The document bolsters the arguments of former U.S. servicemen who say that the U.S. military adopted a policy of directly firing on civilians during the opening weeks of the Korean War.
The Army launched its probe into soldiers’ Korean War conduct after The Associated Press published a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative report on an alleged incident at a bridge near the Korean village of No Gun Ri. According to some former servicemen, American GIs carried out a mass killing of civilians there in July 1950 after they received orders to open fire. Military leaders apparently feared that North Korean guerrillas were hiding among the refugees, the AP’s sources said.
According to ex-GIs and Koreans who say they were there, as many as 300 were killed during the alleged attack.
Memoranda used by the AP in its report showed general orders had been issued to shoot at civilians who crossed front lines.
The AP’s report has come under fire from other news organizations, including U.S. News and World Report and NBC News, who question the veracity of the AP’s sources.
A declassified memo
“The Army has requested that we strafe [fire on] all civilian refugee parties … approaching our positions,” the memo cited by CBS said. “To date, we have complied.”
The memo written by Air Force Col. Turner Rogers was found at the National Archives in College Park, Md., CBS reported.
According to the memo, the Army was concerned that “large groups of civilians, either composed of or controlled by North Korean soldiers, are infiltrating US positions.” But, the colonel warned, targeting civilians “may cause embarrassment to the Air Force.”
CBS said Army investigators looking into the No Gun Ri allegations have not found any record of the request from the Army to strafe civilians.