AP: U.S. Okayed Korean War Massacres

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The American colonel, troubled by what he was hearing, tried to stall at first. But the declassified record shows he finally told his South Korean counterpart it "would be permitted" to machine-gun 3,500 political prisoners, to keep them from joining approaching enemy forces.

In the early days of the Korean War, other American officers observed, photographed and confidentially reported on such wholesale executions by their South Korean ally, a secretive slaughter believed to have killed 100,000 or more leftists and supposed sympathizers, usually without charge or trial, in a few weeks in mid-1950.

Extensive archival research by The Associated Press has found no indication Far East commander Gen. Douglas MacArthur took action to stem the summary mass killing, knowledge of which reached top levels of the Pentagon and State Department in Washington, where it was classified "secret" and filed away.

Now, a half-century later, the South Korean government's Truth and Reconciliation Commission is investigating what happened in that summer of terror, a political bloodbath largely hidden from history, unlike the communist invaders' executions of southern rightists, which were widely publicized and denounced at the time.

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vaughn davis bornet - 7/9/2008

I very strongly urge all readers of this short extract to click on AP and go to the quite long account of the AP. This is not a simple matter. Do read the details.

Though years ago, it is indeed important. It brings up memories of scandal in Vietnam.

While one can understand why American officers on the scene might very well want hostile prisoners not to be just released later to the North Korean invaders, one wants also to believe that the West Point education of these Colonels and near Colonels was definite about wholesale slaughter.

It was indeed a country run by and populated by Koreans. But we had stature, though how much and how effective isn't clear.

Most of us have been pleased that South Korea gained its freedom, ultimately. But this sort of thing was an extremely heavy blot on the process, if it is ultimately documented, and it once again shows the deplorable stains arising out of concealment of facts when permitted up the line.

And, indeed, how far up the line? To the presidency, perhaps? Or was the cold blooded murder of thousands of Asians not then worthy of White House notice?

I once wrote a term paper (ca. 1941) on Sherman and Total War. Maybe that's why the "War is Hell" theme still gets me in the gut. I remember how hard it was to write a paragraph or so on Mai Lai when needed.

I have to say I am very upset by all this....

Vaughn Davis Bornet Ashland, Oregon
--among other things, CDR, USNR (ret)