WASHINGTON — A yearlong Pentagon investigation has concluded that American soldiers panicked and fired into a crowd of unarmed refugees near the South Korean village of No Gun Ri in the early days of the Korean War, but it did not find conclusive evidence that the troops had orders to shoot civilians, a Defense Department official and others involved with the inquiry said.
The Pentagon's still-unpublished draft report, based on more than 100 interviews with U.S. veterans and on a review of more than a million pages of documents, would be the first formal acknowledgment by the U.S. military of its involvement in the massacre at No Gun Ri.
Defense Secretary William S. Cohen ordered the investigation after the Associated Press reported the massacre in a September 1999 article that won a Pulitzer Prize. In spring, however, one of the key sources for the AP story was found to have fabricated his account, and some other veterans quoted by the news agency acknowledged that their memories may have been faulty. Those revelations called into question whether U.S. soldiers actually shot "hundreds" of civilians on orders from their superiors, as some of the veterans originally asserted.
The draft report says Army investigators were unable to determine exactly how many civilians died after members of the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment, in the midst of a chaotic retreat and fearing that North Korean infiltrators were passing through their lines, opened fire on refugees under a railroad bridge on July 26, 1950.