Synopses & Reviews
The untold human story behind the killings 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 killed a large group of South Korean refugees, mostly women and children, early in the Korean War. On the eve of that pivotal conflicts fiftieth anniversary, their reports brought to light a story that had been suppressed for decades. The story made headlines around the world and sparked an official investigation by the Pentagon that confirmed the allegations the U.S. military had dismissed, and Charles Hanley, Sang-Hun Choe, and Martha Mendoza were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting.
In the summer of 1950, U.S. military forces opened fire on a group of South Korean refugees at a railroad trestle near the village of No Gun Ri. Survivors said hundreds died, mostly women and children. Retreating U.S. commanders had issued orders to shoot approaching civilians to guard against North Korean infiltrators among refugee columns.
In The Bridge at No Gun Ri, the three journalists tell the larger, human story behind this dark chapter of the Korean War through the eyes of the people, both Korean and American, who lived through it. The soldiers were green recruits of the U.S. occupation army in Japan thrown unprepared into the frontlines of war, teenagers who viewed unarmed farmers as enemies, led by officers who had never commanded men in battle. The Koreans were peasant families trapped in their ancestral valley between the North Korean invaders and the American intervention force.
In a powerful, richly detailed narrative, The Bridge at No Gun Ri brings to life these American GIs and Korean villagers, the high-level decision-making that led to their fatal encounter, the terror of the three-day slaughter, the harrowing months of war that followed and the memories and ghosts that forever haunted the survivors. The Bridge at No Gun Ri also presents for the first time the full documented background of a broad landscape of refugee killings that lasted into 1951.
Based on extensive archival research, including newly unearthed documents that show unmistakably where responsibility lay for widespread civilian killings, and more than five hundred interviews with U.S. veterans and Korean survivors, The Bridge at No Gun Ri is an authoritative account of the terrifying events of July 1950 a long-buried secret from a misunderstood war.
"The Bridge at No Gun Ri will become a classic in the literature of modern warfare" Bruce Cumings, Norman and Edna Freehling Professor of History, University of Chicago
"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....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....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." Publishers Weekly
"In this book, [the authors] provide extensive detail, utilizing firsthand accounts by refugees and soldiers as well as considerable documentary evidence. The result is a fascinating but gut-wrenching account of a tragedy. Of course, the questions this account poses Who is to 'blame'? How could the slaughter have been avoided? Was this a 'war crime'? cannot be satisfactorily answered; to do so, one would need a map of the human heart." Booklist (starred review)
"A wartime slaughter just waiting to happen, and then did costing hundreds of innocent civilian lives is unspooled here in all its misery, by the investigative AP reporters who won a Pulitzer for breaking the story....[I]n crisp and forceful prose, the authors explain the roots of the Korean debacle: how Cold War politicos found Korea 'a symbolic battle ground of ideologies'; how a broad streak of racism wound its way through American military thinking; how the reactionary Syngman Rhee turned the country into a theater of fear; and, worst of all, how No Gun Ri, like My Lai, was only the tip of the civilian-killing, scorched-earth iceberg....A wrenching story. No one who reads it will question again why Korea is never evoked when our nation's military past is put on display." Kirkus (starred review)
"[T}his book tells a grim but true story. The authors have done their research and tell an excellent tale, one that the U.S. Army tried to forget." Library Journal
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 supressed 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.
About the Author
Charles J. Hanley, Sang-Hun Choe and Martha Mendoza were awarded the 2000 Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting for breaking the No Gun Ri story.
Hanley is a special correspondent with the Associated Press International Desk in New York who has covered a half dozen wars over thirty years. He is a U.S. Army veteran of Vietnam.
Choe is an Associated Press reporter in Seoul, South Korea. Also a military veteran, Choe received a special award for his No Gun Ri work from the Korean Journalists Association.
Mendoza, the recipient of a John S. Knight Fellowship at Stanford University, is an Associated Press national reporter in San Jose, California, who has won numerous awards for her investigative work.
Associated Press investigative researcher Randy Herschaft, who was the fourth member of the Pulitzer team and contributed to this book, is an expert in public records and archival and electronic research.