Lt. Col. D.E. "Bud" Biteman, USAF (Ret)

Military, May 2000



During spring 1999, I received a phone call from a woman purporting to be a "researcher" wanting to know if I could personally recall "any incidents of our fighter aircraft strafing Korean refugees during the Korean War."  I immediately questioned her for further identification and the purpose of her research before answering.  But, instead of a reply, she abruptly hung up without the courtesy of further comment. 

    That phone call slipped from my thoughts until 20 Sept 1999, when I read the screaming Associated Press headlines in a major Seattle newspaper, in which reporters Sang-Hun Choe, Charles J. Hanley and Martha Mendoza described how U.S. Army troops had "slaughtered South Korean refugees" at a little village called No-Gun-Ri more than 50 years earlier.  (I believe it may have been Ms. Mendoza who called me.) 

    The shock-wave from the insinuations in the Associated Press articles generated a series of widely-scattered and lengthy phone calls and email messages from our 18FWA members, and from many others, looking for our opinion about the AP accusations, and what possible purpose they could have had in publishing such startling wartime reports at this late date. 

    My own opinion and my response…from the view of one who had not only flown many combat missions against the North Korean troops at that very time and in that same general area west of the Naktong River, but also from the more critical viewpoint of an inquisitive Intelligence Officer whose duties required him or his staff to personally interrogate each of the combat pilots of the 12th Fighter Squadron returning from their front-line combat sorties, and to forward the pertinent results to Far East Air Force headquarters. 

    On that basis, I can state unequivocally, that I never, ever, heard of any 12th Fighter Sqdn pilots of the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing, who had purposely attacked civilian refugees.  Period!  End of statement! 

    I cannot, and will not, however, claim that no civilians were injured or killed during the extremely dangerous, low level aerial attacks we carried out against the advancing North Koreans, tanks, trucks, troops or artillery. 

    The Korean War was REAL.  People on both sides were being maimed and killed every single day, many during the process of trying to save their hides in order to fight another day, as the men of the Pusan Perimeter were forced to do.  Civilians were killed—as they are in every war—but many thousands more were killed by their advancing North Korean countrymen than by the retreating UN troops, so desperately trying to establish their last, final line of defense at the Naktong River. 

    It would be no surprise to me to learn that some UN fighter planes did strafe close enough to refugee positions to actually injure or kill some of those on the ground.  I also believe that the retreating US army was tactically obligated to destroy bridges behind them to prevent their use by the enemy and had no logical options, even when the fleeing civilians insisted upon trying to cross after being warned of the dire, imminent danger. 

    With those known facts of war at hand, what possible beneficial purpose could there be behind The Associated Press’ shocking headlines during the preceding months before the 50th Anniversary of the dates in question? 

    It is my opinion that these writers have succumbed to the common, but infamous, "Tabloid Syndrome," whereby they attempt to gain notoriety for themselves, or for their current ‘cause’ through shock-effect, rather than by the traditional, but very tedious, foot-slogging research necessary to determine the true, objective facts of their claims. 

    I think that it is very, very sad that those few media personnel have chosen to despoil the gallant memories of thousands of brave servicemen and women for the sake of a few moments of fleeting personal notoriety.