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Did the Associated Press Misrepresent the Events that Happened at No Gun Ri?

Editor's Note In the following article Mr. Bateman criticizes the Associated Press account of the events that took place in late July 1950 at No Gun Ri during the Korean War. In an attempt at fairness, HNN sent Mr. Bateman's article to the authors of the Associated Press story. This prompted an interesting exchange. Readers may judge for themselves who gets the better of the argument.

In the fall of 1999 the Associated Press (AP) pushed out onto the wire a story that bore all the hallmarks of a blockbuster. It was a story about an incident that involved the deliberate killing of civilians during the Korean War. According to the story, this massacre took place under the direction or orders of American officers. In the story American soldiers slaughtered up to 400 South Korean civilians at a place called No Gun Ri. The story said that this occurred between 26 and 29 July 1950. It was an amazing account, made all the stronger because at first it was seemingly confirmed from both South Korean claimants and a host of American veterans. What made it all the more marketable was the apparent depth of the investigation conducted by the AP. They said, in their story and later interviews, that these interviews and research lasted over eighteen months. The whole account, however, later turned out to be plagued with problems. Problems of historical accuracy and problems of advocacy and an increasing sense of conspiracy theory not often found in major media outlets. It is a problem that appears to continue.

For my part, when I read their version of events something didn't seem right. But what could I know? I am just an academic historian. Eventually I researched and examined the primary source evidence myself, because what I was reading from the AP and hearing from the veterans with whom I was conducting interviews didn't match up. Nor did the archival material I examined. In one particular example, the AP witness who said that he was the machine-gunner who fired at point-blank range into the civilians, had problems with his facts.

This was the man who said that he was the one who turned his machine-gun, under orders, on the mass of defenseless refugees. The range, according to this witness, was about fifty yards. He was the ninth, of eleven American sources, but the only one that said anything nearly this direct and dramatic in print. (One other machine-gunner said he fired one belt of ammunition from “hundreds” of yards away in the general direction of the civilians, on his own, without orders, after some generalized shooting started.)

In the initial story only one other veteran even said that he'd heard any sort of order, and only a few others said that they'd fired a weapon anywhere in the direction of the civilians. The fact that this one man said that he'd done it all made him (in addition to a really juicy quote he gave about hearing the cries of the slaughtered) the AP's star witness. This man, Edward Daily, said that he fired a .30 caliber light machine-gun, at extremely close range, into a mass of civilians and sustained that fire until hundreds were dead. He said that the firing went, generally, on for days. On top of that he had been the AP's link to many other veterans. These facts combined to make him their star witness from the American side.

I discovered that Ed Daily was a fraud in the Spring of 2000. It was easy. Ed had a published bio in the front of his self-published books. The bio said that he won a battlefield commission on 10 August, was captured a few days later during fighting along the Naktong River, escaped, rejoined his unit and fought through the rest of the war. It listed his awards as including the Distinguished Service Cross, multiple Silver Stars, and three Purple Hearts.

The reason it was easy was because the Army does everything in triplicate. If Ed's bio was correct there should have been, at least, the following records: S1 records indicating his promotion to sergeant at around the time of No Gun Ri, S1 records at the regiment and G1 at Division records of his discharge for the purpose of accepting a commission, a listing in both of his status change to “missing” or “captured,” some account in the Regimental diary (along with all the others) that he was killed, captured or wounded, a G2 debriefing (when he re-entered friendly lines) at Division, a record of a stay in the hospital, G1 records again when he went back to his regiment, G1 records submitting him for the Distinguished Service Cross, and on and on. Near as I can tell, just in the months of July, August and September there should have been no less than 16 records that recorded Ed Daily's name. These were the records the AP used to create their account of No Gun Ri, which they claimed to have pored over exhaustively.

I figured it was only right to tell the AP reporters about the fraud in their midst, so they could publicly correct that aspect, at least, of their story. I talked to them, explained all the records and the problems. The lead reporter from the AP, Charles Hanley, blew me off telling me that they'd heard of doubts, but that he'd seen enough material to believe that Ed Daily was who he said he was. This stunned me, considering the mass of material the AP had. It was the Spring of 2000. (Hanley's emails, verbatim, are in my book. I didn't want to quote him out of context, so I put the e-mails in there complete from salutation to closing.)

Just a few days later the AP won the Pulitzer Prize.

“Ahhhhhhh,” I thought. Now I understand.

In late 2000 the now-defunct media watchdog magazine Brill's Content revealed that even as early as 7 December 1999, just two months after their story hit the wires, and weeks before the AP was to submit the story of No Gun Ri for the Pulitzer Prize, the AP learned that their central American witness (who had, in turn, given them other “witnesses”) was not exactly the battlefield-commissioned Distinguished Cross winner he portrayed himself to be, but was something far different. (Ed Daily was a not a battlefield hero, he was a clerk and a jeep mechanic at the time of No Gun Ri in a support unit in the rear areas.) Unfortunately for the reputation of American journalism the Brill's Content discovery was not to come for another year, and at the time the AP kept that knowledge of their source's false records to themselves.

The irony is that they could have had another good story there. You see, Mr. Daily had collected nearly $400,000 from the VA over the years in benefits for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Since his uncovering was something even an amateur historian could uncover with ease, it should be expected that the AP would have found out about him as well. By simply reading the archival sources they made so much hay about in their original story they would have found the truth, if they'd been willing to look at it like historians. In those records Daily should have appeared no less than sixteen times in twelve different types of records ... if he actually was who he had claimed to be.

So it was that in April of 2000 the AP won its first ever Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting, in large part upon the apparent strength of their “digging” into history and “uncovering” a story that had long been forgotten. (Ignoring the fact that the story of civilian deaths in the Korean War was neither a surprise to, nor “forgotten” by, academic historians of the Korean War.) In article after article the members of the AP team of reporters, Charles Hanley, Martha Mendoza and Sang Hun Choe, wrote about how exhaustive was their research into archives and played up the idea that the Pentagon was covering up the story, even to the point of denying that there were any troops at No Gun Ri at all.

At this point I should note that my own position on No Gun Ri, published in my book No Gun Ri, A Military History of the Korean War Incident , is that something bad did happen at No Gun Ri. I believe that civilians were killed there, anywhere from eight to thirty-five of them by direct fire during a 30-90 second fusillade of direct fire coming from elements of the Second Battalion, 7th Cavalry. I believe that this did not occur as a result of deliberate orders, but because of a screw-up on the part of one American sergeant, a lack of control by the officers, and some bad decisions on the part of a couple of South Korean guerillas who were among the civilians. I believe that it is also plausible that somewhere further up the valley, beyond line-of-sight from No Gun Ri, the USAF may well have strafed civilians as well. (That is no surprise to any historian. My position is mundane. Basically my opinion on the USAF in that period is that if it was bipedal and in Korea that summer, the USAF attacked it. That goes for civilians, friendly South Korean troops, North Koreans, and the US Army and Marine Corps. There are plenty of accounts of all of these occurring. The 7th Cavalry itself was strafed by the USAF on July 27, 1950, while at No Gun Ri!)

I am a 7th Cavalry officer, but more relevant is the fact that I am also a historian. Accuracy is what matters to me, but also justice. Along the same lines of my position on No Gun Ri, I believe (and am working towards) that the Army should rescind the Medals of Honor given to the soldiers and officers of my regiment in the wake of Wounded Knee in 1890. I'd also like to see the campaign streamer for that period (Pine Ridge) revoked and taken off of the regimental and Army colors. And as for my position on more modern events, I've published the opinion that former Senator Kerrey should stand trial for a war crime he committed in Vietnam, and that far more people than just lieutenant Calley should have stood trial for the massacre at My Lai 4. I think that Calley, his company commander, and at least half his platoon should probably still be in a military prison for their atrocity. So I am not exactly what one might call an apologist. But the AP, well, their story doesn't hold water. Never did. What's worse, they “sexed it up” by making it look like there was some sort of massive cover-up.

Their primary piece of evidence for this “Pentagon Denies” conspiracy-like sub-thesis was a statement from a civilian lawyer under contract to the Department of Defense who was then serving in South Korea as a counsel for the US Army. When queried about the South Korean villagers' claims this lawyer contacted a sergeant at another headquarters who apparently told her that there were no troops there at that time. The AP milked this “denial” for all it was worth, ignoring earlier statements by the Center for Military History which contradicted their version of reality.

See, the Army published it's official history of that period decades ago, and there in black and white it shows the units that were in the vicinity of No Gun Ri. One has to ask, “Why didn't the AP, when given the ‘official' (and historically inaccurate) denial by a low-level functionary ask a second question? Why didn't they point to the Army's own history, and the maps right there in black and white, and say, “Are you sure you weren't where your own history says you were?” That would seem like the honest thing to do. Instead they took this minor, low-level “official word” and went with it as is.

Just after the AP won their Pulitzer several bastions of American journalism, to include the New York Times, the Washington Post, and US News and World Report, revealed that the AP's central witness was a complete fraud. None of them could get Daily to admit it (he wouldn't talk to anyone but the AP by then) but the AP stood by their man. At least until they went back and examined all the documents that I'd told them about months earlier when they blew me off. Finally, after he was exposed in all of these bastions of American journalism, the AP managed to get him to say that he admitted that the records appeared to prove that he wasn't there. Wow, only three months after they told me that they believed in him and that my historical records weren't worth all the extensive and exhaustive research they had done using all the tools of journalism.

That man, Edward Daily, is now serving 21 months in a federal penitentiary for defrauding the government of more than $400,000 in VA benefits.

Then the AP's story shifted. “Ed Daily is not central to our story,” became the refrain . Cries for the AP to hand back the Pulitzer were heard for a short while, but the AP refused to do so, although their reporters certainly became defensive rather than contrite. Their major form of counter-attack was to allege the journalism equivalent of a “vast right wing conspiracy” by suggesting that the discrediting of their story was all orchestrated by the Pentagon to whitewash history.

Now one of the AP authors is at it again. In a recent article in the influential journalism magazine Editor and Publisher, which detailed the AP's most recent stories calculating the number of civilian casualties during the recent war in Iraq , E&P's reporter quoted Charles Hanley as saying this, "With No Gun Ri, we had to deal with a Pentagon that held -- essentially for years -- that the U.S. military was not even in the area of the massacre."

Mr. Hanley is changing the facts to meet his preferred position. As stated above, you can read for yourself the Army's official history that shows that, historically speaking, the Army darned well did say that it was in the area. Simply stated, the military published several thousand copies of its official histories of the Korean War, all of which contain detailed maps and descriptions stating exactly where the U.S. forces were, and when. And they all stated that the Army was, in fact, there. Mr. Hanley is claiming what appears to be a conspiracy to obfuscate. But conspiracies require central control and a plan, and what actually occurred was far more mundane. One lawyer talked to one sergeant and made a stupid historically inaccurate statement, which nobody asked a second question about.

The volume of these histories of the Korean War that deal directly with the troop disposition at the time of Mr. Hanley's version of events is Roy Appleman's book South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu (Washington, DC: Center for Military History, United States Army, US Government Printing Office, 1992). The book was first published in 1961 and was reprinted a decade ago. This volume is widely available in academic and research libraries around the world, and the text of the book is also entirely available online. (For those interested in getting a hard copy the book is still for sale by the Government Printing Office Superintendent of Documents, Mail Stop: SSOP, Washington , DC 20402-9328.)

Specifically, if one wants to evaluate Mr. Hanley's claim that the “Pentagon held that the US Military was not even in the area,” one might read pages 197-200 and 203-24 (if you're in a rush you can do this online) which give the locations of the U.S. forces as being between two towns named Yongdong and Hwanggan … not to belabor the point, but that is where No Gun Ri is located. Grab a map, take a look. The village itself was too small to be named independently on the maps used by the Army historian that wrote the book (Roy Appleman), but he's fairly detailed in explaining, in an official US Army history written almost 40 years before Mr. Hanley's factually challenged “scoop,” that U.S. troops were at that location at that time.

Mr. Hanley, it would seem, would like us to believe that “the Pentagon” (as though the military is some sort of monolith) was conducting a cover up with a denial that “no troops were in the area,” as he puts it. That would sure make him look a lot smarter, and make it appear that he really had to dig to prove that the Army was between Yongdong and Hwanggan in South Korea in the last week of July 1950. It would make it look like he really had to work hard for that Pulitzer. But to do that he himself has to cover up the fact that the military, long ago, published that very information and that it's been available in public libraries for decades, and online for half a decade.

But the AP didn't stop there. I wish they had, but they didn't. Instead they went after the author that told them about the problem with their sources in the first place! So there I was, an independent scholar, conducting historical research on my own and working towards the publication with a small publishing company (since the Pulitzer Prize winning AP team already cornered the market on New York major publishers for their version of events) when out of the blue one of the Pulitzer-Prize winning AP reporters tried to get my book crushed . (Another account of the AP attacking appeared here . ) (And another one here . ) They failed, fortunately, as just about every institution of American journalism supporting the First Amendment came to the defense of the solitary historian facing censorship from the largest news organization in human history. But the incredible thing is that they tried.

Eventually my book did come out. It's a fairly standard academic work. With thirty-seven pages of end notes (almost a thousand notes in all) documenting every single statement of fact, the location in archives for each source, to include the transcripts of every interview conducted, it has been hailed in sources as divergent as the Skeptical Inquirer magazine, H-War (part of MSU's “H-Net” academic resource network), the Journal of Military History (not available online yet, but it will appear through J-Stor eventually), and numerous other places. The research is eminently reproducible. That's why we historians use footnotes after all. (By the way, by way of issuing a mea culpa [since it's unlikely that there will ever be a second print run] there are two mistakes in the book. The 7 th Cav arrived at one location at 5 am not 5 pm in one area, and I never mentioned that at No Gun Ri, at the time the alleged massacre was taking place, there were numerous reporters visiting the 7 th Cavalry HQs from news organizations like the Times of London …to include one reporter from the AP! But then the AP neglected to mention that as well, and I thought that would be rubbing salt in their wounds at the time that I was writing the manuscript. I'm less generous now.) But my book was small, from a publisher in rural Pennsylvania, and the AP got a lucrative contract from Henry Holt publishing. Why has my book been getting solid academic accolades from historians when theirs has not?

The AP's version of the events at No Gun Ri, in their articles and in their later 313 page book, unfortunately, does not include footnotes. Publisher's Weekly got to the point in their review of the AP's book (seen right up front on the amazon.com website for their book) by saying, “The authors take pains to establish the men of No Gun Ri as dropouts and throwaways teenage rejects of a postwar society obsessed with prosperity and anti-communism. That in turn makes it easier to show them, as well as the Korean civilians, as victims of a government that sent them to Korea to fight a civil war on the side of squalid local tyranny. That perspective is defensible but, experts might argue, scarcely definitive. 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.” Now I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want my work of history called “scarcely definitive” or “best understood as advocacy reportage.” Fortunately, as one can see, mine wasn't. Why? Maybe because I used historical methods, provided documentation for all my sources with almost a thousand end-notes, and wrote history.

For the AP's part, despite requests, they won't release any of their interview materials. They claim to have dozens of sources that confirm their version of events, but refuse to provide the names and transcripts of those sources, and they repeatedly claim that the depth of their research makes their work unassailable. In short, they keep asking us not to look behind the curtain.

I am a historian. Looking behind curtains, even those held by powerful institutions such as the Associated Press, is what I do when dealing with history.


For four years, the writer of the above, an officer of the 7th Cavalry Regiment, has been engaged in a tiresome campaign to try to discredit the solid journalism that first brought to light the 7th Cavalry's mass killing of South Korean refugees at No Gun Ri, journalism whose strength was eventually recognized by eleven major national and international awards.

The bizarre character of this man's attack on our integrity is, we hope, self-evident.

Rather than detail the scores of egregious errors, misreadings, major omissions, baseless assertions, gross distortions and outright fantasies and fabrications he has purveyed, in this case on an otherwise respectable website, let us point out a simple salient fact he does not tell HNN readers:

The U.S. Army in January 2001, after a 14-month investigation, affirmed the central elements of AP's 1999 report on No Gun Ri, and the president of the United States issued a statement of deep regret.

We'll point out, too, one other fact, which should be enough to caution readers to beware of anything and everything this man asserts:

In the "thousand-endnote book" he is so proud of, he devotes only one citation to his single central ``finding,'' that "two guerrillas"' hid among the No Gun Ri refugees and fired on U.S. troops.

We checked the cited document, which the author, wisely, didn't reproduce.

It's a regimental logistics journal in which a lone sentence fragment inventories two enemy guns taken somewhere in the regimental area. It says nothing more. It gives no time, date, place or unit involved in finding the weapons. It says nothing about refugees, guerrillas, No Gun Ri or anything else. But Robert Bateman chose to hijack that irrelevant document and arbitrarily attribute those unrelated weapons to two imagined ``guerrillas'' among the refugees, apparently to give his useless volume a headline "revelation."

Is that what HNN readers consider "historical research"? If so, you'll find scores of similar, sometimes breathtaking assaults on the truth throughout his writing, both here in his HNN diatribe and in his book.

Readers interested in a factually based account will find that in our book, `The Bridge at No Gun Ri (Henry Holt and Company). Excerpts and reviews can be found online at this website: http://www.henryholt.com/nogunri/index.htm. At a link off that site, http://www.henryholt.com/nogunri/documents.htm, one will find dozens of declassified orders and other important and recently unearthed U.S. military documents, including thirteen showing that the U.S. Army resorted repeatedly to a policy of indiscriminately killing refugees in the early months of the Korean War.

Those orders are the most historically significant discoveries in our years-long investigation of No Gun Ri. Not surprisingly, Robert Bateman's polemic-apologia ignores them. We still await and are ready to help qualified, and honest, historians who are interested in investigating this landscape of civilian killings further, to determine how high in the chain of command responsibility lay.


One wonders why the AP continues to refuse to release the complete transcripts of their interviews with veterans, or their notes about interviews, or to footnote in any way their own book so that others might reproduce their research. I look forward to the day when they produce a work with even a single footnote. But then, I am a mere academic historian.

I believe that the web-based reproduction of a sliver of the selected documents the authors choose to share with the public is hardly the stuff of responsible history. My own book relies 100% upon materials that have been donated to public access archives (or originated in the same) and my research is completely reproducible. That, after all is what footnotes are for. I look forward to the day that the AP acts in a historically responsible manner when dealing with history and does the same.

I am also reminded that there appears to be in this story a validation for the assertion that journalists provide "the first swipe at history."

I dearly wish, and appeal to the Associated Press, to do as I have done and donate the complete and sum total of their research materials and interviews to a publicly accessible archive so that their research may be assessed by historians today and for centuries to come. Humanity is dimished if the AP fails to do so. After all, what has the AP to lose? They are the largest news organization in human history, and if I, a solitary historian can do so, surely they can as well. Only humanity may gain from the freedom of information and the release of this privately held and restricted information which AP retains and of which the AP has heretofore only reproduced portions which were already in the public record and domain.

It is, of course, somewhat ironic that the AP continues to refuse access to the public to this historically significant information. By not donating these materials to a public library or public archive of national standing but instead refuses to release it to anyone they abrogate their responsibility as public servants of fact, since they are now dabbling in history, not contemporary events.

Witnesses (in the AP clippings and my own long verbatim transcripts) said there was firing from among the refugees. The AP reported the Korean government found Soviet-weapon bullet casings in the area. A witness (cited verbatim and in context) said he saw the weapons there in the immediate aftermath. I told the AP about the S4 logs some time before they won the Pulitzer and gave them the information they needed to see the same information for themselves in the archives. (Also citied verbatim in my book. As is the exact location of the document in the National Archives.) The S4 log shows the weapons turned in after the event. Am I missing something? Is there a historian out there that could ask for more evidence than this?

Multiple witnesses to the event and the presence of the weapons, forensic evidence (the shell casings) uncovered by a separate sovereign government and documented by the AP itself, and documentary evidence that the weapons were properly turned in through channels...all cited (and footnoted so the research can be reproduced) in my book. What would satisfy the Associated Press? Must one present videotape as well?

The AP asserts that the government supports their version of events. I suggest reading the actual report, since it supports my version as well. I reproduced, verbatim, the executive summary in my own book. Something the AP ignores. Specifically the report stated that "an unknown number" died at No Gun Ri....hardly a resounding claim for the AP.

This is especially true since I also could (but am not inclined to) state something similar. I could, in honesty, say that, "the U.S. Army in January 2001, after a 14-month investigation, affirmed the central elements of Bateman's 2002 book on No Gun Ri." That would be sequentially illogical, but factual, since the U.S. Army's finding (also reproduced in my book) is equally as true for my work as it is for theirs.

But why not read the AP's book, and mine, and decide for yourself?


Caught red-handed in a document shell game, Maj. Bateman sees no alternative but to brazenly claim again that the document says what it doesn't say. The document is here for HNN readers to see. They can see it says nothing to link two unattributed weapons in a combat zone to No Gun Ri, guerrillas, refugees, the critical date of July 26, 1950, the battalion that was involved at No Gun Ri, or anything else.

This is invention posing as history, to put it mildly.

Indeed, if one wanted to SPECULATE about the source of the inventoried weapons, an explanation is at hand: The regiment's war diary notes that ``two enemy'' were captured the day before, three miles from No Gun Ri, in a different valley.

Bateman asks, "Is there a historian out there that could ask for more evidence than this?"

What the historians I know ask for, Mr. Bateman, is fact, not fantasy. As for us, we ask only that you leave honest journalists alone.


Mr. Hanley's request that"As for us, we ask only that you leave honest journalists alone" is, to say the least, ironic. He has called my place of employment, he has called my boss at work (to try and get my boss to stop my research, before I'd even published a word), he called and wrote to my editor to try and get the book stopped. He has called and written to my friends. He has sent historians who had the temerity to write favorable reviews of my book scathing letters causing great emotional distress. All of this occurring"behind the scenes." I have engaged in public dialogue, using the accepted academic forums of reviews and articles (and finally my book), about the nature of our competing accounts. Yes, there is irony in his appeal.