'I Still Hear Screams'

Now a 62-year-old farmer from Joo Gong Ri, Chung Goo Ho is one of about 20 people who lived through the massacre. Last week, he discussed the ordeal with NEWSWEEK's B. J. Lee.

I'll never forget how hot that day was. It was July 26, 1950, and I was 13 years old. My mother, father, younger sister and I were walking south along a railway near the village of No Gun Ri. Accompanied by U.S. soldiers, we were part of a group of about 500 people who were trying to escape invaders from North Korea. Suddenly, several U.S. warplanes began firing at us, and dropping their bombs.

In only a few minutes, the world became a kind of hell; there were bodies falling and blood splashing everywhere. Perhaps a hundred people died there and another hundred fled into the mountain hills. The U.S. soldiers told us to go under the two 10-meter-high tunnels below a railway bridge. About 300 people waited there for hours. Leaving was impossible; late that afternoon, American soldiers in nearby trenches shot and killed some people when they tried to run away.

When it got dark, the soldiers aimed searchlights on us. Then they began shooting at the crowd. About 100 people who could run fast, including my father, fled. But most of the women and children had to remain. The shooting continued sporadically for three days and nights, and the bodies started piling up, from the entrance inward. To dodge bullets we tried to hide behind the corpses. I thought I was going to die.

On the second night, my mother was shot. At the time, she was hugging me and my younger sister to her breast to protect us from the gunfire. She was killed by four bullets to her head and her back. My sister and I could do nothing but wait. We had nothing to eat and we drank bloody water out of a nearby stream. When the U.S. soldiers retreated on the third day, we were among only about 20 people who were still alive.

I still have nightmares about that night, and I can still hear the last screams of my mother. I still don't know why hundreds of civilians had to be killed by American soldiers.