Thursday, November 4, 1999

100th Battalion
vet joins Korea
probe panel

Americans have been accused
of killing South Korean
civilians in the war

By Gregg K. Kakesako


RETIRED Army Col. Young O. Kim, a highly decorated member of the 100th Battalion, has been named by the Pentagon to be part of a panel that will help in the investigation of allegations that civilians were killed at No Gun Ri during the Korean War.

Kim, who earned the Distinguished Service Cross while serving as one of the original members of the 100th Battalion in Italy in World War II, later commanded the 1st Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment with the 7th Division in the Korean War.

He is part of a seven-member panel that includes a former congressman, a former ambassador to Korea and two other retired military officers, including Gen. Robert Riscassi, former commander in chief of U.N. forces in Korea.

Kim said panel members have agreed that they must move quickly.

"But we have to be very careful to get the facts," said Kim, 80. "We want to move with speed, but we want to be sure that we get all the facts straight."

"Very, very serious allegations were made ... and it's our job to determine what happened," Kim said.

The Associated Press on Sept. 30 reported accounts by U.S. veterans and South Koreans that American soldiers at the beginning of the Korean War killed up to 400 civilians at No Gun Ri, a South Korean village.

The panel held its first meeting in the Pentagon on Tuesday and lunched with Defense Secretary William Cohen.

'We are not going to cover up
anything. It's best for America
and South Korea for us to
determine what happened.'

Young O. Kim


Army Secretary Louis Caldera is conducting the primary research, with a steering group coordinating efforts by the Pentagon and the South Korean government.

Kim's panel is the third part of the Pentagon's effort in the No Gun Ri investigation.

A Pentagon spokesman said its job is to provide oversight and advice.

Kim, who joined the 31st Division in early March 1951 shortly after it withdrew from the Chosin Reservoir, said he realizes that "a lot of strange things happen in combat."

He said he hasn't prejudged the case, but realizes that witnesses to any incident many times may have varying views of what occurred.

"I'm not implying that anyone isn't telling the truth," he said. "We need to get the facts. Nor am I implying that the incident didn't occur ... We are not going to cover up anything. It's best for America and South Korea for us to determine what happened."

The mainland-born Kim was a private first class when World War II broke out.

He was sent to Office Candidate School and was a lieutenant when he arrived at Camp Shelby in 1943 and joined the 100th Battalion.

He and Private 1st Class Alvin Akahoshi were awarded the country's second-highest medal for valor for leading a patrol at Anzio on May 16, 1944. They captured two German soldiers behind enemy lines after crawling through mine fields, wire barricades and other obstacles.

Kim had already won the Silver Star for fighting on Piedimonte Hills in Italy a half-year earlier.

Kim is among 20 Asian and Pacific Island American soldiers -- many from the 100th Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team -- whose records are being reviewed by Cohen to determine whether their Distinguished Service Crosses should be upgraded to Medals of Honor.

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