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Seventy years ago, on August 15, 1945, the Japanese Occupation of Korea ended along with the Second World War. The joy of liberation was short-lived, as the Korean War ensued in 1950. The No Gun Ri Massacre occurred early in the War, lasting from July 26 to 29, 1950. An estimated number of more than 250 Korean civilians and refugees were killed by the US Army near a railroad bridge in the village of No Gun Ri. The US Army claimed that they were ordered to fire because they suspected North Korean infiltration of the refugee groups. Molly Gaudry’s poem “The Bridge at No Gun Ri” pieces together reports from the Massacre, lifting lines and fragments from the book The Bridge at No Gun Ri (2001), written by four AP journalists whose news reports about the mass killing won them a Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting in 2000. The long block of text filled with names of the victims looks as if it is a field of gravestones. The poem commemorates the dead and confronts the mass killing that was long disputed or simply regarded as an unfortunate byproduct of justice-enforcement.

—Emily Yoon




Pop took me to the train in Pottsville, all he said was, Don’t worry about us, we’ll be all right, We’d get them to love the regiment, I can tell you that many people back then dreamed of some miracle, some revolution, to happen, after years of living under extortion they wanted a change in the world, I thought, I can have a real Korean education, I could learn that Korean people could actually be better than Japanese people,Dissatisfaction with the division of the country grows, I read Romeo and Juliet, and it was an entirely different world, Kal Keun-ok 85, It was a lawless world where the police were the law, Byon Boon-dan 77, North Korean communists began invading across the 38th Parallel at four A.M. today, Suh Moon-sam 76, Believe that if it appears the South Koreans cannot contain or repulse the attack, United States forces should be used even though this risks Russian countermoves, Park Soon-im 73, If we let Korea down, the Soviet Union will keep right on going and swallow up one piece of Asia after another, Ahn Moon-sam 66, the Near East would collapse and no telling what would happen in Europe, Chung Chang-keun 65, I went over and increased my insurance to $10,000 dollars the 1st of July, if I do get bumped off the family will be sitting purty, Kim Bu-duk 63, To back away from this challenge, in view of our capacity for meeting it, would be highly destructive of the power and prestige of the United States, Han Yong-kwon 63, I could not help being amazed at the manner in which this great decision was being made, Chun Kyong-moon 63, We were as surprised as Stalin and Kim Il Sung at Truman’s orders to go into action in Korea, Kim Il-soon 61,I remember distinctly MacArthur’s headquarters telling us as we left Japan that as soon as the North Koreans saw us they would run, Kang Soon-hee 61, Korean curiosity is great, many of the white-clad persons Sohn Yong-woon 61 are farmers or refugees just taking a look, Kim Hal-reh 60,People in white clothes Lee [                 ] 59 were strafed three to four miles south of Yusong, Sohn Jong-eui 59, The Army has requested that we strafe all civilian refugee parties Kim Kan-ran 58 that are noted approaching our positions, Lee Yi-moon 57, to date we have complied with the Army request in this respect, Lee Soon-kum 57, Red infiltration has been reduced to manageable proportions and can Lee Sung-nam 57 in short order be expected to approach zero, Hasty U.S. intervention was one of the most ill-conceived decisions Koo Chul-dong 56 in the history of the American military establishment, Park June-ha 55, Withdrawal could discredit U.S. foreign policy and undermine confidence in American military capabilities, Kang Sung-keun 55, In an area once cleared of civilians, Kim Sool-yi 55, anyone in civilian clothing may be shot, Kim Dal-je 54, all Koreans, Chang Man-im 54, North and South, Kal Yong-yi 53, look alike to the Americans, Park Hee-won 53, soldiers sometimes pot shot at suspicious white clad figures, Ahn Il-joon 52, Lee Ja-sun ♀ 52, Lee Bok-yong ♂ 51, Chang Bong-rye ♀ 50, Chung Pan-suk ♂ 50, Lee Myo-sun ♀ 50, how many people stayed too long in their thatched roofed cottages is not known, Yang Eun-nyon 48, Thousands of men, Cho Jong-koo 49, women, Lee Young-ja 48, and children Sohn Soon-nam 48 remained in the division area, and they were not enemy agents, Chung Sun-boon 47, No refugees to cross the front line, Park Young-soon 47, fire everyone trying to cross lines, Kim Dae-ak 46, use discretion in case of women Kim Kap-yon 45 and children, Lee Soon-suk 45, Here we are advancing into combat, and he’s worried about this farmer’s Han Dae-gil 44 beans, Suh Byong-jik 44, The Americans do not recognize Koreans as human beings, Hwang Doo-chok 44, The civilians Kim Yoon-boon 43 were so scared Sohn Hyun-koo 43, Hwang Eun-yon ♀ 43, Lim Kan-nan ♀ 43 and they had the North Koreans behind them, and they didn’t know where to go, Kim Duk-joo 42, We didn’t touch the civilians, Yang Ke-soon 42, we had enough enemy to shoot at in uniform without shooting civilians, Park Ne-eung 41, When darkness came, all around soldiers started shooting, Park [                        ] 41, it was useless so I took cover and waited out the night, The kids were scared and they were firing Kim Jam-sun 41 all night long, It was a madhouse, We were actually firing on our own men, We started running down the tracks, scattering like hell, They said stay off the road and low on the ground, so I was crawling with my machine gun, I didn’t know what was going on, and you could look over there and there was all this white clothing, Moon Kwang-se 39, The South Korean puppet clique has rejected all methods for peaceful reunification proposed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Sohn Ssang-dae 39, People overflowed the road, Lee Kyong-yoel 39, spilling onto barley fields, Kim Dong-eui 39, women carried their bags and cooking utensils on their heads, Park Choon-duk 39, children walked barefoot, Park Choon-duk 39, we also saw some injured soldiers limping along, Yang Mal-soon 38, with their legs and heads bandaged over, Kim Choon-suk 38, The rice grows hearing the footsteps Nam Hee-yong 38 of the farmer, Hwang Pal-keun 37, The GIs seemed to go wild whenever they saw women, Lee Bok-soon 36, whether they were old women Han Dae-son 36, or young girls, Suh Sang-kook 36, they tried to grab them, Chang Jae-sung 36,we girls didn’t dare walk in the open, Kim [                 ] 35, I was happy, Park Chil-bong 35, I thought that if I went to the south, I’d see big towns, I always wanted to see big towns, Kim Chong-suk 34,I didn’t know what a war was, Park Won-jong 33, I didn’t know what being a refugee meant, Chung Jo-woong 32, There must be some misunderstanding, we’re not Communists, we’re innocent villagers, Cho Hong-koo 30, some of us work for the government, please tell this to the American soldiers,Don’t look up, Min Young-ok 30, if you do, Kim Chong-yol 30, the soldiers will shoot you, Kim Chang-keun 30,The woman’s head was like the flattened body of a rat run over by a tire, Kim Bong-joon 29, I said, ‘Please help us,’ he seemed to sympathize, he said, ‘I’m sorry for you poor people,’ and he went away, as if he couldn’t do anything for us, Park Bong-woo 29, I couldn’t see a thing, like walking in darkness, Kim Im-soon 28, it looked like heaven crashed on us, I ran to my mother, I found her moaning, breathing her last gasps, part of her head was gone, I heard the ‘ping-ping’ sounds of bullets flying past me, people fell around me Han Kyong-yi 28 trying to run away from the explosions, Kim Byong-hyun 28, suddenly there seemed to be no one I could recognize, Chung Woo-young 28, I saw the intestines coming out of his belly, they were blue, Kim Ae-shim 27, Blood was spurting from a hole in her left breast, she said, ‘Water, water,’ I cannot forget her eyes, did she know it was me, Ban Kyong-ho 27, I found a small pool of water in a ditch, Chung Koo-yon 27, I fetched water one more time and when I tried to give it to her, Lee Ye-joo 27, she stopped breathing, Sohn Myong-sook 26, They come down pretty low, you could see that star on that plane real easy, about three planes, they dropped a bomb, Kang Chang-gil 26, that’s where a lot of the people Chun Joon-pyo 23, Kim Chang-yong ♂ 23, Bae Jong-woon ♂ 23, Park Chang-ha ♂ 23, Hwang Jae-young ♂ 23, got hit with shrapnel, a lot of them got killed, they were kind of shortening up the zone and hit them, Kim Sam-jo 22, they hit us too, Lee Young-ja 21, some of our troops, It was like a hornet’s nest in there, it was civilians Koo Hoi-woo 21 trying to hide, one of my buddies got hit, shot off part of his privates, Min Eun-soon 21, Pieces of concrete hit my face, I tumbled and crawled over the dead people, and I don’t know how I made it to the big tunnels, Park Oh-soon 21, The American soldiers played with our lives like boys playing with flies, Chang Shi-hun 21, Park Hee-soon ♀ 20 , They were running toward us and we opened fire, we understood that we were fighting for these people, but we had orders to fire on them and we did, Han Soon-suk 20, She came running toward us, you should have seen guys trying to kill that little girl with machine guns, Chung Koo-ok 20, Our orders were not to let any refugees through any line at all, Song Jae-ok 19, I saw limbs torn apart, I even saw heads separated from bodies, Kim Ke-soon 18, it was dark because of the smoke and dirt cloud and debris, Chung Young-hee 17, I stumbled on bodies, then I heard gunshots again, and I hurried into the big tunnels, Kim Woo-jae 17, Mother couldn’t stand up, so she dragged herself on the ground, Kim In-sun 17, I kept tripping over bodies Ahn Bok-dol 17 because I couldn’t see well, then I saw the baby with his eyes wide open, my mother said, ‘Leave him there, he’s already dead,’ Kim Han-dong 17, The entrance to the tunnel was so thick with bodies strewn everywhere, Chung Myong-rae 16, I told them my parents were not bad people, but of course, they didn’t seem to understand me Yang Hae-young 16 because I saw people killed Chun Young-ja 16 by the GIs,They didn’t appear to be people Hong Suk-tae 16 who would kill fellow human beings, Christ Almighty, they were just screaming, Hwang Yon-hwa 15, who wouldn’t scream, Chun Young-ja 15, the fear, Chung Jin-ok 14, I thought, ‘Jesus Christ, what the hell are we into,’ Han Wol-soon 14, There was women, Kim Il-yong 14, children, Cho Chong-rye 14, old people, Kim Jong-woong 13, we had to eliminate them, Lee chang-shik 13, our orders was to start opening fire and when we did, Chung Ok-hee 13, there wasn’t nothing standing but a couple of cows, Park Sang-ja 13, To me it was like one of these Sohn Hyun-koo 13 mistakes where, ‘Jesus, stop it, turn it off,’ Won Ho-yol 11, they tried to get out but they couldn’t, We just annihilated them, If you ever saw them, Sohn Im-soon 11, they were wonderful people, Cho Nam-yol 11, Half her head was gone, Kim Ko-mee 10, I said, ‘Hello, hello,’ that was the only English word I knew, I said more loudly, ‘Hello, hello,’ I cried and began explaining that both my father and mother were dead, I didn’t care whether they understood me, then I said, ‘Hello, hello,’ again, soldiers climbed out of their foxholes and looked at me, they couldn’t understand, but they knew where I came from, they just looked at me, Cho Kil-jin 9, at what they had done, Suh Byong-gon 9, They gave us something to eat, maybe chocolate, but I didn’t eat it, Han Jong-ja 9, I became determined to save my remaining child, I saw an American soldier, Chung Soon-ja 8, carrying his rifle, Kim Duk-shi 8, he fired at us, Lee Bong-ja 7, it was like some big hammer slamming my body, Chung Jong-ja 7, I fell back and I thought this was the end of my life, then I lifted myself a little bit and looked back, Chung Soon-oh 7, blood was spreading from the small body of my child, Chung Chong-tae 7, I lay still, my mind blank, two soldiers came over, a fat one and a tall one, they looked down at us Hwang Kyong-ja 6 and talked to each other, later more soldiers came and they wrapped my son in a white bag, Yang Hae-yong 6, I just don’t know what got into their heads to kill my boy like that, Chang Myong-ja 5, She kept muttering to Buddha, Lee Jong-son 5, in her dying breath she was praying for a good life in the next world Hwang Chong-soo 4 for herself Park Hwa-soon 4 and her two children, Park Chang-won 4, To say they was firing out, I don’t know, we was laying down such a barrage out there no one could tell, Chung Koo-pil 4, Mortar fire and patrols eliminated the threat of guerrilla activities from nearby villages, Lim Soon-ja 3, Get patrols out to your front and flank Bae Soon-bok 3 and contact the enemy and maintain this contact, My cousin and I sat together Han Myong-soo 3 with a blanket over us Chung Soon-rye 3 and suddenly I felt something like hot water flowing down my face Cho Dae-yon 3 and I remember seeing a village woman, Kim Kook-hun 3, she said Cho Nam-gak 2 something like, ‘Poor child, what happened to your face,’ I crawled to the water but when I tried to drink it fell through my face, Chung Hyun-mok 2, Why must the State Department insist that only the lives of American boys be used, Park Sun-nye 2, why cannot other peoples of the earth Suh Jong-hoon 2 be used also Chung Koo-hee 2 to help create the necessary seawall of blood Lee Jong-sup 2 and flesh Suh Kan-ran 1 and steel Chung Koo-sung 1 to hold back the communist hordes, A mass of white, Park Boot-dul 1, they all blended together Chung Jin-tae 1 like newspaper on top of newspaper, Suh Byong-kyun 1, There were quite a few slaughtered there, Han Kum-suk 1, but you didn’t know until Chung Young-sook 1 you got down there and seen all the bodies Park Young-hyun 1 at the mouth of the tunnel, I sometimes think I hear the whispers of the ghosts, Sohn Dae-shik 1, not human voices, Hong Sung-mee 8 months, but they seem to talk like the wind, Han Min-suk 6 months, it used to terrify me, Chun Tae-sung 5 months, but not any longer, Park Chang-ki age unknown, the hills and tunnel look empty, Oh [                     ] age unknown, but in fact they’re filled with the spirits of the dead, Park Byong-shik age unknown, [Park No-myong, posthumously named] ♂age unknown, [Cho Seung-yon, posthumously named] ♂age unknown. . . .



Molly Gaudry is the author of We Take Me ApartDesire: A Haunting and her lyric memoir Fit Into Me, also from the series, are forthcoming from Ampersand Books. She teaches at the Yale Writers' Conference.

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