WASHINGTON - The Associated Press defended last night its Pulitzer Prize-winning account of an alleged massacre of Korean civilians by U.S. soldiers 50 years ago after news organizations and Army officials questioned whether some of the soldiers it relied on for its story were even present."The Associated Press stands behind its carefully researched report of events in the early days of the Korean War near the village of No Gun Ri," said Jonathan Wolman, AP's executive editor. "Even as we review discrepancies between records and eyewitness accounts, we are confident of the accuracy and fairness of the central finding that Korean civilians were killed by U.S. forces during chaotic days at the end of July 1950."
One of AP's sources, Edward L. Daily, a former soldier from Clarksville, Tenn., claimed that he machine-gunned Korean civilians at No Gun Ri, though Army records show he was a member of a unit that was miles from the site.
The Army is investigating and expects to report its findings in the fall. Army officials have privately questioned the accounts of some soldiers, especially Daily's.
U.S. News & World Report published an article this week questioning whether Daily and two other soldiers - Delos Flint of Clio, Mich., and Eugene Hesselman of Fort Mitchell, Ky. - were at No Gun Ri at the time of the alleged killings.
While AP said its evidence supported the presence of Flint and Hesselman, the wire service appeared less certain of Daily, who has failed to respond to questions from news organizations, including The Sun, in the past week."Serious questions involve Ed Daily," Wolman stated. "We spoke to soldiers who put him at the scene and have reviewed the documentation he offered for his role - unit rosters, a dated driver's license listing his unit, a frayed letter to his mother. If it turns out that he and those records deceived us, we will be extremely regretful, and saddened for him."
Brian Duffy, executive editor of U.S. News, said AP failed to adequately address the issues surrounding Daily. "The main point is Daily. Daily is a huge problem."
U.S. News, as well as The Sun, reviewed Army records that placed Daily in the 27th Ordnance Maintenance Company at the time of the alleged shootings. U.S. News also questioned AP sources that claimed that hundreds of civilians were massacred and that the soldiers were ordered to shoot civilians.
Last night, the AP issued a detailed rebuttal of the U.S. News article, saying none of the material cited by the magazine undermines AP's major findings that a large number of refugees was shot by American forces at No Gun Ri, and, fearing enemy infiltration, military commanders issued orders to units on the battlefield authorizing the shootings.
U.S. News, as well as The Sun, interviewed soldiers who said they could not remember Daily being a member of H Company, 7th Cavalry Regiment, the unit allegedly involved in the shootings.
AP noted that U.S. News quoted retired Col. John Lippincott as saying that he never saw Daily. That was "unsurprising because Daily was with H Company, Lippincott was with F Company," AP said. The Sun quoted two former junior officers with H Company - William Hoffman and Crawford Buchanan, both retired colonels - who said they did not recall Daily being in H Company.
After the original AP article, Daily became the central figure of many news accounts.