”We just annihilated them,” Norman Tinkler, a former machine gunner, later told the Associated Press of the massacre at No Gun Ri.
Edward L. Daily, another soldier present at the No Gun Ri, was still haunted by what he witnessed there decades later.
”On summer nights when the breeze is blowing, I can still hear their cries, the little kids screaming,” Daily confessed. ”The command looked at it as getting rid of the problem in the easiest way. That was to shoot them in a group.”
In a follow-up interview with The New York Times, Daily said he could not confirm how many Koreans they killed that day—up to 400 is a common estimate—but added, “[W]e ended up shooting into there until all the bodies we saw were lifeless.”
Daily later earned a battlefield commission for his service in Korea.
A South Korean government commission investigating massacres and mass executions of political prisoners by the militaries of both sides claims to have documented “hundreds of sets of remains” from massacres and estimates that up to 100,000 people died in such incidents.
Any new conflict in Korea is likely to be just as vicious and deadly as the last, if not even more so. The destructive potential of the weaponry possessed by both sides has increased exponentially in the intervening decades. The United States’ nuclear arsenal has greatly expanded, and North Korea has developed its own limited nuclear capabilities.
Even without the use of nuclear weapons, the traditional weapons that would be used are far more powerful today than they were 75 years ago. The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb the United States used in Afghanistan for the first time in April 2017 is the most powerful non-nuclear bomb ever deployed. Upon impact, the 30-foot long, 22,000 pound, GPS-guided bomb emits a mushroom cloud that can be seen for 20 miles. It boasts a blast radius of one square mile, demolishing everything within that range.
The Air Force currently has only around 15 MOABs, and they are not capable of penetrating the numerous hardened underground tunnels, bunkers and bases the North Koreans have built. To address that problem, the Pentagon has developed a special bomb designed specifically for underground facilities of the kind built by North Korea and Iran. The 15-ton Massive Ordnance Penetrator can supposedly blast through 200 feet of concrete to take out the most hardened subterranean lair.
North Korea’s arsenal isn’t anywhere nearly as advanced as that of the United States, but it is massive. Some analysts have suggested that the regime’s huge stockpile of traditional artillery and rockets would “flatten Seoul in the first half-hour of any confrontation.” That’s probably giving North Korea far too much credit, but its artillery and rocket stockpiles could definitely inflict serious casualties and structural damage to Seoul and its 10 million inhabitants.
Likewise, the bases housing the 29,000 U.S. military personnel stationed in South Korea are also within range of North Korea’s arsenal. History contains a warning—another war would be unpredictable, chaotic and exceedingly brutal.