The US advisor at El Mozote

In a 2007 comment on my blog, Gregory Walker, who was in the US Special Forces in El Salvador, asserted that a US Special Forces advisor was in El Mozote on the day the military action commenced which would result in the massacre hundreds of children and other civilians:

For example, there was a senior Special Forces advisor at El Mozote the day/night of the massacre (and only one). He attempted multiple times to dissuade Colonel Domingo Monterosa to spare the victims. When Monterosa ignored him, the advisor departed by foot and made his way, alone, back to San Salvador. There he made a full report to embassy officials of what the unit and Monterosa were doing in El Mozote.
Walker is a former Army Special Forces staff sergeant, who was stationed in El Salvador during the civil war (but after El Mozote massacre) and who led a veterans' campaign to gain official recognition from the US Congress that military forces who died or were wounded in El Salvador were casualties of combat action.  

Walker is now sharing the identity of the US advisor on the ground at El Mozote: he is former Master Sergeant Bruce Hazelwood.  Hazelwood confirmed both to Walker and a mutual acquaintance that Hazelwood had accompanied Monterrosa on the helicopter ride out to Mozote at the start of the massacre.

More recently Hazelwood has been mentioned in reporting by Dutch media as having possible advance knowledge of Salvadoran military plans to ambush and kill four Dutch journalist in March 1982:
According to secret reports by the UN Truth Commission, which have come into the hands of the Zembla journalists, an American military trainer called Bruce Hazelwood, who was stationed at the same base as the soldiers who killed the journalists, knew about the plans. An anonymous source is quoted as saying that ‘Reyes Mena told Bruce Hazelwood about the plan to kill the journalists’. 
Investigation Zembla also uncovered an email conversation in which Hazelwood writes to a fellow El Salvador veteran about the day of the murder: ‘That night my conversations with Mena were very frank and he followed my recommendations – unlike his former actions.’ 
Confronted with this information by Zembla, Hazelwood denied he was present that day.
In the same secret reports of the UN Truth Commission,  Hazelwood is reported to have told the interviewer that on the date of the El Mozote massacre, Hazelwood was at the Atlacatl barracks far away from El Mozote as was Monterrosa, although Hazelwood said Monterrosa flew up to El Mozote during the course of the events there.    

Hazelwood worked closely training the elements of the Atlacatl Battlion. which carried out the massacre of children, the elderly and others at El Mozote. It was an elite unit, and the US was proud of having played a role in creating it. An Americas Watch report wrote in 1992:
The history of U.S. human rights policy in El Salvador is not only one of downplaying or denying the war crimes of the Salvadoran military. U.S. officials often went one step further, asserting that the behavior of the U.S.-trained Atlacatl Battalion, in particular, was "commendable" and "professional" in its relations with the civilian population. The Atlacatl Battalion, which carried out the massacre at El Mozote, was created in early 1981 and trained by U.S. advisers drawn primarily from the Special Forces in a first effort to reorganize the Salvadoran military to wage a full-scale counterinsurgency war. By mid-1981, 1200 soldiers had begun operating as a "rapid reaction" battalion in conflictive zones, spearheading majormilitary operations in the departments of Chalatenango, CabaÒas, and Morazan.
U.S. officials have long been extremely proud of the Atlacatl Battalion's performance and have praised it throughout the history of the war. In the February 8, 1982, Senate hearings on the presidential certification on El Salvador, Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights Elliott Abrams lavished praise on the Atlacatl Battalion, saying that "the battalion to which you refer [regarding the massacre at El Mozote] has been complimented at various times in the past over its professionalism and over the command structure and the close control in which the troops are held when they go into battle." 
In congressional testimony a few months later, a senior U.S. Defense Department official went one step further, saying that the Atlacatl had "achieved a commendable combat record not only for its tactical capability in fighting the guerrillas but also for its humane treatment of the people."
Such statements by Abrams and others at the time reflected an intentional blindness to the activities of the Atlacatl forces at best, and at worst a conscious attempt to mislead the American public.  And if the US had first hand knowledge of the start of the El Mozote massacre, as Walker's account suggests, the existence of intentional deception becomes even clearer. The Atlacatl troops would later murder the Jesuits in 1989.

The University of Washington Center for Human Rights has an excellent overview of all the knowledge that US officials had of Salvadoran military atrocities during 1981 developed from declassified US records.

El Salvador's military continues to deny that it has any records at all related to "Operation Rescate", the code name for the massacre at El Mozote.  Walker's disclosure of Hazelwood's presence points out again the need for full and complete disclosure of all relevant US military and CIA files related to this massacre and other atrocities. 

Greg Walker has now published his own article about El Mozote including Hazelwood's involvment at, an online site with a military focus.


Greg said…
A very interesting article regarding the Truth Commission with mention of Bruce Hazelwood -

And the link to the Dutch documentary "In Cold Blood" -

Which obtained Hazelwood's 1992 interview with the Truth Commission, an interview during which he offered, in part, that "Casceras Cabrera, El Huevon, initiated the killings" and when asked if LTC Monterrosa knew what was going on replied "I won't say that Monterrosa didn't order it."

Hazelwood then denied accompanying Monterrosa from the quartel at La Libertad to El Mozote by helicopter. This despite having told at least two others, some years later, that he did.

Yes, the U.S. documents regarding his report made to the embassy when he returned to San Salvador from the field, and who received that report, and what was determined to be done to obstruct that report, should and indeed must be declassified.
Greg said…
In truth, "Operation Rescante" was not a code name for the massacre at El Mozote itself. See below - which is an accurate description from the source noted.

Independent investigation has likewise established those noted and the additional units involved are correct - which is why GRAL Garcia and the others are on trial.

The proper code name for the actual act of mass killings was "lipieza", or cleaning/cleansing. Respected journalist James LaMoyne recalled Monterrosa, after a hard day's fighting, disclosing that El Mozote was a Lipieza operation and that "...we killed them all."

Reference Operation Rescue of Morazan -

Who directed Operation Rescue of Morazán?
The newspaper La Prensa Gráfica dated Wednesday, December 9, 1981 clearly indicated that the military operation "Rescue de Morazán" was under the command and supervision of Colonel Jaime Ernesto Flores, at that time Commander of the Third Infantry Brigade. According to the same publication, Colonel Flores had the support of Colonel Linares, Commander of the Gotera Regiment (Military Detachment No. 4). Based on other publications, it can be deduced that Colonel Flores and the then Minister of Defense, Colonel José Guillermo García, were also the main spokesmen for the military operation.

What military units participated in that military operation?
According to La Prensa Gráfica dated December 9, 1981, in the Military Operation "Rescue of Morazán" participated units of the Third Infantry Brigade, the Gotera Regiment, the Artillery Brigade, the Air Force, the National Guard, the Treasury Police, the National Police, Civil Defenses and the newly created Atlacatl Immediate Reaction Infantry Battalion (BIRI Atlacatl). To this effort was added a unit of the Fifth Infantry Brigade.

How many members of the Armed Forces participated in the Military Operation?
Several newspapers of the time reported the participation of between 1,500 and 2,000 members of the Armed Forces of El Salvador.
Greg said…
Update -

The FMLN voting block veered off a vote this week on the so-called "amnesty law". Several ARENA politicians likewise voiced their intent to vote against it if brought to the floor. A tremendous amount of international, Media, and victim pressure was applied over the past week to accomplish this. It is rumored the proponents of the legislation will try again in a few weeks, but the new president has said he will not sign an amnesty law.

In the meantime the judge has ordered all defendants not to leave the country. It is unknown if their passports have been collected by the court. All defendants have been ordered to attend court sessions. They had appealed this order but the appeal was denied.

The wheel of Justice turns slowly but it turns.

Greg said…
The Estado Mayor adheres to the direction and guidance of the new president of El Salvador.