“Yeah, I was there. I was Captain Dhatri, then. That whole situation was a mess and could easily have been avoided with good intel. The major in charge at the time made a bad call - he thought Bitter Springs was full of Great Khan raiders, so we surrounded the place. By the time any of us realized there were civilians down there - women and children - the shooting had already started. The major froze up at the news, and we couldn't get another word out of him. I took over and salvaged the situation as best I could. For my effort, I was promoted to major. Not quite the way I'd have wanted it.”— Major Dhatri
As the attack commenced, members of the main NCR contingent and the First Recon unit did not expect Great Khan women, children, and elderly to be present in the camp, and radioed to command to confirm their orders when these tribal members began to flee the settlement. The resulting miscommunication resulted in the massacre of Great Khan non-combatants at the hands of the NCR.
A number of Khans were tracked to Bitter Springs by the NCR as the Republic was first expanding into the Mojave Wasteland. The NCR believed it to be the Khans' base of operations and sent a large detachment of troops to bring the raids to an end. The First Recon Battalion unit, including Craig Boone, were sent to cut off the only escape route, sniping from atop Coyote Tail Ridge.
Bitter Springs was not the base of a raider contingent, but instead the primary home of Khan families. When the Khans were attacked, First Recon was ordered to fire on anyone retreating from the area. Radio contact was spotty and members of First Recon were unable to communicate the situation involving women, children, and the elderly for confirmation. Their superiors persisted in the order "fire until you're out of ammunition" to which they obliged. The psychological impact was devastating to Boone, motivating him to leave the New California Republic Army behind.
On the command side of the NCR, Major Dhatri was a captain when the massacre occurred. Faulty intel led the commanding officer to believe Bitter Springs was full of raiders, resulting in orders for NCR forces and First Recon to surround and attack. The shooting had already started before they realized women and children were there and the commanding officer froze. Dhatri took command to attempt to salvage the situation to the best of his ability and for his effort, he was promoted to major. He shares with the Courier that it was not the way he would have preferred to receive the promotion.
Bitter-Root has a different perspective about the massacre and the tribe's role in intentionally agitating the NCR to the point of inciting the violence that took place. He describes members of the tribe, including his own parents, as "scum" and "lazy, trumped-up raiders" who attacked innocent settlers for fun, going as far as teaching their own children how to shoot by taking practice shots at NCR soldiers, personnel, and civilians.
Bitter-Root recounts that the attack at Bitter Springs was a direct result of the Great Khans carelessness, prolific drug use, and intentional provocation of the NCR as opposed to a slaughter of unaware civilians. He states that although many NCR members blame themselves for the violence, it was the Great Khans who relentlessly goaded the Republic, leading to and being fully responsible for their own demise.
Other Great Khans members remain deeply scarred by the experience, such as another survivor named Chance. Flashbacks show that the NCR was brutal in pursuing their political agenda for conquering the land of the Great Khans at any and all costs. According to Chance, there was no miscommunication with the commanding officers. Instead, he remembers the NCR soldiers converging on the town and opened fire without hesitation. The significant psychological impact has left him broken, experiencing vivid flashbacks, abusing chems, and has not spoken since the event.
The leader of the tribe, Papa Khan is deeply angered by the deaths of the Khans at the hands of the NCR. He states that the Great Khans had been flouting the NCR's demands, carrying out raids under the assumption that NCR's threats of retaliation were simply bluffs. Tensions rose higher and eventually, the NCR tracked what they believed was a large raiding party back to Bitter Springs. Having been harassed continuously by the Khans, the NCR was looking to settle a score and did not expect Bitter Springs to be anything but a raider camp. Fueled by anger and frustration and lacking appropriate intel, NCR command ordered the attack on the settlement which resulted in the deaths of innocent Khans.
↑ 2.02.12.22.32.4Courier: "Sounds like you have some regrets." Craig Boone: "You don't come out of a tour of duty without regrets. It's best just not to think about it." Courier: "It is because of Bitter Springs that you think you've got bad things coming?" Craig Boone: "Life has a way of punishing you for the mistakes you make. Big enough mistake, punishment can take a while. Mine's not over." Courier: "Maybe you can make up for your mistakes." Craig Boone: "A murderer who does good deeds is still a murderer. And he'll still get his judgment. I left the NCR when my tour was up. Had enough of war. Decided I was gonna start over." Courier: "You did what you were supposed to as a soldier." Craig Boone: "Yeah, well. I'm not a soldier anymore. Those rules don't seem like much of an excuse now. Anyway... I don't know why we're here. Thought maybe it'd help me see things better." (Boone's dialogue)
↑Courier: "Must've been one hell of a miscommunication." Craig Boone: "Yeah, well. That's how they wrote it up in the report." Courier: "Sounded like more of a massacre." Craig Boone: "Yeah. I guess that'd be the word. We did what we were there to do. Lot of people got killed. That's war. Maybe looking back you'd do things differently, but that's not how it works. In the field, you hesitate, you or someone you care about will die. They teach that from day one." (Boone's dialogue)
↑ 4.04.14.24.3Craig Boone: "Hey. I thought some more about what you said. I think maybe you're right. Maybe I should go to Bitter Springs. I don't know what I'm hoping to find there." Courier: "What are we waiting for?" Craig Boone: "Tell the truth... I think this is exactly what I've been waiting for. This is the place. We got sent from Camp Golf, looking for some Khans who'd been making trouble with one of our settlements. I guess one of the settlers was connected, because we sent everything we had. We figured this was a gang hideout, but... they'd led us to their home." (Boone's dialogue)
↑Courier: " We can stay on Coyote Tail Ridge for the night." Craig Boone: "Canyon 37. That's what the NCR calls the pass down there. It was the Khans' only escape, so we set up here to guard it while the main force attacked from the front. Standing orders were to shoot on sight." (Boone's dialogue)
↑ 7.07.17.27.3Courier: "You were at Bitter Springs, I'm told." Major Dhatri: "Yeah, I was there. I was Captain Dhatri, then. That whole situation was a mess and could easily have been avoided with good intel. The major in charge at the time made a bad call - he thought Bitter Springs was full of Great Khan raiders, so we surrounded the place. By the time any of us realized there were civilians down there - women and children - the shooting had already started. The major froze up at the news, and we couldn't get another word out of him. I took over and salvaged the situation as best I could. For my effort, I was promoted to major. Not quite the way I'd have wanted it." (Dhatri's dialogue)
↑Courier: "Tell me about happened to them at Bitter Springs." Bitter-Root: "It was massacre. That's what a lot of NCR folk will tell you. Most of them feel plenty bad about what happened. But I was there. Saw it myself. I don't care what anybody says. The Khans asked for Bitter Springs. They wouldn't leave the NCR be. My damn parents, too. They were just as bad as the rest." (Bitter-Root's dialogue)
↑Courier: "What do you know about the Great Khans?" Bitter-Root: "They're scum. Lazy, trumped-up Raiders. Most of the time, they're drunk or high, and when they're not shooting chems, they're selling them." (Bitter-Root's dialogue)
↑Courier: "You don't really mean that, do you?" Bitter-Root: "My dad, he got himself fucked up, every chance he got. Always started with folk for no reason. Hell, he was the one who taught me to shoot. You know how? By taking potshots at NCR. And not just soldiers. Civilians, too. Even kids." (Bitter-Root's dialogue)
↑ 14.014.114.2Courier: "What happened at Bitter Springs?" Papa Khan: "When the NCR came to the Mojave, we thought they would be easy pickings. We raided their caravans, their towns, their camps - they couldn't stop us. At least, that's what we thought. They tracked us to Bitter Springs and surrounded us. When our children, our sick and old, fled through a nearby pass, the NCR gunned them down." Courier: "That doesn't sound like something the NCR would order." Papa Khan: "Oh, they claimed it was a miscommunication, but tell that to those who saw our families butchered. Tell it to the survivors who were banished here." (Papa Khan's dialogue)