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Bitter Springs Massacre
Bitter Springs Graveyard.jpg
The graveyard at Canyon 37
LocationBitter Springs, Mojave Wasteland, Nevada
ResultNCR victory. Significant number of non-combatant casualties cause further tensions between the NCR and the Khans, as well as the spread of negative rumors undermining the NCR's reputation. PTSD causes a number of soldiers to leave service. Khan holdouts continue to harass NCR units.
Involved parties
New California RepublicFNV NCR Flag.png New California RepublicGreat KhansGreatKhans.png Great Khans
Unknown major
Captain Dhatri
Papa Khan
NCR Army detachment
1st Reconnaissance Battalion squads
Great Khans irregulars
LightSeveral dozen killed (including non-combatants)
Connected events
Part of:
NCR-Great Khan War
NCR-Enclave War
Brotherhood War
NCR-Legion War

Refugee camp? Is that what they're calling it? Good old NCR, they can whitewash anything. Let me tell you something, that refugee camp? It's built on the blood and tears of my people. Nobody likes to talk about it, but I remember.

Oscar Velasco

The Bitter Springs Massacre was a major event in the history of the NCR and the Great Khans in the Mojave Wasteland in 2278.


The Great Khans were once one of the most feared raider tribes in the Mojave, having entered the wasteland in 2267, after relocating from NCR territories. For years they've ruled the wasteland, but they met their match when the Families of the Strip, under Robert House's tribes entered the picture in 2274. Supported by superior technology, funds, and equipment, they drove the Khans away from New Vegas, to Bitter Springs.[1][2] When the NCR deployed into the Mojave in 2274, the Khans initiated a campaign of raids against Republican holdings, considering them easy pickings. Caravans, towns, camps, all fell to the Khan onslaught.[3]

Things changed in 2278, when the Great Khans became the last significant problem in the Mojave. After the Khans kidnapped and killed four NCR soldiers, the NCR decided to cut off the head from the serpent and mounted an assault on Bitter Springs.[4]


Set up

NCR and Khan positions

The military operation was one of the largest after the Battle of Hoover Dam, taking up nearly all of the available military resources at Camp Golf, including an elite team of sharpshooters from the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion.[5] While the primary force was ordered to attack the suspected Khan stronghold through the main pass, the 1st Recon detachment was set up on Coyote Tail Ridge, overlooking Canyon 37. Their orders were to shoot anyone emerging from the canyon on sight, to prevent the Khans from flanking the main attack force.[6]

The operation was based on incomplete intel, however, the major in charge of the deployment ordered it to go ahead, convinced that they were assaulting a Khan stronghold.[7]

The attack

The attack begins. Non-combatants (light blue) flee down Canyon 37.

The operation went sideways from the moment NCR troops deployed into Bitter Springs. The attack force was spotted too soon and made contact with Great Khan defenders prematurely. 1st Recon troops heard an intense firefight take place, before they spotted Khans coming down Canyon 37 in groups, composed of women, children, and the elderly, followed by wounded Khans. The sharpshooters hesitated and reported the situation up the command chain. They were order to shoot until they were out of ammunition. The sharpshooters obeyed the order.[8] The retreating civilians were gunned down.[3]

The Massacre: 1st Recon shooters gun down non-combatants at Canyon 37 as the NCR routs the Khans.

When the major in charge of the operation realized his men were gunning down women and children, he suffered a psychological shock and become unresponsive. When his second in command, Captain Dhatri, realized that his superior was no longer able to lead, he took charge of the situation. He ordered 1st Recon to cease fire and and started to salvage the operation. However, at that point, the damage was already done.[7]


The Republic's medics provided immediate medical care to all the wounded, NCR and Khan alike. The dead were buried in the Canyon where their lives ended, while the surviving Great Khans were permitted by NCR military authorities to resettle at Red Rock Canyon without interference.[9] The Bitter Springs camp was cleaned up and adopted by the NCR as a camp for refugees from the east, fleeing from Caesar's Legion.[10]

The official cause of the massacre was miscommunication. Without good intelligence and with an incomplete picture of the situation, NCR command did not realize that they were attacking a town and ordering their troops to fire on civilians.[11]

However, despite the NCR making amends, the death of entire Khan families has cast a permanent shadow over the relations between the Republic and the Great Khans. Many swore vengeance and some, such as Oscar Velasco, made good on their threats, starting a guerrilla campaign against the Republic.[12][13] Although the incident went unreported in NCR press, rumors spread fast throughout the wasteland, damaging the reputation of the Republic and its Army.[4] In some cases, NCR soldiers would be insulted as murderers when they entered towns to secure and fortify them.[14]

A separate issue was post-traumatic stress disorder. Members of the 1st Recon who fired on the non-combatants suffered major trauma, leaving military service and trying to find meaning in life again.[15] Others, like Bitter Root, a Khan child, considered the massacre a chance to begin a new life. In Bitter Root's case, he convinced himself he truly hates his parents and the Khans. Eventually, he joined 1st Recon, the very formation that was the culprit of the massacre.[16] In other Khans, the trauma of losing their family and friends took a particularly heavy toll. For example, untreated PTSD turned Chance into a mute death seeker, permanently addicted to heavy drugs to dull the pain and the memories. The impact of drugs have twisted and warped his memories, to the point that they no longer resemble reality at all.[17]


  • The Official Game Guide erroneously states that the Bitter Springs Massacre took place at the Red Rock Canyon instead.[4]



The Bitter Springs Massacre is mentioned in the graphic novel All Roads as well as Fallout: New Vegas itself.


  1. The Courier: "How did the Three Families defeat you?"
    Papa Khan: "They allied with Mr. House, the self-proclaimed master of New Vegas. He supported them with the resources of New Vegas: weapons, technology, caps. They were better equipped, and we could not stand against them."
    (Papa Khan's dialogue)
  2. The Courier: "Maybe you could give me the short version."
    Papa Khan: "In a hurry, are you? Very well then: The Great Khans came east out of the NCR 14 years ago. We ruled the Wastes, then, and called no man master. But we underestimated the Families of the Strip, and they drove us back to Bitter Springs, where we remained until the NCR arrived and drove us here."
    (Papa Khan's dialogue)
  3. 3.0 3.1 The Courier: "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."
    (Papa Khan's dialogue)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Fallout: New Vegas Official Game Guide Collector's Edition p.458: "Important Dates
    "2278 Following the abduction and killing of four soldiers, NCR troops assault the Great Khans' settlement at Red Rock Canyon and massacre several dozen men, women, and children. This event goes unreported in NCR press."
    Note: the Guide erroneously states that Red Rock Canyon, rather than Bitter Springs, was attacked by the NCR.
  5. Craig Boone: "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. There's a ridge called Coyote Tail on the south side. That's where we set up."
    (Craig Boone's dialogue)
  6. 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."
    (Craig Boone's dialogue)
  7. 7.0 7.1 The Courier: "You were at Bitter Springs, I'm told."
    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)
  8. The Courier: "What happened?"
    Craig Boone: "Main force got spotted too soon. We heard shooting. Then Khans started coming through Canyon 37 in bunches. It was all wrong, though. Women, kids, elderly. Wounded started coming through, too. We radioed to confirm our orders but command didn't get what we were seeing. They told us to shoot till we were out of ammo. So that's what we did."
    (Craig Boone's dialogue)
  9. The Courier: "Like what? It looks to me like the NCR ran the Khans out of Bitter Springs altogether."
    Gilles: "We provided medical aid to the wounded - all the wounded - and permitted the Khans to resettle at Red Rock Canyon."
    (Gilles' dialogue)
  10. The Courier: "What is this place?"
    Gilles: "This is the Bitter Springs refugee camp. We've been maintaining it for a few years now, ever since Caesar's Legion started seriously pushing west. Most of the people here were displaced by the Legion's advance. At first there weren't many, but lately it's been more than we can handle."
    (Gilles' dialogue)
  11. The Courier: "You mean the massacre three years ago?"
    Gilles: "The incident, yes. It was a tragic mistake, but the NCR has done everything it can to make amends since then."
    The Courier: "What incident?"
    Gilles: "About three years ago, this canyon was the main encampment for the Great Khans. NCR's 1st Recon tracked them here after a raid and made an attack. There was a communication mix-up that resulted in some noncombatants being killed. It was a tragic mistake, but we've done all we can to make amends."
    (Gilles' dialogue)
  12. The Courier: "That's horrible!"
    Papa Khan: "It's because of that that we have sworn to take revenge on the NCR. With our new allies in Caesar's Legion, we will crush them!"
    (Papa Khan's dialogue)
  13. The 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)
  14. The Courier: "So why'd you leave?"
    Manny Vargas: "Ah, well... I just felt like it was time, you know? Wanted to have a home. Plus I was up at Camp Golf when Bitter Springs went down. I faked like I was sick to get out of going, because I knew some of the people there. But when everybody came back nobody would tell me what happened. And people would call us murderers sometimes when we showed up to secure towns."
    (Manny Vargas' dialogue)
  15. The 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. None of it made a difference in the end."
    (Craig Boone)
  16. The 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. Used to have a settlement up at Bitter Springs, 'til they pissed off NCR and got slaughtered for their trouble. Lot of us got killed at Bitter Springs. Lot of them, I mean. My parents died, too."
    The Courier: "Losing your parents must have been hard for you. I'm sorry."
    Bitter-Root: "You're sorry? Well, that makes one of us. Bitter Springs was the best thing that ever happened to me. Best thing that ever happened to my parents, too. They were as bad as the rest. Worse, maybe."
    (Bitter-Root's dialogue)
  17. All Roads