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Massacre at My Lai March 16, 1968. What happened at My Lai? On March 16, 1968, the men of Charlie Company, 11th Brigade, Americal Division entered the.

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Presentation on theme: "Massacre at My Lai March 16, 1968. What happened at My Lai? On March 16, 1968, the men of Charlie Company, 11th Brigade, Americal Division entered the."— Presentation transcript:

1 Massacre at My Lai March 16, 1968

2 What happened at My Lai? On March 16, 1968, the men of Charlie Company, 11th Brigade, Americal Division entered the village of My Lai. “This is what you’ve been waiting for-- search and destroy-- and you’ve got it,” said their superior officers. A short time later the killing began. Vietnam Online, PBS

3 Where is My Lai? My Lai is in the South Vietnamese district of Son My, a heavily mined area of Vietcong entrenchment. Many members of Charlie Company had been maimed of killed in the area during the preceding weeks. This time Charlie Company, led by Lt. William Calley, was willing and ready for an engagement with the Vietcong. Vietnam Online, PBS

4 Timeline of the Events at My Lai First arrivals were Lieutenant Calley and the First Platoon. The mission of the First Platoon was to secure the landing area for the helicopters. This was shortly after eight in the morning. BBC News

5 Timeline of the events of My Lai, continued After securing the landing area, the First Platoon entered the village of My Lai. Calley ordered his men to enter the village firing, though there had been no report of opposition fire. Soon, the “search and destroy” mission had degenerated into the massacre of over 300 apparently unarmed civilians, which included women, children, and the elderly- all in the course of three hours. Vietnam Online, PBS

6 Atrocities at My Lai Families who had huddled together for safety in huts or bunkers were shown no mercy. Those who surrendered with their hands held high were murdered. Women were gang raped. Vietnamese who had bowed to greet the Americans were beaten with fists and tortured. Some victims were mutilated with the signature “C Company” carved into the chest. BBC News

7 Atrocities at My Lai Calley, for his part, was said to have rounded up a group of the villagers, ordered them into a ditch, and mowed them down in a blast of machine gun fire. Vietnam Online, PBS

8 Victims at My Lai


10 The Burning of My Lai

11 One wounded member of Charlie Company Only one member of Charlie Company was wounded. A GI shot himself in the foot while clearing his pistol. BBC News

12 Chief Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson Pilot of an army helicopter that arrived at My Lai around 9am. Witnessed the senseless killings and reported them to headquarters. Evacuated 9 civilians, including 5 children, by putting himself between the Vietnamese and Calley’s men Told his crew to “open up on the Americans” if they fired on the civilians Returned a second time to save a baby clinging to its dead mother Famous Trials

13 Who was Charlie Company? Charlie Company came to Vietnam in December, 1967. Charlie Company’s commanding officer was Ernest Medina, a thirty-three year old from New Mexico, who was popular with his soldiers One of the platoon leaders was William Calley, a twenty-four year old, who was described as “a kid trying to play war.” By March 1968, many in the company “had given in to an easy pattern of violence.” Famous trials

14 Why Charlie Company? continued On March 14, a small squad from “C” Company ran into a booby trap, killing a popular sergeant, blinding one GI, and wounding several others. At the funeral service the following evening, Medina gave a pep talk about the next morning’s mission. He told his soldiers that the women and children would be out of the hamlet, and that all would be left would be the enemy. They would destroy the enemy completely. Famous Trials

15 The Cover-Up It took more than a year for the shocking story of the My Lai massacre to reach the news stands. Medina realized that the news of the event could cause trouble. For instance, “when he was questioned by a superior, he maintained that between 20 and 28 civilians had been killed by gun-ship and artillery fire.” Medina’s account of “the events was echoed in a report submitted in a month later by the commander of the 11th Infantry Brigade, Colonel Oran K Henderson. 20 civilians had been killed inadvertently, he claimed.” However, rumors began to be spread of the true events that had occurred at My Lai. –BBC News

16 How the story actually broke After hearing the soldiers boast about what had taken place at My Lai, Ronald Ridenhour, who was a soldier with the 11th Brigade, began to check out the story by confirming the soldiers stories with other soldiers and official documents. In March 1969, Ridenhour composed a letter detailing what he had heard about My Lai and sent the letter to President Nixon, the Pentagon, the State Department, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and members of Congress. –Famous Trials

17 The Investigation General Westmoreland, one recipient of the letter, could not believe that his men would engage in mass murder and ordered an immediate inquiry. Over the next few months, evidence was amassed, and it was evident that war crimes had been committed. On September 5, 1969, Calley was charged with 109 counts of murder, and his Court Martial began on November 12th.

18 Charges and a Pardon On March 29, 1970, Lieutenant Calley was found guilty of the murder of at least 33 “oriental human beings, occupants of the village of My Lai, whose names and sexes are unknown, by means of shooting them with a rifle.” Calley was dishonorably discharged and sentenced to life in Leavenworth Prison. The sentence was reduced to 20 years by President Nixon. In 1974, after serving just three years, Calley was pardoned by Nixon. Today, Calley, who was married in 1974, works in the jewelry store of his father-in-law in Columbus, Georgia.

19 Lasting Effects of My Lai Two weeks after the Calley verdict, a public opinion poll reported for the first time that a majority of Americans opposed the war in Vietnam. The incident in My Lai also caused the military to re-evaluate its training and handling of non- combatants. Still present in the military mind. Commanders sent troops in Desert Storm into battle with the words, “No My Lais--you hear?”

20 Bibliography An Account of the My Lai Courts-Marital by Doug Linder ml BBC News: My Lai: the cover-up ai/ Vietnam Online- The American Experience When War Becomes A Crime: The Case of My Lai ai.html BBC News: Murder in the name of war- My Lai

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