Presentation on theme: "SWBAT: identify the cause and effect of the events at My Lai. Homework: Haditha Reading and questions. Do Now: Geneva Convention reading and questions."— Presentation transcript:
SWBAT: identify the cause and effect of the events at My Lai. Homework: Haditha Reading and questions. Do Now: Geneva Convention reading and questions.
Additional Question Given what you know about the problems American soldiers faced during the Vietnam War, why might following these rules be especially tricky?
What is My Lai? My Lai hamlet, part of the village of Son My, was believed to be a stronghold of the Viet Cong (VC) and was a frequent target of U.S. and South Vietnamese bombing attacks. In March 1968, Charlie Company of the 11th Infantry Brigade received word that VC guerrillas had taken control of Son My. Led by Lieutenant William L. Calley, the unit was sent to the village on a search-and-destroy mission on March 16. At the time, morale among troops was dwindling, Charlie Company had lost some 28 of its members to death or injuries, and was down to just over 100 men.
The Intel Army commanders advised the soldiers of Charlie Company that all who were found in Son My could be considered VC or active VC sympathizers and needed to be eliminated.
The Mission Company Charlie was ordered to enter My Son and destroy the village. Colonel Oran K. Henderson, the 11th Brigade commander, urged his officers to "go in there aggressively, close with the enemy and wipe them out for good". Colonel Barker reportedly ordered the 1st Battalion commanders to burn the houses, kill the livestock, destroy food supplies, and destroy the wells.
The Eve of Attack Capt. Ernest Medina, head of Company Charlie, told his men that nearly all the civilian residents of the hamlets in Son My village would have left for the market by 7 a.m., and any who remained would be Vietcong or Vietcong sympathizers. He was asked whether the order included the killing of women and children. He was also quoted as saying: "They're all V.C., now go and get them", and was heard to reply to the question "Who is my enemy?" by saying, "Anybody that was running from us, hiding from us, or appeared to be the enemy.”
The Events at My Lai The villagers, who were getting ready for a market day, at first did not panic or run away. Harry Stanley, a machine gunner from the Charlie Company, said the killings started without warning. He first observed, how a member of the 1st Platoon struck a Vietnamese man with a bayonet. Then, the same individual pushed another villager into a well and threw a grenade down. Further, he saw fifteen or twenty people, mainly women and children, kneeling around a temple with burning incenses, who were praying and crying. They were all killed by shots in the head.
More He recollected that women were allegedly saying "No VC" and were trying to shield their children. He remembered that he was shooting into women with babies in their hands since he was convinced at that time that they were all booby-trapped with grenades and were poised to attack. "A lot of women had thrown themselves on top of the children to protect them, and the children were alive at first. Then, the children who were old enough to walk got up and Calley began to shoot the children"
The Result The people in the village were executed in an extremely brutal fashion, including rape and torture. Not a single shot was fired against the men of Charlie Company at My Lai. In the end, hundreds of innocent people were killed.
The Massacre is Over The My Lai massacre reportedly ended only after Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson, an Army helicopter pilot on a reconnaissance mission, landed his aircraft between the soldiers and the retreating villagers. Thompson threatened to open fire if they continued their attacks. After returning to their base at about 11:00, Thompson reported the massacre to his superiors. Despite Thompson's revealing information, Colonel Henderson issued a Letter of Commendation to Captain Medina on March 27, 1968.
The Cover Up Knowing news of the massacre would cause a scandal, officers higher up in command of Charlie Company and the 11th Brigade immediately made efforts to downplay the bloodshed. The coverup continued until Ron Ridenhour, a soldier who had heard reports of the massacre but had not participated, began a campaign to bring the events to light. After writing letters to President Richard Nixon, the Pentagon, State Department, Joint Chiefs of Staff and several congressmen, with no response, Ridenhour finally gave an interview to the investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, who broke the story in November, 1969.
The Trial Begins Amid the international uproar that followed Ridenhour’s revelations, the U.S. Army ordered a special investigation into the My Lai massacre. The Army charged only 14, including Calley, Captain Ernest Medina and Colonel Oran Henderson, with crimes related to the events at My Lai.
The Result All were acquitted except for Calley, who was found guilty of premeditated murder for ordering the shootings, despite his contention that he was only following orders. In March 1971, Calley was given a life sentence for his role in directing the killings at My Lai. Many saw Calley as a scapegoat, and his sentence was reduced upon appeal to 20 years and later to 10; he was paroled in served only three and a half years under house arrest.
Questions: Company Charlie was commanded to "go in there aggressively, close with the enemy and wipe them out for good". Weren’t they just following orders? Do you think these men should have received harsher punishments? Did Americans soldiers follow the Geneva Convention’s rules on the treatment of civilians? Or are those rules only good in certain situations?