When they finally broke for lunch, the Americans had butchered 504 Vietnamese old men, women, children and babies. No military-aged men were killed. Only one weapon belonging to the Vietnamese was found. //Sometimes, the soldiers shot Vietnamese one at a time. Sometimes they herded them into ditches and machine-gunned them down in groups.
But in the end, only 14 officers were charged. And only Calley was convicted. President Richard Nixon, bowing to public pressure from those who believed Calley was a scapegoat, commuted his life sentence. //He spent three and half years confined, most of that time under house arrest. Nixon wouldn’t even allow Peers to call it a massacre. The massacre became, instead, “a tragedy of major proportions.”
Robert Hodierne does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Sa Thi Quy was 43 years old on the morning of March 16, 1968, when Americans came to her hamlet near the coast of the South China Sea in what was then South Vietnam.
“The first time the Americans came, the children followed them. They gave the children sweets to eat. Then they smiled and left. We don’t know their language – they smiled and said OK and so we learned the word OK.”
“The second time they came, we poured them water to drink. They didn’t say anything.”
“The third time they killed everyone.”
The name of her hamlet was My Lai.
Dim memories of a horrific crime
If Americans remember that name at all, they most likely remember that something dark and awful happened there. They are probably fuzzy on the details. Maybe they remember some grainy color photographs of Vietnamese bodies piled in a ditch. Or a lieutenant named Calley.
But on this 50th anniversary of what happened in that Vietnamese hamlet, it is worth recalling the grotesque details, in the hope that doing so will help prevent a future My Lai.
It is still an unsettled question about what, exactly, the troops of the Americal Division were ordered to do and who, exactly, issued the orders. What is settled is that for four hours that morning, American young men went on a rampage of killing and rape.
When they finally broke for lunch, the Americans had butchered 504 Vietnamese old men, women, children and babies. No military-aged men were killed. Only one weapon belonging to the Vietnamese was found.
Sometimes, the soldiers shot Vietnamese one at a time. Sometimes they herded them into ditches and machine-gunned them down in groups.
Sometimes it seemed as if the Americans were making a sport out of it.
One soldier threw a wounded elderly man down a well then dropped a grenade in after him. A soldier bayoneted an old man to death.
Another soldier was armed with an M-79 grenade launcher. Other soldiers testified at Army hearings that the man was frustrated that he hadn’t been able to use his weapon, so he herded some women and children together, backed off and fired several explosive rounds into them. Other soldiers with pistols killed those who were only wounded.
In a better-disciplined outfit, the officers in the field would have stopped such violence.
But in this outfit, officers took part in the killing. Seguir leyendo MY LAI: 50 YEARS AFTER, AMERICAN SOLDIER’S SHOCKING CRIMES MUST BE REMEMBERED. ROBERT HODIERNE