Calley's Honour

Topics: My Lai Massacre, Vietnam War, William Calley Pages: 29 (11200 words) Published: April 3, 2013
Calley’s Honor
How the Southern Culture influenced the public opinion on the court-martial of Lieutenant Calley

Table of Contents

Introduction……………………………………………………………………………………………….....3 Chapter One………………………………………………………………………………………....……...6 Public opinion……………………………………………………………………….................6 Southern Culture…………………………………………………………………………………..8 Chapter Two…………………………………………………………………………………………..........12 My Lai...................................................................................................12 Public Reaction…………………………………………………………………………...........14 The Calley Court Martial……………………………………………………………...........17 Chapter Three……………………………………………………………………………………............21 Conclusion………………………………………………………………………………………….............27 Bibliography…………………………………………………………………………………………...........29

Introduction

“There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in My Lai.”

These are the words spoken by former Lieutenant William Calley at a public appearance at the Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus in August 2009. During his stay Calley was subjected to multiple questions about what happened in My Lai and he was forced to defend his actions. The critical tone of these questions is not something he has had to deal with in the direct years after the conviction for his involvement in what happened in My Lai. This is because the American public saw him as a victim, not as a criminal, and opposed the court that punished him. This is a strange phenomenon, considering the feeling of horror many people get when reading about the My Lai massacre. In March 1968 Charlie Company was commanded by their Captain, Ernest Medina, to destroy a village called My Lai in South Vietnam, whose inhabitants were considered Viet Cong guerrillas or sympathizers. In reality the village consisted mostly out of women, children and seniors. When the villagers tried to run, Lieutenant William Calley ordered his men to shoot them all, setting the example when some soldiers hesitated. By the time the massacre had ended, the soldiers had murdered, mutilated and raped 504 people, while never being fired on. It took a while for reports about My Lai to reach the general public. At first, an attempt was made to cover up what happened. Ron Ridenhour, a man who had served with people who were involved in the massacre, decided to take action in April 1969. After hearing his friends speak about it he wrote letters to several politicians informing them of what happened, hereby causing a formal investigation to be set in motion. In early September of 1969 Lieutenant William Calley was charged with six specifications of murder, including the deliberate shooting of 109 civilians. The press did not pick up on this story until Seymour Hersh broke the news in November, causing My Lai to suddenly get a prominent position in the public debate and to be covered in the media for many years to come. Not long after that, it was announced that four officers and nine enlisted men were to be court-martialed, of which Lieutenant Calley would eventually be the only one found guilty. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labor in March 1971, but his punishment was reduced multiple times. Two important works have been written about him, The Court-Martial of Lt. Calley by journalist Richard Hammer in 1971, focusing more on exploring Calley’s background, and The Vietnam War on Trial by professor of Law Michal Belknap in 2002, giving a detailed recollection of the process. The amount of attention this court martial process attracted was enormous, mainly because it caused people to question an already unpopular war. While studying the public opinion on the My Lai incident, it is important to take into account the general anti-war feelings that existed during this time. The war was extensively covered by all media and created many controversies, mostly caused...

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Fry, J. A. Dixie Looks Abroad: The South and U.S. Foreign Relations, 1789-1973
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Hallin, D. C. ‘The Media, the War in Vietnam and Political Support: A Critique of the
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[ 3 ]. K. Oliver, ‘Atrocity, Authenticity and American Exceptionalism: (Ir)rationalizing the massacre at My Lai’ in Journal of American Studies 37 (2003), 248.
[ 6 ]. G. C. Herring, America’s Longest War: The United Stated and Vietnam, 1950 – 1975 (New York, 1996), 206-210.
[ 7 ]. W. Lunch and P. Sperlich, ‘American Public Opinion and the War in Vietnam’, The Western Political Quaterly 32 (1979), 23.
[ 11 ]. W. Hammond, ‘The Press in Vietnam as Agent of Defeat: A Critical Examniation’, Reviews in American History 17 (1989), 318.
[ 12 ]. D. C. Hallin, ‘The Media, the War in Vietnam and Political Support: A Critique of the Thesis of an Oppositional Media’, The Journal of Politics 46 (1984), 9.
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[ 21 ]. R.E. Nisbett and D. Cohen, ‘Insult, aggression and the southern culture of honor: an “experimental ethnography”’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychologie (1996), 946
[ 22 ]
[ 32 ]. M. R. Belknap, The Vietnam War On Trial: The My Lai Massacre and the Court-Martial of Lieutentant Calley (Kansas, 2002), 104.
[ 33 ]. S. Hersh, My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and Its Aftermath (Random House, 1970,) 128.
[ 35 ]. W. M. Hammond, Reporting Vietnam: Media and Military at War (Kansas, 1998), 189.
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