My Lai Massacre

Topics: My Lai Massacre, Vietnam War, William Calley Pages: 7 (2743 words) Published: May 5, 2001
My Lai

On March 16, 1968, in the Quang Ngai region of Vietnam, specifically My Lai, the United States military was involved in an appalling slaughter of approximately 500 Vietnamese civilians. There are numerous arguments as to why this incident even had the capacity to occur. Although some of the arguments seem valid, can one really make excuses for the slaughter of innocent people? The company that was responsible for the My Lai incident was the Charlie Company and throughout the company there were many different accounts of what happened that reprehensible day. Therefore there are a few contradictions about what had occurred, such as what the commanding officers exact instructions for the soldiers were. Even with these contradictions the results are obvious. The question that must be posed is whether these results make the American soldiers involved that day "guilty". There is the fact that the environment of the Vietnam War made it very confusing to the soldiers exactly who the enemy was, as well as providing a pent up frustration due to the inability to even engage in real combat with the enemy. If this is the case though, why did some soldiers with the same frustrations refuse the orders and sit out on the action, why did some cry while firing, and why then did one man go so far as to place himself between the Vietnamese and the firing soldiers? If these men who did not see the sense in killing innocents were right with their actions, then how come the ones who did partake were all found not guilty in court? The questions can keep going back and forth on this issue, but first what happened that day must be examined. Captain Earnest Medina was in charge of giving orders to the Charlie Company and in the early evening of March 15th a meeting was called. CPT Medina told the company that the next morning they would be moving into My Lai and attacking Vietcong forces there. He told them that all the civilians would be at the market or would have already been moved out by the time that the soldiers arrived to carry out their planned attack. He said all that would be left in the village would be the Vietcong of the 48th battalion and Vietcong sympathizers. It was never clear what CPT Medina had said to do in the event of coming across civilians. Medina claimed in court that he had told the GI's not to kill women and children, to use their common sense, but the soldiers did not recollect this statement. All of the soldiers were said to be excited after the meeting and they were ready for whatever the next day's "battle" would bring. They drank themselves to extreme drunkenness that night and talked of the next day's events, cleaning out or "sanitizing" My Lai. On the morning of March 16th the company moved in. They were instructed by Lieutenant William Calley to shoot every living thing in sight, from animals to babies, for the animals would feed the Vietcong and the babies would one day grow up to be them. From many soldiers' accounts, non-of the people shot that day seemed to pose any threat to the American soldiers. In fact, women, children and old men made up a huge majority of the victims. Barely any weapons were found and according to most of the soldiers the Vietnamese people were trying to cooperate but there was the barrier of language. When the soldiers yelled things in Vietnamese they weren't even sure if they were saying the right thing because Vietnamese is a language based on inflection in the voice. LT Calley ordered his soldiers to kill all of the Vietnamese in massive slaughters. They were herded into big groups, and some groups were forced into ditches and then fired upon. "The few that survived did so because the were covered by the bodies of those less fortunate." (Linder) After the massacre was over there was an extensive cover-up, the commanders even reported My Lai as a success with 123 enemy deaths and some weapon recoveries. It wasn't until a man named Ronald Ridenhour, over a year later, began...

Cited: Chafe, William H. The Unfinished Journey: America Since
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Goff, Richard, et al. The Twentieth Century: A Brief Global
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Linder, Doug. "An Introduction to the My Lai Courts
Martial." Famous American Trails: The My Lai Courts
Martial, 1970. 15 Nov. 1999 faculty/projects/ftrials/mylai/Myl_intro.html>.
Olson, James S., and Randy Roberts. My Lai: A Brief History
With Documents. Boston: Bedford, 1998
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