My Lai

Imagine it. Your little village spliced open, torn through by a ditch wide enough to store the bodies of countless men, women and children. People you may have known. People you may never have known. You yourself are lucky to be alive. How is it that you survived? You ran. You ran and hid until you could no longer hear the sounds of women screaming, children crying, grown men sobbing as a massacre of your people played out before your very eyes. It is the morning of March 16th, 1968.

It was all down to miscommunication. The Charlie Company, as it was known, had expected to find armed members of the Vietcong in the Hamlet called My Lai. They found instead peaceful villagers. There was nothing to warrant the horrific acts of murder that followed. Exact numbers of those who died that day cannot be known, but it is believed the number could have been as many as 500 people. The majority of My Lai’s population.

What is worse, nobody was charged of crimes involving such unwarranted brutality until 1970, and only then one was charged. The disgraceful massacre was hidden, covered up, kept out of the history books by high-ranking US army officials. It remained a secret for a year, when it slowly revealed itself through the mouth of a soldier who had heard of the massacre. International outrage was sparked, and the matter was finally investigated.

How could such a tragedy have come to be? The Charlie Company, led by Lieutenant William L. Calley was sent into the village of My Lai on a search and destroy mission, based on intelligence that VC guerrillas had taken control there. Morale among US ground soldiers was low due to dwindling numbers. So when the soldiers found the villagers, they proceeded to murder them in the most despicable fashion. Villagers were raped and tortured before they were murdered, and any that attempted to flee were dragged back to the pit, and shot. Calley apparently dragged back dozens of fleeing villagers, including children, flinging them into the ditch before opening machine gun fire. Not once was a shot fired at the Charlie Company.