Article The Truth Behind My Lai

AAR Galileo

Mi Captain
MI.Net Member
Mar 6, 2018
This year is the 50th anniversary of the Mi Lai massacre. I was always wondering why only one man was found guilty. The times made a series of article about Mi Lai.

On March 16, 1968, Capt. Ernest Medina led his infantry company in an assault on the village of Son My, along the central coast of South Vietnam, as part of a mission to find and destroy a battalion of the National Liberation Front, also known as the Vietcong. One of the hamlets within the village was called My Lai.

The Photographer Who Showed the World What Really Happened at My Lai

Only One Man Was Found Guilty for His Role in the My Lai Massacre. This Is What It Was Like to Cover His Trial
Wow! thats a shocking story and the images... well even more so.
I have no idea why this happened and would never judge any situation or action without the full story but it seems from the accounts in the links that this was a massacre that could have been avoided with better leadership

When I was in the army, we had a series of courses about the Geneva convention, unlawful orders and when we can disobey. They give us scenarios and we had to make a decision and sometimes it was very difficult to chose to follow or not the orders. I remember one scenario when as a servant of a M2 machine gun we were ordered to fire at sheeted trucks, a great dilema!
Yes orders are one thing but it seems that a lot of what happened here did so without any specific orders and according to the accounts its not the first time that they committed acts like this. Don't get me wrong, and as I said previously it is difficult to understand and in someways judge, I wasn't there so can only go off what I have just read.
This via Wikipedia

Warrant Officer (WO1) Hugh Thompson, Jr., a helicopter pilot from Company B (Aero-Scouts), 123rd Aviation Battalion, Americal Division, saw dead and wounded civilians as he was flying over the village of Sơn Mỹ providing close-air support for ground forces. The crew made several attempts to radio for help for the wounded. They landed their helicopter by a ditch, which they noted was full of bodies and in which there was movement. Thompson asked a sergeant he encountered there (David Mitchell of the 1st Platoon) if he could help get the people out of the ditch, and the sergeant replied that he would "help them out of their misery". Thompson, shocked and confused, then spoke with 2LT Calley, who claimed to be "just following orders". As the helicopter took off, Thompson saw Mitchell firing into the ditch
This part of the Times story is not true. "While they did not receive any enemy fire, the constant stream of machine gun and rocket fire that helicopter gunships sprayed at the nearest huts gave them the impression that they were under attack. Lieutenant Calley and Lieutenant Brooks led their men into the village after a second wave of helicopters brought the rest of the company." My company put those people in that morning and our gunships never fired, there was nothing to shoot at. Haeberle's photo of the two helicopters was taken as the second lift landed. The first aircraft was from our second platoon, the Dolphin nose art is clear, the crew chief was Sam Davis, a good friend of mine, he can just be seen sitting behind his machine gun. The second aircraft was a Rattler from the 71st AHC. By the time of the second lift, the gunships had gone home. Brig. Gen. George Young (Americal Division's Deputy Commander) flew out to LZ Dottie the evening of the My Lai Massacre to investigate Thompson's story. However, instead of turning these charges over to an investigating body, or visiting the site himself, Young asked Col. Henderson to report on the allegations. Henderson had taken over command of the 11th Brigade only the day before. The initial report he presented to Koster was either a cover up or pure stupidity. We were blamed for the deaths and it cost my platoon leader his job. The commander of the task force, Col Barker was killed in June when his C & C aircraft collided with an O-2. The net result of this was that any future allegations were treated with the utmost seriousness. A few weeks later one of our gunships fired on a village in the 2cnd ARVN Div AO but hit no one. The aircraft commander was gone by supper time. I was a gunship crew chief and have the hand drawn map of the assault. The Peers commission report is an excellent source.
One other point I'd like to make is that this was not an everyday event, it was a poorly led unit that was lax in discipline. Contrast that with the thousands of bodies in shallow graves with their hands tied behind their backs with commo wire found at Hue during TET, the result of a state sanctioned standard operating procedure that was repeated time after time. To try to establish a moral equivalency is dishonest.

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