My Lai Massacre

History
Term Paper
Period 5
The massacre occurred during the Vietnam War and was a horrible incident that happened. On March 16th, 1968, three companies of the 1st battalion launched a search and destroy mission in the My Son area. Their main objective was to target the VC 48th Battalion which was found on maps as My Lai. The only people then that knew about the incident that day were the people in the village and the people that caused the massacre. The incident didn’t get brought up until 19 months later when Lieutenant William Calley was charged with horrible war crimes for what he did that day in My Lai.


The United States went over to Vietnam to stop the spread of communism. It was hard to fight in this war because no one knew exactly who was who. Everyone looked the same and masses of troops died in the Vietnam War. They would hide in bunkers under ground and when the troops got close enough they would open fire. Some untraditional warfare that they carried out was setting up booby traps through out the fields.
Now, the troops were sent into My Lai and were told, “This is what you’ve been waiting for ?? search and destroy ?? and you’ve got it”. The U.S. denies ever saying this to the troops, but why would so many civilians get killed in My Lai? The U.S. covered this whole incident up making believe that it didn’t happen, but they couldn’t cover it up as well as they had hoped because they forgot about the people that were there and witnessed this horrific event. The troops went into the town thinking they would find Vietnamese troops and have a battle with them. The objective was to go in and defeat them. When they got there all they found were civilians and got upset about this. They were expecting to battle and get back at them for everything the troops had witnessed in the Vietnam War. When they got to the village and found civilians, they were angry. Some things the troops witnessed were their fellow troops getting blown up by land minds, missiles, killed by guns, all different things that could happen during the war.
Lt. Calley gave the order to go on a killing spree and kill everyone in sight. He said to his troops to “kill every man, woman, child, and animal in the village.”Soldiers later on said about Calley. “If they wanted to do something wrong, it was alright with Calley.” Since the troops were hungry for blood they went ballistic and a huge massacre happened. Some of the things Lt. Cally did were so horrendous that it was awful to think about. One thing he did was he dug a large hole in the ground and put the civilians in it. After he put them in the hole he gave orders to his troops to waste them. Opening fire they killed civilians up to 5 feet deep of dead bodies. Only 150 went into that massacre and had a killing spree for over four hours. Over 500 unarmed civilians like children, women, and even the elderly. One person said that a baby was crawling out of the hole and Calley went over, picked it up, and threw it in the hole opening fire again. This whole massacre should have never happened; and when the government heard it they tried to cover it up.

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Since the massacre was against the rules of war, the U.S. government tried to cover it up making it look like nothing ever happened. This caused lots of controversy with the public and the government. Some people began to think that if they were trying to cover this up, then what have they covered up before? A helicopter pilot, Hugh Thompson flew over the site and witnessed the massacre. Sickened by the horrible massacre, he landed the helicopter and started to rescue Vietnamese survivors. One person he rescued was a three?year?old child, and the child was smothered in blood, but with no injuries. After this he went to his section leader and reported everything that was happening in My Lai in very graphic detail. After sending in the report, Charlie Company was ordered to stop the massacre where covering up began immediately. One way they went about covering it up was that in the army newspaper, they were talking about how it was a wonderful victory over the Viet Cong. It said that they should be applauded for the courage they had displayed for going into the battle and risking their lives. Another interesting thing that was in the newspaper article was that note from General William Westmoreland saying about only 20 civilians were accidentally killed.


Ronald Ridenhour, a Vietnam veteran wrote a letter about what really happened after hearing it from several friends that were there that day. He sent letters out to different officials and eighty men were put under investigation to find out what really happened. Too many soldiers knew about what happened and it was way too hard to cover it up. A news reporter talked to Mr. Ridenhour about the massacre and wrote and article in the paper about it. This is when the public just started to hear about the massacre and they started to ask a lot of questions about it.


Colin Powell, who was a U.S. Army major was placed under investigation. Powell wrote: “In direct refutation of this portrayal is the fact that relations between American soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent.” This was Powell trying to cover up the event that had happened and not giving any information to the public. This was another reason why the public was furious with the government because this is one way the citizens could finally have hard evidence against the government.


Now, the question that had to be solved was who ordered them to kill the civilians? Well, no one still knows who really placed the orders to kill innocent civilians. Calley said that Captain Medina told him to kill innocent civilians so he was just doing what was ordered. Some of the soldiers agreed that Medina said that and some disagreed totally. Calley was quoted, ” I was ordered to go in there and destroy the enemy. That was my job that day. That was the mission I was given. I did not sit down and think in terms of men, women, and children. They were all classified the same.” Still to this day no one really knows who did what except for the men who were there.
This massacre is related to the Roswell incident that the government tried to cover up, but its just like the My Lai Massacre because its in that grey area that has two areas which each side is evenly arguable. People are still upset about the government lying about the massacre, but the truth lies behind the soldiers.
On November 17th 1970, Calley was tried for the massacre that happened. The jury said that he was guilty of murdering 22 civilians at My Lai that day and he was sentenced to life imprisonment. After spending only three days in prison, Nixon ordered them to send him to Fort Benning Georgia where he was placed under house arrest. Many Americans thought the Calley verdict was unjust. They thought that they used Calley as a scapegoat to mask the enormous blunders made by the U.S. army. Other Americans thought Calley was a hero for fighting against communism. Many Americans sent letters to the White House talking about what great things he did. Calley’s life sentence was reduced to twenty years and then down to ten years. In 1974, he was paroled after only three years under house arrest. He was issued and dishonorable discharge and focused his career on the insurance business.