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My Lai massacre

The My Lai massacre was a massacre of unarmed civilians during the Vietnam War when United States soldiers from Charlie Company, 11th Brigade, Americal Division under the orders of Lt. William Calley, murdered 347 civilians - primarily old men, women, children, and babies - on March 16, 1968 in My Lai (pronounced "Me Lie"), one of the nine hamlets grouped near the village of Song My. The soldiers also engaged in torture and rape of the villagers.

As reported by a South Vietnamese army lieutenant to his superiors, it was an "atrocious" incident of revenge, which occurred shortly after a firefight with Viet Cong troops who had mingled with the villagers.

The massacre was halted by a U.S. Army scout helicopter crew who landed their vehicle between the attacking American troops and the remaining Vietnamese who were alive. The pilot, Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson, Jr., confronted the leaders of the American troops and told them he would open fire on them if they did not cease.

While two members of the helicopter crew -- Spc. Lawrence Colburn and Spc. Glenn Andreotta -- aimed their heavy weapons at the Americans who had participated in the atrocity, Thompson directed an evacuation of the village. The crew members were credited with saving at least 11 lives from this massacre. Thirty years later, to the day, the three were awarded the Soldiers Medal[?], the army's highest award for bravery not involving direct contact with the enemy.

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Background

According to University of Missouri-Kansas City law professor Doug Linder:

GIs joked that "anything that's dead and isn't white is a VC" for body count purposes. Angered by a local population that said nothing about the VC's whereabouts, soldiers took to calling natives "gooks." (source) (http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/mylai/Myl_intro)

Cover-Up

Initial "investigations" of My Lai which had been done by the 11th Brigade's CO, Col Oran Henderson, under orders from Americal's Ass't CO, BG Young.

Six months later a young soldier of the 11th Light Infantry (The Butcher's Brigade) named Tom Glen, wrote a letter accusing the Americal division (and other entire units of the US military, not just individuals) of routine brutality against Vietnamese civilians; the letter was detailed, its allegations horrifying, and its contents echoed complaints received from other soldiers.

Colin Powell white-washed the letter, and questions continued to remain un-answered.

To this day, we might not know about the carnage at My Lai if it hadn't been for another soldier who later sent a letter to his Congressman.

Court Martial

Ron Ridenhour[?] learned about the events at My Lai second-hand, by talking to members of Charlie Company. He then appealed to Congress, the White House, and the Pentagon and eventually got Calley charged with murder in September 1969. It was another 2 months before the American public learned about the massacre.

On March 17, 1970 the United States Army charged 14 officers with suppressing information related to the incident.

American Army Lt. William Calley was convicted in 1971 of premeditated murder in ordering the shootings and initially sentenced to life in prison, but 2 days later, President Richard Nixon ordered him released from prison. Calley served 3 1/2 years of house arrest in his quarters at Fort Benning, Georgia and was then ordered freed by a federal judge. Calley claimed that he was following orders from Ernest Medina, but there was not enough proof to convict him of anything.

Seymour Hersh[?] published a story after discussions with Ron Ridenhour.

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