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March 16, 2012

There will never be another year in America like 1968.

"It's not your right to refuse that order, and you go out there and do it because you're ordered to." 

That was how a soldier explained his actions to the Peers Commission for what would become probably one of the most infamous events of the Vietnam War,The My Lai tragedy took place on March 16th 1968.


At this time I must say, I have read several news articles that covered the events that occured on March 16th in My Lai and have found there are many different accounts of that incident. I can not personally give an opinion on what and how this happened or how the final court cases ended. I can say that the Vietnam War was a unique war and our country learned so much from that war that also is one of the most significant wars in history to change our whole government and the way we fight wars today. In addition the US is a free country and we have rights and freedoms we take for granted every day, but if it were not for our Vietnam Veterans we would not be living the american dream and have the right to report and voice our opinions on incidents such as My Lai as we can now.

Unless you have been put in that position to do what you are ordered to do by a commanding officer, you cannot judge the ones who were. As far as I am concerned the men and women who fought for our country in the Vietnam War are hero's and always will be. They went to do what they were ordered to do and they did not ask why, they fought for our country and we must continue to fight for them today. 

Here is the My Lai incident as told by a few different sources, I tried to find as many unbiased reporters as I could to be able to publish the truth of the story and have the facts told.

THIS WOULD BE THE FINAL OUTCOME: The cases were tried in military courts with juries of Army officers, which eventually dropped the charges against all of the defendants (except Calley) or acquitted them. Medina and the others who were among the killing soldiers that day went free, and only Calley was convicted of the murders of “at least 20 civilians.” Nobody was convicted of the murders of the other 400+ villagers. Calley was sentenced to life imprisonment for his crime, but, under pressure from patriotic pro-war Americans, President Nixon pardoned him within weeks of the verdict.

WHAT LED UP TO THESE TRIALS IS AS FOLLOWS: There will never be another year in America like 1968. Why that year became one of the most tumultuous periods in our history will probably never be known. It began on an ominous note when one of America’s most fervent enemies, North Korea, seized a U.S. Navy intelligence ship, named the U. S. S. Pueblo, in the Sea of Japan on January 23. They held the ship and its crew for many months and nearly started a full-scale war. In Vietnam, the massive Tet Offensive, launched by the Viet Cong against almost every major city in the south, caused massive casualties on all sides.

The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King touched off numerous riots in dozens of American cities. Two months later, the brother of a murdered President, Senator Robert Kennedy, was assassinated in Los Angeles at the hands of an Arab fanatic. Colleges across the country were enveloped in a wave of protest and violence over the Vietnam War, which was killing hundreds of young Americans every week.

In August, the Democratic Presidential Convention in Chicago was wrecked by thousands of young people who fought the Chicago police on live TV, symbolizing the anguish of a divided nation. Richard Nixon was elected President in November and man made his first tenuous step into eternity as Apollo 10 astronauts said Christmas prayers from the dark side of the Moon. It seemed as if anything could happen that year, and then, there was My Lai.

IN FEBRUARY AND MARCH OF 1968 Charlie Company, of the 1st Battalion, 11th Brigade, suffered severe losses as a result of these traps. In one instance, while patrolling near Son My, the company stumbled upon a heavily laid minefield. As the explosions went off among them, the men tried to push forward. It was the worst thing they could have done. More explosions ripped through the helpless soldiers. Broken and severed limbs were everywhere. When it was over, 15 men were killed and wounded. By the time early March rolled around, Charlie Company had suffered 28 casualties and had yet to actually see any Viet Cong. They were seething with an anger and hatred for an enemy that, to them, was mostly invisible.

ON THE NIGHT OF MARCH 15, 1968, the men and commanders of Charlie Company gathered outside Captain Medina's "hooch". That very day, the company had a memorial service for Sgt. George Cox, a popular N.C.O. who was killed by a booby trap while on patrol near QL-1 the day before. The men were demoralized, angry and frustrated with an enemy that so far, had gotten the best of them.

Captain Medina briefed the company on the next day's assault on My Lai. What was said at this meeting and exactly what the orders were concerning the mission has remained in dispute. Some of those at the meeting say that Medina gave direct orders to kill all the civilians. "He (Medina) stated that My Lai #4 was a suspected VC stronghold and that he had orders to kill everybody that was in the village," testified Spec. 4 Max Hutson of the 2nd Platoon . Others disagreed. Pfc. Gregory Olsen remembered the briefing differently and testified to the Army C.I.D.: "Captain Medina would never have given an order to kill women and children." Whatever was said, and it is impossible to determine exactly what orders were issued, the men of Charlie Company saw the next day's mission as an opportunity to pay back the Viet Cong for their booby traps, their mine fields and the blood of the 11th Brigade.

THE EARLY MORNING OF MARCH 16, 1968 in Southern Quang Ngai was calm and cool. The men of the 1st Platoon made their final check on ammunition and supplies. They quickly boarded the waiting aircraft, filled with the expectation that the company may be "getting even" with an enemy that was mostly unseen, mysterious and hated.

BY THE AFTERNOON OF MARCH 16, 1968, while the operation was still in progress, 11th Brigade headquarters at Duc Pho knew that something drastic had happened at My Lai 4. In the following days, officers of the Americal Division met several times at Chu Lai to discuss the operation. Although inquiries were made about the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry, no disciplinary action was taken.

ONLY ONE PERSON HAD PROOF OF WHAT HAPPENED ON MARCH 16, 1968. Only one man had the irrefutable evidence of the day's events at My Lai. That man was Ron Haeberle, an Army photographer. Ron Ridenhour, 21, arrived in Vietnam in January of 1968 and was assigned to the aviation branch of the 11th Infantry Brigade at Chu Lai. During that year, he became friends with the "grunts" (infantry foot soldiers) and often drank with the men on their off time in the clubs on the base. Ridenhour also was a member of a special unit called Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols (LRPS). Although he did not participate in the attack on My Lai, Ridenhour heard stories about what happened on March 16, including vivid descriptions of the killing. Over the next few months, the stories he heard originated from so many different sources, Ridenhour realized there must be some truth to them. When he returned to the United States after his tour of duty, he sat down in his home in Phoenix, Arizona and composed a letter that described his fears.

OVER THE SUMMER OF 1969, the Army conducted an investigation into the actions of the 1st Battalion at My Lai. Headed by a no-nonsense Army officer, Colonel William Wilson, the inquiry involved the first face-to-face interviews with the soldiers who were actually there on March 16, 1968. Colonel Wilson was a North Carolina native, a highly decorated Green Beret and combat veteran of World War II. He received a Purple Heart for war wounds and served in many combat zones throughout the years including the Congo in 1965. Among Army personnel, he was highly respected and regarded as a "soldier's soldier". He conducted his interviews in full uniform wearing a chest full of medals so that the young soldiers would feel that he was one of them, an infantryman who knew the devastating pressures of close up war.

IN AUGUST OF 1969, President Richard Nixon, on vacation in San Clemente, was told that Lt. William Calley and others would soon be charged with mass murder for the hundreds of killings at My Lai. Politically, it was a catastrophe for the Nixon White House. America was bitterly divided over the Vietnam War, Nixon was trying to drum up support for his policies and stifle the dissent at home. He also felt that the North Vietnamese would never fully negotiate if they knew that the American people were divided over the fate of the war.

"It is clear that something hideous happened at My Lai...I fear and dread what this will do to our society unless we try to understand it...For it is America that is being judged. And America will be condemned, unless we undertake some larger effort than can be had from a court martial."  President Richard Nixon.

ON DECEMBER 5, 1969, Life magazine ran Haeberle's photos of what took place in My Lai. There, for the world to see, in bright unforgiving color showed something beyond anything America had ever seen before, had happened in My Lai.

ON MARCH 29, 1971, after the longest court martial in American history and thirteen days of deliberations, Lt. William Calley was found guilty of the murder of at least twenty-two Vietnamese civilians. Calley, then 27, stood erect as he heard the verdict. He saluted the jury foreman, Colonel Clifford Ford, and returned to his seat at the defense table. His attorney, George Latimer, told the press: "It was a horrendous decision for the United States, the United States Army and for my client. Take my word for it, the boy is crushed."

To read the entire story please go to this link:  http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/notorious_murders/mass/lai/index_1.html 
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