Wednesday, March 16, 2011

March 16, 1968

The My Lai Massacre

"The My Lai Massacre was the mass murder conducted by a unit of the U.S. Army on March 16, 1968 of 347–504 unarmed citizens in South Vietnam, all of whom were civilians and a majority of whom were women, children (including babies) and elderly people.

Many of the victims were raped, beaten, tortured, and some of the bodies were found mutilated. The massacre took place in the hamlets of Mỹ Lai and My Khe of Sơn Mỹ village during the Vietnam War. While 26 U.S. soldiers were initially charged with criminal offenses for their actions at My Lai, only William Calley was convicted of killing 22 villagers. Originally given a life sentence, he served three years under house arrest."

A real, not fake, American Hero During The Vietnam Genocide

Hugh Thompson, 1969, died January 6, 2006

"It was March 16, 1968, when Thompson and his crew watched in horror as an American Army officer walked up to an injured Vietnamese girl, flipped her over with his foot _ and shot her dead. It was his first glimpse of the massacre that led to the court martial of Lt. William Calley, one of the pivotal events as opposition to the war was growing in the United States.

Calley was eventually sentenced to life in prison but his sentence was reduced by President Richard Nixon. He served three years under house arrest.

Journalist Seymour Hersh won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the massacre in 1970.

Thompson would recall in a 1998 Associated Press interview seeing bodies piled in a ditch and watching American soldiers approaching Vietnamese women, children and old men.
"These people were looking at me for help and there was no way I could turn my back on them," Thompson said.

He placed his chopper down in front of the advancing Americans and gave Colburn a direct order: Train your M-60 on the GIs and if they try to harm the villagers, "You open up on them."

Thompson radioed to two gun ships behind him, and together they airlifted at least nine villagers to safety.

By the end of his tour of duty, Thompson had been hit eight times by enemy fire and lost five helicopters in combat. He left Vietnam after a combat crash broke his back, and was awarded both a Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

But Thompson's role in ending My Lai didn't come to light until the late 1980s, when David Egan, a professor emeritus at Clemson University, saw an interview with Thompson in a documentary on the massacre.

Egan wrote more than 100 letters to Congress and high-ranking government officials. He pressed others to write. Among those who did: Dean Rusk, secretary of state during the Vietnam years.

Still, no recognition came until Aug. 22, 1996, when the Army told Thompson he'd been approved for the Soldier's Medal, given to those who risk their lives in situations where an opposing army is not involved. He was faxed a copy of the citation.

Though his acts are now considered heroic, for years Thompson suffered snubs and worse from those who considered him unpatriotic.

Fellow servicemen refused to speak with him. He received death threats, and walked out his door to find animal carcasses on his porch. He recalled a congressman angrily saying that Thompson himself was the only serviceman who should be punished because of My Lai.

"He was treated like a traitor for 30 years," Angers said. "So he was conditioned to just shut up and be quiet."

Cost of the War in Iraq
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