My Lai Massacre

    The war story of My Lai was hidden by the commanding officers and soldiers in the Charlie Company, much like many of the undocumented, similar massacres in America’s occupation of Vietnam. But unlike many Vietnam events a reporter named Seymour Hersh released the story sixteen months later to more than thirty US newspapers and television stations.

Before the media release, Hersh had begged for the US Government to investigate this event – but only when his story published and terrified the American people that the Charlie Company was prosecuted.

The combination of horrific photos and the words of Hersh bombarded the American people in 1969, and the anger and frustration felt by the anti-war citizens grew. 

Because of the terrible public relations that this published massacre was causing, the US Army sought an investigation. But, only Lieutenant William Calley was charged with murder and sentenced to life in prison. Despite this sentence, he was released by President Nixon only after serving four and half months in military prison.
Bella Masucci

The split feelings about Calley are a good representation of the opposite feelings for how the American people felt about the Vietnam War veterans. Anti-War Americans saw him as a criminal and a representation of the cruelty being commissioned by the US Military. Conversely, pro-Vietnam citizens viewed him as a misunderstood and mentally abused solider who was wrongly persecuted for carrying out orders.

Calley did order the shooting of more than three hundred innocent villagers. But, uneducated in army tactics, terrified of losing his life, and responsible for his life’s of his platoon – one could argue he was placed in a high stress situation and reacted terribly. Unlike other platoon leaders, Calley was simply documented.

The issue of My Lai went beyond the actions of Calley. Rather than another documented war crime, the timing of the massacre was 1969. The year after the horrific year of 1968, and the American people had lost hope, interest, and were frustrated by the war, the draft, and the politicians that kept them there. My Lai, for many, was the last straw.