All Quite On The Western Front

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My Lai Massacre On March 16, 1968 the 11th Brigade of Charlie Company, American Division, crept into the small jungle village of My Lai 4. "This is what you've been waiting for, search and destroy, and you've got it," said their superior officers. This was the first thing that went wrong, the wrong attitude. First secure your landing area, then seek out any threats and overcome them. When the news of the so-called "massacre" came about, it caused great controversy throughout the U.S.

My Lai 4 is located in South Vietnam. More specifically Son My, which is a heavily guarded area of Viet Cong trenches. Many men of Charlie Company had been killed in this area. Lieutenant Calley commanded the troops. This area, being known to be a hot bed, meant that the soldiers had a preconception that there would be Viet Cong. This was a mistake on all parts.

The Charlie Company were expecting a fight, and when they saw nothing was stirring they made their own fight with extreme acts of aggression.

As the mission was executed so were the civilians. It turned out to be the massacre of over 500 unarmed civilians including children, women, and the elderly. Lieutenant Calley ordered his troops open fire on the village even though there had been no report of enemy fire. According to several eyewitness reports, at least one girl was raped then killed, many old men were stabbed with bayonets, and praying civilians were shot in the head. Calley's actions were reported as to have rounded up a group of the villagers, ordered them into a ditch, and mowed them down with a machine gun. Now these actions are not justifiable. If Calley knew that the people were actually civilians at the time, he is definitely murdering innocent people. The same innocent people that we are trying to protect from the spreading communist epidemic. Otherwise it is just a trigger happy Lieutenant that has been gravely misinformed.

Journalist Seymour Hersh unleashed the word of the massacre to the American public in November of 1969, when he re-told his conversations with Ron Ridenhour. Ridenhour knew about the events at My Lai because of stories he heard from soldiers who were there. Before the article was published, Ridenhour had told the government to investigate My Lai 4. The investigation resulted in Lieutenant Calley being charged with murder.

The American public had serious questions about the troops in Vietnam. The military investigation also found that as the war went on many experienced soldiers were leaving the war to either retire or to be relocated. These experienced soldiers were being replaced with second-rate draftees. This is not what America stands for. We put out the impression that we are the best. Then why are we sending in troops that are barely satisfactory? Officials claimed that there were not enough draftees to choose from and that the numbers were limited. Calley was a fool who couldn't control his aggression and should have been replaced long before he was sent over to South East Asia.

At the trial, there was only enough evidence to convict him of murder. He went on to say that he was only following orders that were instructed by Medina. He said that soldiers are given orders and are expected to carry them out. If they don't, they face being court marshaled. Calley was sentenced to life imprisonment but was released a few years later following numerous appeals.

I feel that Calley's only fault was jumping to conclusions based on rumors. Calley believed that My Lai 4 was an extreme hot bed for Viet Cong activities. He went in with all he had even before checking out the scenario within the village. If he had sent in a patrol party to the village, this whole mess could have been avoided.