My Lai Massacre.

Essay by trytye December 2005

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It was early spring of 1967. U. S. military officials strongly suspected Quang Ngai Province of South Vietnam, as being a Viet Cong stronghold. Military officials declared the province a free-fire zone and subjected it to frequent, violent bombing missions and artillery attacks. By the end of 1967, most of the dwellings in the province had been destroyed and nearly 140,000 Vietnamese civilians were left without homes. The war had taken on a hard-nosed character of its own; it was getting bloodier. By March of 1968, many in the company had given in to an easy pattern of violence. Soldiers systematically beat unarmed civilians. Some civilians were murdered. Whole villages were burned. Wells were poisoned. Rapes were common. On March 16, 1968, Captain Ernest Medina ordered Charlie Company, a unit of the U.S. Eleventh Light Infantry Brigade, into combat. The 150 soldiers, led by Lt. William Calley, stormed into the hamlet, and four hours later more than 500 civilians, mostly unarmed women, children, babies and elderly people, were dead.

The objective of the U.S. military mission was clear: search and destroy the My Lai hamlet. What wasn't clear was what should be done with any civilians who might be encountered along the way. Charlie Company had not encountered even one enemy soldier, only three weapons were confiscated from the entire hamlet, and the only American casualty was a soldier who accidentally shot himself in the foot. It was a massacre that would haunt the conscience of the US Army and the American people.

Abraham Lincoln once gave the following warning to his troops before they went into battle during the Civil War: "Men who take up arms against one another in public do not cease on this account to be moral human beings, responsible to one another and to God."...