Military March 29, 2018

1971 – My Lai Massacre: Lieutenant William Calley is convicted of premeditated murder and sentenced to life in prison.

The Mỹ Lai Massacre (/ˌmiːˈlaɪ/; Vietnamese: Thảm sát Mỹ Lai, [tʰâːm ʂǎːt mǐˀ lāːj] (About this sound listen)) was the Vietnam War mass murder of unarmed Vietnamese civilians by U.S. troops in South Vietnam on 16 March 1968. Between 347 and 504 unarmed people were massacred by the U.S. Army soldiers from Company C, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Brigade, 23rd (Americal) Infantry Division. Victims included men, women, children, and infants. Some of the women were gang-raped and their bodies mutilated.[1][2] Twenty-six soldiers were charged with criminal offenses, but only Lieutenant William Calley Jr., a platoon leader in C Company, was convicted. Found guilty of killing 22 villagers, he was originally given a life sentence, but served only three and a half years under house arrest.

The massacre, which was later called “the most shocking episode of the Vietnam War”,[3] took place in two hamlets of Sơn Mỹ village in Quảng Ngãi Province.[4] These hamlets were marked on the U.S. Army topographic maps as Mỹ Lai and Mỹ Khê.[5]

The U.S. Army slang name for the hamlets and sub-hamlets in that area was Pinkville,[6] and the carnage was initially referred to as the Pinkville Massacre.[7][8] Later, when the U.S. Army started its investigation, the media changed it to the Massacre at Songmy.[9] Currently, the event is referred to as the My Lai Massacre in the United States and called the Sơn Mỹ Massacre in Vietnam.[citation needed]

The incident prompted global outrage when it became public knowledge in November 1969. The massacre increased to some extent[10] domestic opposition to the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War when the scope of killing and cover-up attempts were exposed. Initially, three U.S. servicemen who had tried to halt the massacre and rescue the hiding civilians were shunned, and even denounced as traitors by several U.S. Congressmen, including Mendel Rivers, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Only after thirty years were they recognized and decorated, one posthumously, by the U.S. Army for shielding non-combatants from harm in a war zone.[11] Along with the No Gun Ri massacre in Korea eighteen years earlier, Mỹ Lai was one of the largest single massacres of civilians by U.S. forces in the 20th century.[12]

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William Laws Calley Jr.[1] (born June 8, 1943) is a former United States Army officer convicted by court-martial of murdering 22 unarmed South Vietnamese civilians in the My Lai Massacre on March 16, 1968, during the Vietnam War. While not technically exonerated, after three and a half years of house arrest, Calley was released pursuant to a ruling by federal judge J. Robert Elliott who found that Calley’s trial had been prejudiced by pre-trial publicity, denial of subpoenas of certain defense witnesses, refusal of the United States House of Representatives to release testimony taken in executive session of its My Lai investigation, and inadequate notice of the charges. His initial conviction faced widespread public opposition both due to the campaign circumstances of civilian embedded Viet Cong, and due to Calley being singled out as the sole officer convicted with respect to the massacre.[2]
 
 
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House arrest

On April 1, 1971, only a day after Calley was sentenced in prison at Fort Leavenworth, President Richard Nixon ordered him transferred from Leavenworth prison to house arrest at Fort Benning, pending appeal.[18]

Calley served only three and a half years of house arrest in his quarters at Fort Benning. He petitioned the federal district court for habeas corpus on February 11, 1974, which was granted on September 25, 1974, along with his immediate release, by federal judge J. Robert Elliott. Judge Elliott determined that Calley’s trial had been prejudiced by pre-trial publicity, denial of subpoenas of certain defense witnesses, refusal of the United States House of Representatives to release testimony taken in executive session of its My Lai investigation, and inadequate notice of the charges. The judge had released Calley on bail on February 27, 1974, but an appeals court reversed Elliott’s ruling and returned Calley to U.S. Army custody on June 13, 1974. Consequently, his general court-martial conviction and dismissal from the U.S. Army were upheld; however, the prison sentence and subsequent parole obligations were commuted to time served, leaving Calley a free man.[8]

After release
In 1975 Calley married Penny, with whom he has one son. The couple divorced in 2005 or 2006. He studied and became a gemologist, working at his father-in-law’s jewelry store.[19]

On August 19, 2009, while speaking to the Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus, Calley issued an apology for his role in the My Lai massacre. Calley said:

“There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in My Lai. I feel remorse for the Vietnamese who were killed, for their families, for the American soldiers involved and their families. I am very sorry… If you are asking why I did not stand up to them when I was given the orders, I will have to say that I was a 2nd Lieutenant getting orders from my commander and I followed them—foolishly, I guess.”[20]

 
 
 
 

Hugh Clowers Thompson Jr. (April 15, 1943 – January 6, 2006) retired as a United States Army Major, and formerly a warrant officer in the 123rd Aviation Battalion, 23rd Infantry Division, who played a major role in ending the My Lai Massacre in Sơn Mỹ Village, Sơn Tịnh District, Quảng Ngãi Province, South Vietnam, on March 16, 1968.

During the My Lai massacre, Thompson and his Hiller OH-23 Raven crew, Glenn Andreotta and Lawrence Colburn, stopped a number of killings by threatening and blocking officers and enlisted soldiers of Company C, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Brigade, 23rd Infantry Division. Additionally, Thompson and his crew saved a number of Vietnamese civilians by personally escorting them away from advancing United States Army ground units and assuring their evacuation by air. Thompson reported the atrocities by radio several times while at Sơn Mỹ. Although these reports reached Task Force Barker operational headquarters, nothing was done to stop the massacre. After evacuating a child to a Quảng Ngãi hospital, Thompson angrily reported to his superiors at Task Force Barker headquarters that a massacre was occurring at Sơn Mỹ. Immediately following Thompson’s report, Lieutenant Colonel Frank A. Barker ordered all ground units in Sơn Mỹ to cease search and destroy operations in the village.

In 1970, Thompson testified against those responsible for the My Lai Massacre. Twenty-six officers and enlisted soldiers, including William Calley and Ernest Medina, were charged with criminal offenses, but all were either acquitted or pardoned. Thompson was condemned and ostracized by many individuals in the United States military and government, as well as the public, for his role in the investigations and trials concerning the My Lai massacre. As a direct result of what he experienced, Thompson suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder, alcoholism, divorce, and severe nightmare disorder.[citation needed] Despite the adversity he faced, he remained in the United States Army until November 1, 1983, and continued to make a living as a helicopter pilot in the Southeastern United States.

In 1998, 30 years after the massacre, Thompson and the two other members of his crew, Glenn Andreotta and Lawrence Colburn, were awarded the Soldier’s Medal (Andreotta posthumously), the United States Army’s highest award for bravery not involving direct contact with the enemy.[1] Thompson and Colburn also returned to Sơn Mỹ in 1998, where the massacre took place, to meet with survivors of the massacre. In 1999, Thompson and Colburn received the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award.

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By Jon Weiner: A forgotten hero stopped the My Lai massacre 50 years ago today
 
 

Interview – Larry Colburn: Why My Lai, Hugh Thompson Matter
 
 
wikivisually:
Hugh Clowers Thompson Jr. (April 15, 1943 – January 6, 2006)
 
 

Glenn Urban Andreotta (October 30, 1947 – April 8, 1968)

Note: No wikivisually available for Lawrence Colburn