My Lai Massacre My Lai Term Paper

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Powell, reported that "relations between American soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent."

However, photographer Ron Haeberle had witnessed the massacre and the pictures he subsequently showed were of a nature to both shock the public opinion and clearly present the facts. On the other hand, Ron Ridenhour, a soldier engaged in Vietnam, also found out about the details of the massacre and wrote all these in a letter that he sent to several governmental officials. It was enough to build a momentum for an investigation and a reaction at a governmental level.

The first serious investigation was headed by Colonel William Wilson, who interrogated Ron Ridenhour on the contents of his letter. Subsequently, warrant officer Thompson was also interrogated on details of the massacre as he had witnessed it from his helicopter and on the ground. His testimony included evaluations on the number of the killed individuals that he had witnessed in a nearby ditch. The report that Colonel Wilson completed was submitted to General William Peers and the investigation had already transformed, by this point, into a full-scale account of all the minute details of the massacre as it had happened.

The final Peers Report would contain entire volumes of the tragedy and would include interviews, photographs or testimonies of many of the individuals that had been, directly or indirectly, involved in the My Lai massacre. Some of the conclusions in this report were dramatic, detailing the violent acts including rapes and killings and mutilation of babies: "Its (1st Platoon) members were involved in widespread killing of Vietnamese inhabitants (compromised almost exclusively of old men, women and children)...members of the 2nd Platoon killed at least 60-70 Vietnamese men, women and children as they swept through the northern half of My Lai 4."

While at this point it seemed apparent that William Calley and others involved would be charged with mass murders, the game began to turn political, due to the implication this had both for Nixon's Presidency and his policies of engagement in Vietnam. Obviously, at this point, public support for the Vietnam War is approaching its lowest point and events such as My Lai can only potentially harden even more the negative perspective on war that the American peoples had. With such events, war appears as an obvious irrationality targeting and victimizing innocent civilians in a war-torn country.

As such, the reaction of President Nixon could not take the form of denial and the case was deferred to the Army. Lt. William Calley was charged with 109 murders. After this moment, the entire story began to appear throughout the country, together with the pictures that had been made. Life magazine published these in December 1969 and left little doubt about what had happened.

The jury was formed of six Army officers and, although the case appeared to have sufficient proof for a conviction, given the extensive materials that had been shown, as well as potential testimonies, many of the soldiers from Calley's unit did not wish to testify and usually used the 5th Amendment as the judicial argument to protect them from needing to give evidence and from accepting their own implication. This weakened the prosecution and made the case harder.

The case was more than judicial and soon transformed into a PR campaign, with Calley selling his story to Esquire magazine and planning to start working on a book in which he would give his own side of the story. Some of the soldiers' confessions, such as Meadlo's, who proceeded to give a full account of the killings in one of the ditches, however, did not do much to help the defense. Calley's testimony used the idea of submitting to orders to justify the killings. According to his stance, his orders had included wiping out the village where Vietcong troops were supposedly hidden and he simply carried those out without considering the difference between men, women or children. This did not help, however, as he was convicted for the murder of at least twenty - two Vietnamese civilians. He was sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor. However, because the case had been so publicized and politicized, he would eventually serve only several years under house arrest, and was eventually paroled in 1974.

The My Lai tragedy polarized passions both in favor of Lt. Calley, whom many saw as a scapegoat in this affair, and against the war in Vietnam, circumscribing a more general attitude against the war. While the guilty individuals were only partially prosecuted, the act itself remained as one of the worst tragedies and war crimes witnessed during American history.


1. Linder, Doug. An Introduction to the My Lai Courts-Martial. On the Internet at retrieved on January 5, 2008

2. The My Lai Massacre. On the Internet at retrieved on January 5, 2008

3. Into the Dark. The Crime Library. On the Internet at retrieved on January 5, 2008

Linder, Doug. An Introduction to the My Lai Courts-Martial. On the Internet at retrieved on January 5, 2008

The My Lai Massacre. On the Internet at retrieved on January 5, 2008

Linder, Doug. An Introduction to the My Lai Courts-Martial. On the Internet at retrieved on January 5, 2008

Seymour Harsh in Linder, Doug. An Introduction to the My Lai Courts-Martial. On the Internet at retrieved on January 5, 2008

Linder, Doug. An Introduction to the My Lai Courts-Martial. On the Internet at retrieved on January 5, 2008 open up on the Americans if they fired at the civilians." Linder, Doug. An Introduction to the My Lai Courts-Martial. On the Internet at retrieved on January 5, 2008

Into the Dark. The Crime Library. On the Internet at retrieved on January 5, 2008[continue]

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