My Lai Massacre
One of the most horrific incidents of violence against civilians during the Vietnam War happened on March 16th, 1968 in South Vietnamese hamlet of My Lai. My Lai massacre experienced a mass killing of between 347 and 504 unarmed civilians. It was committed by US Army soldiers from the Charlie Company of the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Brigade, 23rd Infantry Division.
The platoon, commanded by Lieutenant William Calley was ordered to My Lai village. They planned to engage and destroy the remnants of the 48th Viet Cong Local Force Battalion, allegedly hiding in the Son My village area. When they moved through the village they started to fire at the villagers. These were women, children and the elderly. It was stated that the US troops in My Lai met no resistance.
Over the next three hours they killed nearly 504 Vietnamese civilians. The dead civilians included fifty age 3 or younger, 69 between 4 and 7, and 27 in their 70s or 80s. Some women were raped; many civilians were clubbed and stabbed. Some victims were mutilated with the signature “C Company” carved into the chest.
What happened at My Lai came to public light only in November 1969. Higher-ranking U.S. Army officers managed to cover up the events of that day for a year, until Ron Ridenhour, a 22-year-old helicopter gunner in another unit, wrote letters to 30 congressional and military officials a year later detailing the events at My Lai.
In 1970, a U.S. Army board charged 14 officers of crimes related to the events at My Lai; only one was convicted. Lieutenant William Calley was sentenced to life in prison with hard labour. He served three years before he was released.