My Lai Massacre
On March 16, 1968, soldiers from C Company of the United States military entered the village of My Lai. The soldiers then proceeded to brutally slaughter the people of the village. The horror did not end with the deaths of the innocent people though, as the troops then mutilated the corpses and performed other horrific acts against the still living. At the end of the day, an official report was turned in claiming that 128 Viet Cong had been killed alongside 22 civilians in a firefight. The true body count numbered somewhere between 300-500. The story would have remained buried if a soldier, Chief Warrant Officer Hugh C. Thompson, had not refused to participate and had instead reported the atrocity once Company C had returned to base.
An Army investigation was prompted after reports came in from soldiers who refused to participate. The investigation became public knowledge shortly thereafter, and the media took the information it received and blew up in a storm of negative stories.
It was not until 1970 that a court case was brought against the some of the perpetrators of the massacre. 14 officers were to be tried. In the end, only one was convicted of anything, and that individual escaped harsh punishment, serving only three and a half years of house arrest for the murder of twenty-two people at My Lai.
News articles exploded after the My Lai Massacre became public knowledge. My Lai was an example of what the United States was truly doing in Vietnam in the eyes of anyone against the war.
The focus of many articles became the highly publicized trial of Lieutenant Calley. Or rather his multiple appeals through the legal system after his conviction. Calley had been painted as a scapegoat for the rest of the officers to escape punishment, according to the media. And though the official records of what occurred at My Lai remained sealed, the story had leaked, and the press was furious.
For American news agencies, My Lai was the perfect microcosm of American actions in Vietnam. Horrifyingly brutal, yet hushed up by the government. There could not be a more perfect metaphor for what the United States was doing overall in Vietnam.