March 16th 1968: My Lai Massacre
On this day in 1968, during the Vietnam War, between 350 and 500 Vietnamese villagers were massacred by American troops. The soldiers of the ‘Charlie’ Company killed and mutilated hundreds of unarmed civilians, many of whom were women and children. The massacre took place in the hamlets of My Lai and My Khe of Son My village, and was supposedly due to the belief that enemy soldiers were hiding in the area. The incident was initially downplayed by the army, with General Westmoreland congratulating the unit on their “outstanding job”. However, once the true nature of the horrific masacre was revealed, it sparked outrage both in the United States and around the world. The brutality of My Lai was a major factor in increasing domestic opposition to the Vietnam War, with mounting protests putting pressure on the government to end what many saw as a futile war. 26 US soldiers were charged for their involvement in the incident, but only one - William Calley - was convicted and found guilty. Calley was given a life sentence for killing 22 villagers, but only served 3 and a half years under house arrest; he made his first public apology in August 2009.