My Lai incident

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My Lai incident

(mē lī), a massacre of Vietnamese civilians by U.S. soldiers in the Vietnam WarVietnam War,
conflict in Southeast Asia, primarily fought in South Vietnam between government forces aided by the United States and guerrilla forces aided by North Vietnam. The war began soon after the Geneva Conference provisionally divided (1954) Vietnam at 17° N lat.
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. On Mar. 16, 1968, a unit of the U.S. army's Americal division, led by Lt. William L. Calley, invaded the South Vietnamese hamlet of My Lai (more correctly, Son My), a reputed Viet Cong stronghold. In the course of combat operations, dozens of unarmed civilians, including women and children, were killed (the final army estimate for the number killed was 347). The incident remained unknown to the American public until late 1969, when a series of letters by a former soldier to government officials forced the army to take action. Several soldiers and veterans were charged with murder, a number of officers were accused of dereliction of duty for covering up the incident, and army and congressional investigations concluded that a massacre had in fact taken place. Of the many soldiers originally charged, only five were court-martialed, and one, Lt. Calley, convicted. He was found guilty (1971) of the premeditated murder of at least twenty-two Vietnamese civilians and sentenced to life imprisonment (later reduced to 10 years), but in 1974 a federal district court overturned the conviction and he was released. The My Lai incident aroused widespread controversy and contributed to growing disillusionment in the United States with the Vietnam War. The U.S. army released an official report on its investigation in 1974. In 1998 three U.S. soldiers who had saved Vietnamese civilians during the massacre were honored with the Soldier's Medal.


See R. Hammer, The Court-Martial of Lt. Calley (1971); S. M. Hersh, Mylai 4 (1970) and Cover-up (1972); W. T. Allison, My Lai (2012); H. Jones, My Lai (2017).

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References in periodicals archive ?
It is worth noting that the Court of Claims was "sensitive" to Brigadier General Koster's claim he was made "to suffer for the political and public pressures that were brought to bear on the Army as a result of the My Lai incident." (49) The court, however, quoted from a memorandum written by Army Secretary Resor to the Secretary of Defense in March 1973.
The equivalent of a My Lai incident at this stage would be catastrophic.
An Army colonel charged with covering up the My Lai incident told reporters: "Every unit of brigade size has its My Lai hidden someplace."