My Lai Massacre And The Peril òf Obedience English 101 Essay

853 words - 4 pages

On March 16, 1968, over 300 unarmed civilians were killed in South Vietnam during an
indiscriminate, mass murder event known as the My Lai Massacre. Conducted by a unit of the
United States Army, the My Lai Massacre ranked one of most appalling atrocities carried out by
US forces in an already savage and violent war. All victims involved were unarmed civilians,
many of which were women, children, and the elderly. Victims were raped, tortured and beaten,
even mutilated before being killed. The massacre was forever seared into the hearts and minds of
the American people as the day “the American spirit died.”
Since the initiation of the Tet Offensive, the 48th Battalion of the National Front of the Liberation
of South Vietnam (NLF – Vietcong) carried out frequent attacks against US forces. According to
intelligence reports, the 48th NLF Battalion was believed to be sheltered in the Son My village.
The hamlets within Son My village were designated My Lai one through four. These hamlets were
suspected of harboring Vietcong fighters. As such, US forces prepared for a major operation
against Son My village. Colonel Oran K. Henderson of the US 20th Infantry Regiment ordered his
subordinate offices to hit the village hard and wipe out the 48th Battalion. His second in command,
Lieutenant Colonel Frank A. Barker further ordered the men to burn down houses, destroy food
stores and livestock.
Charlie Company of the US 1st Battalion, under the direct command of Captain Ernest Medina,
landed after US artillery bombardment of the helicopter landing zone (LZ). Although no enemy
contact was made, American forces suspected that Vietcong fighters were hiding underground in
the My Lai hamlets. As the prior mission briefing given by Captain Medina specifically stated that
most civilian residents were either Vietcong or NLF sympathizers, US forces were ordered to kill
all Vietcong fighters and suspects with extreme prejudice. Spearheaded by Second Lieutenant
William Calley and his platoon, US forces began attacking human and animal targets alike. Men,
women and children were killed indiscriminately with firearms, grenades and bayonets. After the
initial attack, backup forces came in and dealt with the “remaining resistance,” killing every living
person they could find. Although most soldiers did not or refused to participate in the My Lai
Massacre, they neither resisted nor attempt to prevent the killings.
Conversely, a few men, namely Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson Jr. and his crew, actively saved
as many civilians as they could. Thomson, a helicopter pilot from an aerial scouting team,
witnessed the horrific massacre being carried out below him. Thompson soon landed by a nearby
bunker...

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