Year
1970
Month Day
March 10

Army captain charged with My Lai war crimes

The U.S. Army accuses Capt. Ernest Medina and four other soldiers of committing crimes at My Lai in March 1968. The charges ranged from premeditated murder to rape and the “maiming” of a suspect under interrogation. Medina was the company commander of Lt. William Calley and other soldiers charged with murder and numerous crimes at My Lai 4 in Song My village.

The My Lai massacre became the most publicized war atrocity committed by U.S. troops in Vietnam. Allegedly, a platoon had slaughtered between 200 and 500 unarmed villagers at My Lai 4, a cluster of hamlets in the coastal lowlands of I Corps Tactical Zone. This was a heavily mined region where Viet Cong guerrillas were firmly entrenched and numerous members of the participating platoon had been killed or maimed during the preceding month.

The company had been conducting a search-and-destroy mission. In search of the 48th Viet Cong (VC) Local Force Battalion, the unit entered My Lai but found only women, children, and old men. Frustrated by unanswered losses due to snipers and mines, the soldiers took out their anger on the villagers. During the attack, several old men were bayoneted, some women and children praying outside the local temple were shot in the back of the head, and at least one girl was raped before being killed. Many villagers were systematically rounded up and led to a nearby ditch where they were executed.

Reportedly, the killing was only stopped when Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson, an aero-scout helicopter pilot, landed his helicopter between the Americans and the fleeing South Vietnamese, confronting the soldiers and blocking them from further action against the villagers. The incident was subsequently covered up, but eventually came to light a year later. An Army board of inquiry headed by Lt. Gen. William Peers investigated the massacre and produced a list of 30 people who knew of the atrocity. Only 14, including Calley and Medina, were eventually charged with crimes. 

All eventually had their charges dismissed or were acquitted by courts-martial except Calley, who was found guilty of murdering 22 civilians. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, but his sentence was reduced to 20 years by the Court of Military Appeals and further reduced later to 10 years by the Secretary of the Army. Proclaimed by much of the public as a “scapegoat,” Calley was paroled in 1974 after having served about three years.

READ MORE: How the Army’s Cover-Up Made the My Lai Massacre Even Worse

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

First speech transmitted by telephone

The first discernible speech is transmitted over a telephone system when inventor Alexander Graham Bell summons his assistant in another room by saying, “Mr. Watson, come here; I want you.” Bell had received a comprehensive telephone patent just three days before. Alexander ...read more

The Firebombing of Tokyo continues

On March 10, 1945, 300 American bombers continue to drop almost 2,000 tons of incendiaries on Tokyo, Japan, in a mission that launched the previous day. The attack destroyed large portions of the Japanese capital and killed 100,000 civilians. In the closing months of the war, the ...read more

Tibetans revolt against Chinese occupation

On March 10, 1959, Tibetans band together in revolt, surrounding the summer palace of the Dalai Lama in defiance of Chinese occupation forces. China’s occupation of Tibet began nearly a decade before, in October 1950, when troops from its People’s Liberation Army (PLA) invaded ...read more

Cuba plays in World Baseball Classic

On March 10, 2006, the Cuban national baseball team plays Puerto Rico in the first round of the inaugural World Baseball Classic. While the Puerto Rican team was made up of major league All-Stars, the Cuban team was largely unknown to the world. Puerto Rico beat Cuba 12-2 that ...read more

President Lincoln signs Ulysses S. Grant’s commission to command the U.S. Army

On March 10, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signs a brief document officially promoting then-Major General Ulysses S. Grant to the rank of lieutenant general of the U.S. Army, tasking the future president with the job of leading all Union troops against the Confederate Army. The ...read more

Montana vigilantes hang Jack Slade

Local hell-raiser Jack Slade is hanged in one of the more troubling incidents of frontier vigilantism. Slade stood out even among the many rabble-rousers who inhabited the wild frontier-mining town of Virginia City, Montana. When he was sober, townspeople liked and respected ...read more

Disco sensation Andy Gibb dies at the age of 30

With his knee-buckling good looks and his brothers' songwriting talents backing him up, 19-year-old Andy Gibb staged an unprecedented display of youthful pop mastery in the 12 months following his American debut in the spring of 1977. And his star may have risen even higher were ...read more

First Book-of-the-Month Club selection is published

Lolly Willowes, or The Loving Huntsman, the first Book-of-the-Month Club selection, is published by Viking Press. The book was written by English novelist Sylvia Townsend Warner, who had intended to become a musicologist, not a writer. To that end, she edited a 10-volume work ...read more

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” premieres on the WB

On March 10, 1997, the fledgling Warner Brothers (WB) television network airs the inaugural episode of what will become its first bona-fide hit show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy‘s creator, Joss Whedon, developed the series from an original script he had written for the big ...read more

Mine explosion kills 1,060 in France

A devastating mine disaster kills over 1,000 workers in Courrieres, France, on March 10, 1906. An underground fire sparked a massive explosion that virtually destroyed a vast maze of mines. The Courrieres Colliery in northern France was a complex series of mines near the ...read more

Dr. David Gunn is murdered by anti-abortion activist

Dr. David Gunn is shot and killed during an anti-abortion protest at the Pensacola Women’s Medical Services clinic. Dr. Gunn performed abortions at several clinics in Florida and Alabama and was getting out of his car in the clinic’s parking lot when Michael Griffin shouted, ...read more

Czech diplomat Jan Masaryk dies under strange circumstances

The communist-controlled government of Czechoslovakia reports that Foreign Minister Jan Masaryk has died by suicide. The story of the noncommunist Masaryk’s death was greeted with skepticism in the West. Masaryk was born in 1886, the son of Czechoslovakia’s first president. After ...read more

Turkish troops begin evacuation of Baghdad

Less than two weeks after their victorious recapture of the strategically placed city of Kut-al-Amara on the Tigris River in Mesopotamia, British troops under the regional command of Sir Frederick Stanley Maude bear down on Baghdad, causing their Turkish opponents to begin a ...read more