November 20

This Day in History

Vietnam War

Nov 20, 1969:

Seymour Hersh files follow-up to My Lai story

In the United States, Seymour Hersh, an independent investigative journalist, files a second My Lai story based on interviews with Michael Terry and Michael Bernhardt, who served under 1st Lt. William Calley during the action that was later dubbed the My Lai massacre.

Also on this day, the Cleveland Plain Dealer published explicit photos of the dead at My Lai. The American public was stunned. Hersh broke the story earlier in the month, describing how soldiers from the Americal Division conducting a sweep of My Lai indiscriminately shot people as they ran from their huts, and then systematically rounded up the survivors, allegedly leading them to a ditch where they were executed per Calley's orders.

Despite the fact that an Army board of inquiry found that 30 persons either participated in the atrocity or knew of it and failed to do anything, only 14 were charged with crimes. All eventually had their charges dismissed or were acquitted, except Calley, who was found guilty of murdering 22 civilians and was sentenced to life imprisonment. His sentence was reduced twice and he was paroled in November 1974.

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