Year
1970

Calley trial defense begins

The defense opens its case in the murder trial of Lt. William Calley. Charged with six specifications of premeditated murder, Calley was a platoon leader in Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry, 11th Infantry Brigade (Light) of the 23rd (Americal) Division. He was tried because of his leadership role in the My Lai massacres. On March 16, 1968, Calley led his troops to murder innocent Vietnamese civilians living in a cluster of hamlets located in Son Tinh District in Quang Ngai Province in the northern coastal lowlands.

Citing “superior’s orders,” Defense Attorney George Lattimer contended that Capt. Ernest Medina, Calley’s company commander, told his men that they were finally going to fight the enemy. He reportedly ordered “every living thing” killed. Lattimer also cited poor training of the platoon, the rage of the men who had seen their buddies killed, and the expectation of fierce resistance as additional factors contributing to the incident. The lawyer also charged that higher commanders on the ground and in the air observed the episode but did nothing.

Despite Lattimer’s argument, Calley was found guilty of murdering 22 civilians and sentenced to life imprisonment. His sentence was reduced to 20 years by the Court of Military Appeals and further reduced to 10 years by the Secretary of the Army. Proclaimed a “scapegoat” by much of the public, Calley was paroled by President Richard Nixon in 1974, after serving about a third of his 10-year sentence.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Bunche receives Nobel Peace Prize

For his peace mediation during the first Arab-Israeli war, American diplomat Ralph Joseph Bunche receives the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway. Bunche was the first African American to win the prestigious award. Born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1904, he entered the field of U.S. ...read more

First Nobel Prizes awarded

The first Nobel Prizes are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden, in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace. The ceremony came on the fifth anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel, the Swedish inventor of dynamite and other high explosives. In his will, Nobel ...read more

Wilson awarded Nobel Peace Prize

On this day in 1920, the Nobel Prize for Peace is awarded to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson for his work in ending the First World War and creating the League of Nations. Although Wilson could not attend the award ceremony in Oslo, Norway, the U.S. Ambassador to Norway, Albert ...read more

Wyoming grants women the vote

Motivated more by interest in free publicity than a commitment to gender equality, Wyoming territorial legislators pass a bill that is signed into law granting women the right to vote. Western states led the nation in approving women’s suffrage, but some of them had rather ...read more

Music star dies in Wisconsin plane crash

A plane crash in Madison, Wisconsin, kills soul singer Otis Redding and members of the Bar-Kays band on this day in 1967. The plane crashed into Lake Monona, several miles from the Madison airport. One survivor, Ben Cauley of the Bar-Kays, later reported that he had been asleep ...read more

Frank Sinatra Jr. endures a frightening ordeal

Frank Sinatra Jr., who was kidnapped in Lake Tahoe, California, on December 8, is allowed to talk to his father briefly. The 19-year-old man, who was trying to follow in his father’s footsteps by pursuing a singing career, was abducted at gunpoint from his hotel room at Harrah’s ...read more

Sherman arrives in front of Savannah

On this day in 1864, Union General William T. Sherman completes his March to the Sea when he arrives in front of Savannah, Georgia. Since mid-November of that year, Sherman’s army had been sweeping from Atlanta across the state to the south and east towards Savannah, one of the ...read more

Ford builds its 1 millionth car

On December 10, 1915, the 1 millionth Ford car rolls off the assembly line at the River Rouge plant in Detroit. At first, Henry Ford had built his cars like every other automaker did: one at a time. But his factories’ efficiency and output steadily increased, and after he ...read more