Seymour Hersh breaks My Lai story - HISTORY
Year
1969

Seymour Hersh breaks My Lai story

Seymour Hersh, an independent investigative journalist, in a cable filed through Dispatch News Service and picked up by more than 30 newspapers, reveals the extent of the U.S. Army’s charges against 1st Lt. William L. Calley at My Lai. Hersh wrote: “The Army says he [Calley] deliberately murdered at least 109 Vietnamese civilians during a search-and-destroy mission in March 1968, in a Viet Cong stronghold known as ‘Pinkville.'”

The incident, which became known as the My Lai Massacre, took place in March 1968. Between 200 and 500 South Vietnamese civilians were murdered by U.S. soldiers from Company C, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry, 11th Infantry Brigade of the Americal Division. During a sweep of the cluster of hamlets known as My Lai 4, the U.S. soldiers–particularly those from Calley’s first platoon–indiscriminately shot people as they ran from their huts, and then systematically rounded up the survivors, allegedly leading them to a ditch where Calley gave the order to “finish them off.”

The original investigation–which had been conducted in April 1968 by members of the 11th Infantry Brigade, the unit involved in the affair–concluded that no massacre had occurred and that no further action was warranted. However, when the cover-up was discovered, the Army Criminal Investigation Division conducted a new investigation. Additionally, Army Chief of Staff William C. Westmoreland appointed Lt. Gen. William R. Peers to “explore the nature and scope” of the original investigation to determine the extent of the cover-up. He found that 30 persons either participated in the atrocity or knew of it and failed to do anything about it. In the end, 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 sentenced to life imprisonment. However, Calley’s sentence was eventually reduced and he was released from prison in 1974.

Also on this day: In Washington, D.C., the federal government begins to assemble 9,000 troops to assist the police and National Guard with massive protests and demonstrations scheduled for November 14-15. The Defense Department announced that the troops were being made available at the request of the Justice Department and were to augment 1,200 National Guardsmen and a 3,700-man police force.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Voyager I flies near Saturn

More than three years after its launch, the U.S. planetary probe Voyager 1 edges within 77,000 miles of Saturn, the second-largest planet in the solar system. The photos, beamed 950 million miles back to California, stunned scientists. The high-resolution images showed a world ...read more

Japanese war criminals sentenced

An international war crimes tribunal in Tokyo passes death sentences on seven Japanese military and government officials, including General Hideki Tojo, who served as premier of Japan from 1941 to 1944. Eight days before, the trial ended after 30 months with all 25 Japanese ...read more

First meteor shower on record

Andrew Ellicott Douglass, an early American astronomer born in Vermont, witnesses the Leonids meteor shower from a ship off the Florida Keys. Douglass, who later became an assistant to the famous astronomer Percival Lowell, wrote in his journal that the “whole heaven appeared as ...read more

Ellis Island closes

On this day in 1954, Ellis Island, the gateway to America, shuts it doors after processing more than 12 million immigrants since opening in 1892. Today, an estimated 40 percent of all Americans can trace their roots through Ellis Island, located in New York Harbor off the New ...read more

Carter shuts down oil imports from Iran

On this day in 1979, President Jimmy Carter responds to a potential threat to national security by stopping the importation of petroleum from Iran.Earlier that month, on November 4, 66 Americans at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran had been taken hostage by a radical Islamic group. The ...read more

U.S. reconsiders war with Plains Indians

After more than a decade of ineffective military campaigns and infamous atrocities, a conference begins at Fort Laramie to discuss alternative solutions to the “Indian problem” and to initiate peace negotiations with the Sioux.The United States had been fighting periodic battles ...read more

Plane crashes in Rockaway, New York

An American Airlines flight out of John F. Kennedy (JFK) Airport in New York City crashes into a Queens neighborhood after takeoff on this day in 2001, killing 265 people. Although some initially speculated that the crash was the result of terrorism, as it came exactly two months ...read more

Scott Peterson convicted

On this day in 2004, Scott Peterson is convicted of murdering his wife Laci and their unborn son. A jury of six men and six women delivered the verdict 23 months after Laci Peterson, who was pregnant, disappeared on Christmas Eve from Modesto, California. The case captivated ...read more

The destruction of Atlanta begins

On this day in 1864, Union General William T. Sherman orders the business district of Atlanta, Georgia,destroyed before he embarks on his famous March to the Sea.When Sherman captured Atlanta in early September 1864, he knew that he could not remain there for long. His tenuous ...read more

Goldenrod sets the land-speed record

On this day in 1965, brothers Bill and Bob Summers set a world land-speed record—409.277 miles per hour—on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. They did it in an amazing, hemi-powered hot rod they called the Goldenrod. (The car got its name from the ’57 Chevy gold paint the ...read more