In a cable filed through Dispatch News Service and picked up by more than 30 newspapers, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh 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.
READ MORE: My Lai Massacre: Definition, Facts & Causes