South Vietnam Mỹ Lai Massacre – 16 March 1968

The Mỹ Lai Massacre (/ˌmˈl/; Vietnamese: Thảm sát Mỹ Lai, was the Vietnam War mass murder of unarmed Vietnamese civilians by U.S. troops in South Vietnam on 16 March 1968. Between 347 and 504 unarmed people were massacred by the U.S. Army soldiers from Company C, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Brigade, 23rd (Americal) Infantry Division. Victims included men, women, children, and infants. Some of the women were gang-raped and their bodies mutilated.  Twenty-six soldiers were charged with criminal offenses, but only Lieutenant William Calley Jr., a platoon leader in C Company, was convicted. Found guilty of killing 22 villagers, he was originally given a life sentence, but served only three and a half years under house arrest.

The massacre, which was later called “the most shocking episode of the Vietnam War”, took place in two hamlets of Sơn Mỹ village in Quảng Ngãi Province.  These hamlets were marked on the U.S. Army topographic maps as Mỹ Lai and Mỹ KhêThe U.S. Army slang name for the hamlets and sub-hamlets in that area was Pinkville, and the carnage was initially referred to as the Pinkville Massacre.  Later, when the U.S. Army started its investigation, the media changed it to the Massacre at Songmy.

Currently, the event is referred to as the My Lai Massacre in the United States and called the Sơn Mỹ Massacre in VietnaThe incident prompted global outrage when it became public knowledge in November 1969. The massacre increased to some extent domestic opposition to the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War when the scope of killing and cover-up attempts were exposed. Initially, three U.S. servicemen who had tried to halt the massacre and rescue the hiding civilians were shunned, and even denounced as traitors by several U.S. Congressmen, including Mendel Rivers, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Only after thirty years were they recognized and decorated, one posthumously, by the U.S. Army for shielding non-combatants from harm in a war zone.  Along with the No Gun Ri massacre in Korea eighteen years earlier, Mỹ Lai was one of the largest single massacres of civilians by U.S. forces in the 20th century.

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