My Lai massacre occurred in 1968 during the Vietnamese war when Vietnam was at conflict with the USA. The massacre was carried out by soldiers in Charlie Company on 16th of March 1968 when they entered My Lai 4 village situated in Quang Ngai Province, central Vietnam. In this massacre, soldiers attacked and killed around 500 people who were mainly defenceless children, women and old men. They either individually killed them or gathered them in ditches and shot them. Soldiers also burned buildings and poisoned wells. Livestock was not spared either. The war found different attitude upon publication of the news in the U.S.A. in late 1969. One camp perceived My Lai as an unjust war, while the other viewed it as an unfortunate episode for which soldiers needed to be commended.
It can be viewed as an unfortunate episode taking into consideration the events that led to its occurrence. Charlie Company operated in the northern province of Quang Ngai, the other name of which was Pinkville. It was considered to be one of the hottest areas of conflict in the whole of Vietnam at the time. The division was sent on search and destroy missions. However, it began to lose people in a gradual manner – because of snipers bullets, mines and bloody traps that would mutilate a man without warning. This strange form of fighting was not only psychologically unsettling but also very dehumanising and, unfortunately, it continued for nearly 2 months. The soldiers were unable to see their attackers or even distinguish between a friend and an enemy in the villages where they passed through every day. On March 15th, Charlie Company was informed that they were going to face the Vietcong infantry battalion the following day. According to captain Medina, everyone in the village on the 16th of March would be either an enemy or an enemy sympathiser. This information was, unfortunately, grounded on faulty intelligence; the Vietcong was 150 miles away, on the opposite side of the province. Soldiers saw this as a chance to avenge for the death of their fallen comrades. Medina’s men entered the village firing and after the first smoke went away, the only people they could see were old men, women and children leaving their dwellings in terror. The attack then started.
My Lai massacre can also be viewed as an unjust action. This is specifically true as the soldiers applied too much force in the situations where it was not warranted. The American soldiers met no resistance, and as one soldier recounts, all that they had seen was three captured weapons. There was not a single able-bodied man present in the village either dead or alive. An order was given to gather all the Vietnamese, who had been captured in the area, in a ditch. These were mainly old men, women, and children who did not pose any significant threat to American soldiers. Despite this, anyone who tried escaping death was not given a chance. According to the words of one soldier, a child crawling out of a ditch was seized, thrown back into the ditch and shot. Lt. Calley also shot and killed a monk who had been praying for an old lady. During such operations soldiers also raped many women and girls.
Both sides presented in the My Lai massacre show unprovoked killing of civilians which had the ability to induce rampage. This led the perpetrators and their commanders to take various actions in order to inhibit expected outrage. They included undervaluing the number of victims, covering up the proof, threatening those people who presented the possibility of speaking out and also setting up of superficial inquiries that gave an impression of justice. The cover up was done by Colin Powel during his second tour of Vietnam on official duty. He was to investigate My Lai atrocities described in a letter which was written by the specialist fourth grade named Tom Glen. These are the same methods used by perpetrators to prevent outrage caused by injustices of other types. These techniques also raise concern about human rights violations in times of war.
In both sides presented in the My Lai massacre, there was excessive use of ammunition which caused great damage to the environment. In the ‘search and destroy missions’ aimed at driving villagers out of their settlements, U. S. soldier also defoliated much of the landscape to deprive the Vietnamese troops a place to hide. The U.S. fighter jets dropped ‘daisy cutters’ bombs that turned huge jungles flat. On the overall, the U.S.A. had dropped about 7 m tons of bombs in Vietnam which is twice the amount of bombs threw in Europe and Asia during World War II. The effects of such events are still evident as there are around twenty million craters created by bombs. These do not only deface Vietnam but also add to the development of mosquitos that spread malaria and dengue fever.
Whereas it may be viewed as an unfortunate episode, it is seen to be more of an unjust war, judging by the way a democratic country like the United States conducted it. The happening of the My Lai massacre only helped to worsen the situation as the Vietnam War already appeared suspicious to a large part of the public. A huge segment of the population did not support the war and a number of opponents kept on growing as it (the war) continued to be screened on TV every day. Questions started to be raised as to why the U.S.A. was still at war with Vietnam especially after the My Lai massacre. The war was seen to be turning young Americans into murders. The Vietnam War was considered to be an attempt to break the will of a people who were already oppressed and to impose foreign dominance over them. The U.S. A. committed horrible crimes during the war which were easily justified by the nature of the war.