The Acts of the Democracies
More than 200 civilians are blown up with grenades, bayoneted and shot. Several young girls are raped before being killed. The killings take four hours including a lunch break next to a pile of corpses. The only American casualty is a soldier who shoots himself in the foot. Some of the victims had been mutilated by having "C Company" carved onto their chests.
One woman, Truong Thi Le, survives under the bodies of her relatives, including nine children. She tells her story to a journalist:
"It was 6 o'clock in the morning. Suddenly this helicopter was manoeuvring above the house, then we saw soldiers come across the fields. They ordered all the families out and told us to march towards the ditch. If we walked too slowly, they prodded us with their guns. We came to an assembly point and huddled together; then they shot us one by one. I saw a little boat and used it cover my son, and dead bodies fell down on me. I kept telling my son, who was six years old, 'Please don't cry. They will hear us if you do.'"
"When the Americans had finished and walked away, I waited, then stood up with my boy; I felt I was walking in the sky; I didn't have any kind of feelings. I was covered in blood and pieces of human brain, which smelt terrible. On the way back we had to walk in the field because the pathway was covered with bodies; I saw a mother die here, children there. They even killed the ox and buffaloes. When we reached our home, it was burned down. It was only then I realised a bullet [had] passed right through me, but I was still alive; I was alive."
One of the soldiers later states:
"You didn't have to look for people to kill, they were just there. I cut their throats, cut off their hands, cut out their tongues, scalped them. I did it. A lot of people were doing it and I just followed. I just lost all sense of direction."
Although there are over 600 reporters in Vietnam and the massacre becomes known to them, it takes over a year for the story to be published. It eventually appears on the cover of the USA magazine, Newsweek with the headline "An American Tragedy".
Several years later, there is a court martial but most of the perpetrators of the massacre are never punished and those that are receive short sentences.
My Lai lies in Quang Ngai Province. The USA had declared this area a free fire zone (meaning that they could shoot at anything that moved). When My Lai was attacked, 70% of all villages and hamlets in the province had already been razed.
|Over 200 civilians are killed by USA soldiers in the village of My Lai. The media held the story for months before it became public knowledge. Colin Powell, later in the USA government, was involved in the cover-up.|
There are now half a million USA troops in Vietnam. Civilians are being killed at the rate of 50,000 every year. There is so much destruction in South Vietnam that one soldier says of a town in the Mekong Delta: "we had to destroy it to save it"!
Civilians living in houses made of straw and tin are bombed by USA B-52 bombers. Many are attacked with napalm. This is a substance made from benzene, polystyrene and gasoline that catches fire and sticks to flesh. The victim is either burned to death or suffocated by lack of oxygen.
One terrified little girl is photographed running naked after her village has been attacked with napalm. Images like this put pressure on the USA and it agrees to stop bombing North Vietnam.
Children running after a napalm attack. The girl in the centre has had her clothes and part of her skin burnt off.
This photograph showed the people of the USA what their government was doing in Vietnam and helped turn public opinion.