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My Lai

Das US-Massaker vor 40 Jahren

 

My Lai: Legacy of a massacre. By Celina Dunlop. The murders of 504 men, women, children and babies happened in a northerly province of South Vietnam on 16 March 1968. The wider, more awful truth that Lt Gen William 'Ray' Peers uncovered, was that this was an illegal operation, planned and co-ordinated at Task Force level by Lt Col Frank Barker. It wiped out not one but three villages: My Lai, Binh Tay and My Khe. And not one, but two companies were involved: Bravo and Charlie. Both of these companies were given the same briefing by their respective commanding officers, permitting them "to kill everything and anything." 30 senior officers had been negligent in their duty. After the inquiry, 14 officers were charged with crimes. But the only participant convicted of anything at My Lai was Lt William Calley. (BBC, 15.3.08). The official investigation was never published, not catalogued, it was forgotten.
"It was a Nazi kind of thing," one of the men would later admit. Calley's simple response to the charges was that he was following orders - the same justification the Nazis used two decades earlier. In 1971, a military court convicted Calley of 22 counts of murder and sentenced him to life in prison. President Nixon commuted his sentence to house arrest, and Calley was later paroled after serving 3 1/2 years. (Ed Ruggero, LATimes 3/14/08; China Post 3/16/08).
Survivors Reflect 40 Years After My Lai. By BEN STOCKING, AP, 16.3.08. (The Canberra Times, 17.3.08). Forty years after American soldiers slaughtered her family, Do Thi Tuyet returned to the place yesterday where her childhood was shattered during one of the Vietnam War's most notorious chapters. "Everyone in my family was killed in the My Lai massacre my mother, my father, my brother and three sisters," Ms Tuyet, who was aged eight at the time, said. "They threw me into a ditch full of dead bodies. I was covered with blood and brains." More than 1000 people turned out yesterday to remember the victims of the massacre, which took place on March 16, 1968. On that morning 40 years ago, Ms Tuyet and her family were getting ready to work in the fields when the soldiers burst into their house and herded them outside at gunpoint. They were pushed into a ditch where more than 100 people were sprayed with bullets, one of which hit Ms Tuyet in the back, paralysing the right side of her body. Her parents, sisters and brother were slaughtered. The oldest child was 10, the youngest just four. "I was here when the shooting started," Ms Tuyet said, sitting by a family altar in a replica of her simple home. Her four-year-old brother, who was eating breakfast when the troops came, died with his mouth full of rice, she said.  Another My Lai survivor, Do Ba, lost his family, but he, too, has managed to build a new life. Mr Ba had a chance reunion with Larry Colburn, who saved him. Mr Colburn was a member of US army helicopter crew that landed in the midst of the massacre and intervened to stop the killing.
Soldiers gather for 40th My Lai anniversary
. "We're supposed to learn from the mistakes of history, but we keep making the same mistakes," said Lawrence Colburn, whose helicopter landed in My Lai in the midst of the massacre. "That's what makes My Lai more important today than ever before." Among the mourners was Do Thi Buong, 67, who fled from the marauding troops and whose mother was shot to death. "We just want peace," she said. "We don't want this sort of thing to happen again anywhere else in the world. Every year when this day arrives, I always feel terrible sadness, and I always remember my mother." Colburn and Hugh Thompson, who was piloting their helicopter that day, landed between the soldiers and terrified villagers and are credited with stopping the slaughter by talking to their fellow troops. Mike Boehm, another veteran in My Lai for the commemoration, said the slaughter reminded him of the 2005 scandal that emerged from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, where American guards abused and sexually humiliated Muslim prisoners and photographed their actions. If you follow the war in Iraq," Boehm said, "you can see nothing has changed. Boehm runs various humanitarian programs in Quang Ngai province, the central Vietnamese province where My Lai is located. (The Sydney Morning Herald, 16.3.08). Hugh Thompson died in Jan. 2006. Mr Thompson and his colleagues Lawrence Colburn and Glenn Andreotta were finally awarded the Soldier's Medal, the highest US miltiary award for bravery when not confronting an enemy. Mr Thompson was close to tears as he accepted the award in 1998 "for all the men who served their country with honour on the battlefields of South-East Asia". Mr Andreotta's award was posthumous. He was killed in Vietnam less than a month after My Lai (BBC, 6.1.06).

My Lai massacre survivor Truong Thi Le cries during the 40th anniversary of the My Lai massacre in My Lai village, about 930 km (578 miles) south of Hanoi, March 16, 2008.
(Click on the photo for a slide show).

Around 500 civilians were slaughtered
Some lucky villagers, like these two children, survived the massacre

 

.Hugh Thompson Jr and Lawrence Colburn at the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial in Washington

Thirty years on, two survivors of the My Lai massacre stand next to a ditch where 170 died

"Killing Fields" - Dith Pran starb am 30. März 2008 (FAZ, 1.4.08).