Vietnam, many more US atrocities than My Lai

Vietnam, victims of My Lai massacre

From History News Network:

Declassified papers show U.S. atrocities in Vietnam went far beyond My Lai

Source: LA Times (8-6-06)

A once-secret archive, assembled by a Pentagon task force in the early 1970s, that shows that confirmed atrocities by U.S. forces in Vietnam were more extensive than was previously known.

The documents detail 320 alleged incidents that were substantiated by Army investigators — not including the most notorious U.S. atrocity, the 1968 My Lai massacre.

Though not a complete accounting of Vietnam war crimes, the archive is the largest such collection to surface to date.

About 9,000 pages, it includes investigative files, sworn statements by witnesses and status reports for top military brass.

The records describe recurrent attacks on ordinary Vietnamese — families in their homes, farmers in rice paddies, teenagers out fishing.

Hundreds of soldiers, in interviews with investigators and letters to commanders, described a violent minority who murdered, raped and tortured with impunity.

Abuses were not confined to a few rogue units, a Times review of the files found.

They were uncovered in every Army division that operated in Vietnam.

Retired Brig. Gen. John H. Johns, a Vietnam veteran who served on the task force, says he once supported keeping the records secret but now believes they deserve wide attention in light of alleged attacks on civilians and abuse of prisoners in Iraq.

“When somebody asks, ‘Why do you do it to a gook, why do you do this to people?’ your answer is, ‘So what, they’re just gooks, they’re not people. It doesn’t make any difference what you do to them; they’re not human.’ “And this thing is built into you,” Cpl. John Geymann testified almost 44 years ago at the Winter Soldier Investigation, held in Detroit, which was sponsored by Vietnam Veterans Against the War. “It’s thrust into your head from the moment you wake up in boot camp to the moment you wake up when you’re a civilian”: here.

The contradictions of Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s The Vietnam War: here.

247 thoughts on “Vietnam, many more US atrocities than My Lai

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  36. 50 years ago: Trial and cover-up of the My Lai Massacre

    On November 25, 1969, the first reports emerged in the press that a low-ranking US Army officer, Lieutenant William Calley Jr., would be charged by a military court for killing 109 men, women and children at My Lai, South Vietnam, in March 1968. The charges against Calley were an attempt at damage control after the massacre at My Lai had been made public by journalist Seymour Hersh one week earlier.

    Hersh’s investigation had revealed that over 500 Vietnamese civilians were slaughtered in the South Vietnamese village of My Lai. The report shocked millions of Americans, who were horrified to learn the truth of the nature of the war. Already, workers and students had expressed their opposition to the Vietnam War by participating in mass demonstrations. Yet, the orientation of many of the demonstrations was to oppose the war on the basis of the numbers of American soldiers who had been killed. By November 1969 over 40,000 Americans had died in Vietnam.

    The My Lai Massacre revealed the far greater death toll being inflicted on Vietnamese civilians. The most accurate studies on the war conservatively estimate that at least two million Vietnamese civilians were killed during the time that US forces were actively fighting.

    William Calley

    Most of the civilian deaths were from those living in South Vietnam, the people the United States were ostensibly “protecting.” My Lai revealed that the United States was carrying out a massive campaign of terror against an unarmed and defenseless population.

    The US government initially sought to cover up the My Lai Massacre like countless other such killings. However, once the story became widely known, military officials attempted to portray the murders as the actions of one man, William Calley, and not as one element of a systematic policy of mass killing.

    Calley was singled out in the investigation as the lowest ranking officer involved in the killings. Initially over 26 individuals were named in the Army’s investigation. But only Calley would face charges. Calley, did in fact kill over 100 Vietnamese civilians at My Lai, according to the court martial which found him guilty. But later independent investigations into the slaughter found that Calley was one of many soldiers who had been ordered by his superiors to “kill anything that moves” as they entered villages to carry out search and destroy missions.

    Originally sentenced to life in prison for the “premeditated murder of not fewer than twenty people,” Calley would serve just three years under house arrest after President Nixon commuted his sentence. He remains the only person ever convicted for the deaths at My Lai.


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