Vietnam War Crimes

Feb 4, 2013 - by David Robb - 0 Comments

Lt. William Calley

Lt. William Calley

Mini-My Lai massacres happened nearly every day in Vietnam, and thousands of war crimes were committed there by both sides in the conflict. In 1971, while the war was still raging, dozens of former American soldiers and Marines stepped forward to confess to the crimes they’d witnessed or participated in. Their harrowing testimony was part of the “Winter Soldier Investigation,” a truth commission sponsored by Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

by David Robb

Lt. William Calley was the only American ever convicted of a war crime in Vietnam. He is infamous for having led the 105 men of Charlie Company on a rampage through the village of My Lai, massacring more than 400 unarmed civilians, many of them women and children. Babies were bayoneted; teenage girls were raped in front of their parents and grandparents and then shot as they begged for mercy. Dozens of people were herded into an irrigation ditch and mowed down with automatic weapons. Many of the dead had been beaten and tortured first, and some of the bodies were found mutilated.

Testimony from his military trial revealed that Calley himself had killed more than 20 unarmed civilians, including a 2-year-old child, who Calley caught trying to escape the carnage. Calley grabbed the little boy by the arm, swung him into a ditch and dispatched him with a single shot. One of his men later testified that while he was standing guard over a group of more than 25 villagers, Lt. Calley approached him and ordered him to shoot them all. When he refused, Calley backed up a few steps and sprayed the wailing people with machinegun fire.

One soldier was so sickened by the slaughter that he shot himself in the foot to avoid taking part. He was the only American casualty that day.

But mini-My Lai massacres happened nearly every day in Vietnam, and thousands of war crimes were committed there by both sides in the conflict. In 1971, while the war was still raging, dozens of former American soldiers and Marines stepped forward to confess to the crimes they’d witnessed or participated in. Their harrowing testimony was part of the “Winter Soldier Investigation,” a truth commission sponsored by Vietnam Veterans Against the War, held in Detroit Michigan from Jan. 31 – Feb. 2, 1971.

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