Wars are the same but this one just kept digging deeper. This had been going in the 1950s, through the 60s and finished out finally in 1975. The war included American soldiers who wound up killing the enemy, other American soldiers, their officers, civilians, children, mothers, grandmothers, and anyone who got in the way. Then they could go home. That was the feeling in a pointless war that would never end in victory of any kind.
NOTE: (1971 to 74) I was in the air force as a Vietnamese interpreter and a coordinator for operators at a base in Thailand. We picked up messages along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, translated them and sent them to NSA headquarters, where the most valuable info was carried to President Nixon by Henry Kissinger each Saturday. (Nixon’s impeachment began in July of 1974.)
And even at a foreign base in Thailand, a contingent of American soldiers refused to fight and demanded to return home to the United States. And they did, but I heard that they were put in a government place where they stayed for a while and got free food and a bed somewhere in Kansas.
Criminals and others were still being inducted into the military. Some were let out of jail if they would enlist. Some certified PSYCHOS were also being enlisted (I met a few) and some even made it to the war zone. After all this time, the morale of troops was zero. Their only goal was to stay alive.
(January 31, 1968) U.S. Army troops eventually became more interested in surviving the Nam. American soldiers first priority was to stay alive. So some soldiers became more interested in fragging (killing) their fellow soldiers. Eventually the North Vietnamese poured more soldiers into the south. They were supplied with Russian tanks and all equipment later, which were constantly heading south in Laos on the Ho Chi Minh Trail to drive the Americans out.
And if you had a personal enemy in your unit and wanted to settle the score or get rid of a problem, there were ways to make it happen, including eliminating an NCO or an officer. If these targets didn’t get the message, something could happen in battle to these targets. Once in battle you could never tell if it was just an accident. And of course, there were ways to get rid of the real enemy, and that was to kill them all. When the enemies were all dead, they could go home.
And this was the solution that the leaders of Charlie Company of the Americal Division’s 11th infantry Brigade decided to carry out, after their unit had been hit hard in combat, with heavy casualties. On the morning of March 16, 1968, Charlie Company “arrived in the hamlet of My Lai in the northern part of South Vietnam. They were on a “search and destroy” mission to root out the 48th Viet Cong Battalion, thought to be in the area.”
“The unit met no resistance in My Lai, which had about 700 inhabitants. Indeed, they saw no males of fighting age. They only found villagers eating breakfast. Nevertheless, over the next three hours they killed as many as 504 Vietnamese civilians. Some were lined up in a drainage ditch before being shot. The dead civilians included fifty age 3 or younger, 69 between 4 and 7, and 27 in their 70s or 80s.
“In addition, Vietnamese women were raped, other civilians were clubbed and stabbed. Some victims were mutilated with the signature “C Company” carved into the chest. One soldier would testify later, “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 lost all sense of direction.” Only one American was injured – a GI who had shot himself in the foot while clearing his pistol.
The photo above was taken as the mass murder was happening in the village of My Lai. The grandmother with the red shirt was standing with other mothers, grandmothers, grandfathers and children. This group was looking at another group a few feet away. The American soldiers, led by Lt. William Calley, was in the process of killing all the citizens in a ditch with a machine gun. This group above was next in line. The grandmother was in tears and horror because they were next and she could do nothing. The little boy watched this happen and he understood that he was next and the little girl was crying because she knew that she was about to die. and she held on to her mother for some kind of help but there was no help in the little village of My Lai.
But in one incident, a soldier, Robert Maples, refused an order to fire his machine gun on people in a ditch, even when his commanding officer trained his own weapon on him. Hugh Thompson, a helicopter pilot, had threatened to fire on the American troops in order to rescue Vietnamese women and children from the slaughter. After seeing U.S. troops advancing on a Vietnamese family, he landed his helicopter, called in gunships to rescue the civilians, and ordered his gunner to fire on any American who interfered.” (PHOTO) An American soldier in My Lai put his M-16 against the woman’s head, one of hundreds of peaceful citizens of the village.
The mass murder of civilians in My Lai was covered up by a number of officials involved with the whole investigation. Justice was never considered in the whole process, with only one person being convicted, Lt. William Calley.