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Just saw on BBC (click here) that, at long last William Calley has apologied for My Lai!
Whilst I'm aware that this may not mean anything to 'younger readers', I'm sure that most people of my generation who remember the Vietnam War will remember those two names all too well.
Wonder why he suddenly came out with it now after a lifetime of denial and avoidance?
An applogy is just words and words do not cost much!!! My Lai was a total disgrace. I remember it well. The picture of the Zipper setting fire to the village I'll never forget.
I've actually been there and talked to one of the survivors, an old woman who saw her husband, son and two daughters killed (and she was badly injured) - to say it was a sobering experience is putting it mildly. I was with a couple of Canadians and an American (never served in the millitary) who was so affected that he refused to get out of the car the whole time we were there.
It's also worth mentioning that 20 or so villagers were saved by a helicopter aero-scout that was in the area and got them out by the simple expedient of threatening to machine gun C Company if they interfered with the evacuation in any way.
For their trouble and efforts to report it later, they were denounced by U.S. Congressmen, received hate mail, death threats and mutilated animals were placed on their doorsteps.
However, 30 years later, they were finally honoured with medals (from the Americans!) and, today, amongst the histories at My Lai, there is a plaque from the Vietnamese government which honours their efforts (and, no, it's not there for propaganda purposes like the Museum of War Attrocities' in Saigon - it's a very different atmosphere at My Lai and, to their credit, the authorities recognised it)
I believe that Calley was convicted for killing 22 civilians, not for "slaughtering 500 Vienamese". Twenty two killings is bad enough, but it's best to get the facts right. As I understand it, the exact number of Vietnamese deaths has never been ascertained - it is variously put at between 350 and just over 500.
The savagery of the massacre at Mai Lai is difficult to comprehend, and can only be attributed to the fact that the 26 American soldiers responsible lost control - they literally indulged in a killing orgy, and shot anything and everything that moved, including children, dogs and pigs, and people who stood with their hands in the air. It was a truly awful example of a group of men, probably highly stressed, very tired, and totally keyed up, releasing their anger and hatred on everyone in sight.
There can be no justification, no mitigation, and very little explanation for such a massacre - it was the horror of war brought fully into focus, and it resonates still, over 40 years later. I can't imagine what sounds and images must fill Calley's mind, or how he must feel. I have little sympathy for someone like him, and I can't imagine his 'apology' means much, if anything, to anyone but himself.
>I can't imagine his 'apology' means much, if
>anything, to anyone but himself.
I tend to agree - I suppose you can only say that there's a slight visceral satisfaction in thinking that at least the apology means that he himself has probably realised the awful nature of what he did (as opposed to the thought of him swanning through life in small-town America apparently oblivious)
"!he himself has probably realised the awful nature of what he did "
Do you think so?
I would think that anyone gradually (or even suddenly) realising their responsibility for such acts would lose their reason.
that this incident has preyed on Calley's mind over the years, and that he decided on the apology in the hope that it would help to ease his conscience. There really can't be any other explanation after such a long time.
The court Marshall transcript states that 500 unarmed Viennese men women & children were massacred at My Lia,no mention of 350
Calley the only US soldier found guilty of the massacre, ordered ,according to witnesses the troop under his command to shoot unarmed villagers,and Calley himself shoot with a machine gun, men women and children he had earlier ordered to be thrown into a ditch,(one baby he picked up himself and threw into the ditch)and stated he believed he was doing the right thing. although he was found guilty of killing at least 22 people,the witness statements suggested he was responsible for far mor than that. and got off very lightly with a 3 year house arrest
Having chatted to an American airforce major acquaintance who served in Vietnam, it seems that many of those serving there at the time were often high on drugs.
Obviously, it is impossible to tell if it played a part in this case.
The Court Marshall transcript may well mention a figure of 500 dead, but nevertheless there has been considerable doubt about the precise figure. Various estimates have put the toll at between 350 and just over 500.
Calley was convicted on 22 counts, so as far as the legalities are concerned he killed 22 people.
Calley didn't originally get off lightly with a 3 year house arrest - he was sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labour. President Nixon personally ordered his release two days after the end of the trial, pending his appeal.
Calley spent the next three years under house arrest at Fort Benning in Georgia. He was freed on bail in 1974 and his sentence was cut to 10 years. Later that year he was paroled, having completed a third of his sentence.
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