My Lai Massacre | Facts, Map, & Photos (2023)

My Lai Massacre, also called Pinkville Massacre, mass killing of as many as 500 unarmed villagers by U.S. soldiers in the hamlet of My Lai on March 16, 1968, during the Vietnam War.
(Video) The Vietnam War - My Lai Massacre

Charlie Company

My Lai, a subdivision of Son My village, was located in the province of Quang Ngai, roughly 7 miles (11 km) northeast of Quang Ngai city. The area had been dubbed “Pinkville” by U.S. soldiers because of the reddish colour used to indicate the densely populated My Lai area on military maps. By the time Charlie Company of the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Infantry Brigade, arrived in Vietnam in December 1967. “Pinkville” had earned a reputation as a heavily mined hotbed of Viet Cong activity. In January 1968 Charlie was one of three companies tasked with the destruction of the 48th Battalion, an especially effective Viet Cong unit operating in Quang Ngai province. Throughout February and early March, Charlie Company suffered dozens of casualties due to mines and booby traps, but it failed to engage the 48th Batallion. After the debacle of the broad Tet Offensive, the Viet Cong had returned to guerrilla tactics and tended to avoid direct encounters with U.S. forces.
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Intelligence suggested that the 48th Batallion had taken refuge in the My Lai area (though in reality, that unit was in the western Quang Ngai highlands, more than 40 miles [65 km] away). In a briefing on March 15, Charlie Company’s commander, Capt. Ernest Medina, told his men that they would finally be given the opportunity to fight the enemy that had eluded them for over a month. Believing that civilians had already left the area for Quang Ngai city, he directed that anyone found in My Lai should be treated as a Viet Cong fighter or sympathizer. Under these rules of engagement, soldiers were free to fire at anyone or anything. Moreover, the troops of Charlie Company were ordered to destroy crops and buildings and to kill livestock.

Massacre at My Lai

Shortly before 7:30 am on March 16, 1968, Son My village was shelled by U.S. artillery. The preparatory barrage was intended to clear a landing area for Charlie Company’s helicopters, but its actual effect was to force those civilians who had begun leaving the area back to My Lai in search of cover. Minutes later, Charlie Company’s 1st Platoon, led by Lieut. William Calley, was inserted a short distance to the west of a sub-hamlet known locally as Xom Lang but marked as My Lai (4) on U.S. military maps.
By 7:50 am the remainder of Charlie Company had landed, and Calley led 1st Platoon east through My Lai. Although they encountered no resistance, the soldiers nonetheless killed indiscriminately. Over the next hour, groups of women, children, and elderly men were rounded up and shot at close range. U.S. soldiers also committed numerous rapes. Charlie Company’s 2nd Platoon moved north from the landing zone, killing dozens, while 3rd Platoon followed behind, destroying the hamlet’s remaining buildings and shooting survivors. At 9:00 am Calley ordered the execution of as many as 150 Vietnamese civilians who had been herded into an irrigation ditch.
Sgt. Ron Haeberle, a U.S. Army photographer attached to Charlie Company, documented the events of the day. He used a black-and-white camera for official Army records but shot in colour on his personal camera. Many of the black-and-white images depicted soldiers questioning prisoners, searching possessions, and burning huts; although the destruction of property violated U.S. military command directives, such actions were typical of a search-and-destroy mission and did not provide direct evidence of war crimes. Haeberle’s personal colour photographs, which he did not turn over to the Army, were later published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Life magazine. One graphically depicted a trail littered with the bodies of dead women, children, and infants, and another captured a group of terrified women and children moments before they were shot. These photographs served to galvanize the anti-Vietnam War movement and would become some of the most recognizable images of the war.
(Video) The Killing Hours - My Lai Massacre
As the massacre was taking place, Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson was flying a scout helicopter at low altitude above My Lai. Observing wounded civilians, he marked their locations with smoke grenades and radioed for troops on the ground to proceed to those positions to administer medical aid. After refueling, Thompson returned to My Lai only to see that the wounded civilians subsequently had been killed. Spotting a squad of U.S. soldiers converging on more than a dozen women and children, Thompson landed his helicopter between the two groups. Thompson’s door gunner, Lawrence Colburn, and his crew chief, Glenn Andreotta, manned their weapons as Thompson hailed other helicopters to join him in ferrying the civilians to safety. In 1998 Thompson, Colburn, and Andreotta (posthumously) were awarded the Soldier’s Medal for acts of extraordinary bravery not involving contact with the enemy.
By 11:00 am as many as 500 Vietnamese civilians had been killed. Medina ordered Charlie Company to break for lunch and informed his superiors that scores of Viet Cong had been killed in the operation. The sole U.S. casualty had occurred when a soldier shot himself in the foot while trying to clear a jammed weapon.


Who was to blame for the My Lai Massacre explain your answer? ›

Lt. William Calley is charged with six specifications of premeditated murder in the death of 109 Vietnamese civilians at My Lai in March 1968.

Who took the photos of the My Lai Massacre? ›

Ronald L. Haeberle

What was the My Lai Massacre and why did it happen? ›

The My Lai Massacre was an incident that occurred when American soldiers killed more than 500 unarmed South Vietnamese citizens in the village of My Lai. It occurred when Charlie Company was ordered to enter the village for a search and destroy mission.

What was the My Lai Massacre quizlet? ›

What was the My Lai Massacre and when was it? It was when the Americans approached a village called My Lai on the 16th of March 1968. Reports said the village was in a area controlled by the Vietcong. However they found no VC and killed anyone in their way, 500 died.

Who leaked the Vietnam papers? ›

Daniel Ellsberg
BornApril 7, 1931 Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
EducationHarvard University (AB, PhD) King's College, Cambridge Cranbrook Schools
EmployerRAND Corporation
Known forPentagon Papers, Ellsberg paradox
13 more rows

What happened to the soldiers of the My Lai massacre? ›

On April 8, Task Force Barker's mission was declared a success and the companies involved were disbanded. Two months later, on June 13, Colonel Barker and Captain Michles (the Bravo Company during the My Lai operation) were killed when their two helicopters collided in midair.

What actually happened in My Lai? ›

A company of American soldiers brutally killed most of the people—women, children and old men—in the village of My Lai on March 16, 1968. More than 500 people were slaughtered in the My Lai massacre, including young girls and women who were raped and mutilated before being killed.

Why was My Lai massacre important? ›

The massacre at My Lai held importance for a number of reasons. First, upon learning of the event in 1969, the American anti-Vietnam War movement ballooned with new members and support. The movement had struggled to remain united during 1968, but the My Lai Massacre served as a rallying point for antiwar opposition.

How many survived the My Lai massacre? ›

Six survivors

The massacre ended when American Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson noticed with alarm the actions of his fellow Americans as he flew his helicopter overhead.

Was the My Lai massacre successful? ›

In spite of reports from Vietnamese officials that hundreds of civilians had been killed in My Lai and that Son My village had been almost entirely razed, the official after-action report characterized the My Lai operation as a resounding success.

How did Americans react to the My Lai massacre quizlet? ›

- The My Lai Massacre had important consequences. It shocked US public opinion: many number of Americans either refused to believe the massacre had happened or felt it was justified because the villagers were helping the Vietcong. - However, the majority of Americans were horrified.

What happened in the Vietnamese village of My Lai in 1968 quizlet? ›

What happened in the Vietnamese village of My Lai in 1968? American soldiers massacred more than 200 men, women, and children.

Why was the massacre at My Lai significant quizlet? ›

What effect did the massacre have on America? People began to turn against the war because they had previously believed that their country was the good country which was helping but this incident revealed that perhaps their men were not the good people in this war.

What happened to the Pentagon Papers? ›

Full release in 2011. On May 4, 2011, the National Archives and Records Administration announced that the papers would be declassified and released to the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California, on June 13, 2011.

What indicated that the United States had been secretly involved in Vietnam? ›

Secret government documents published In 1971; revealed that the U.S. government had misled Americans about the Vietnam War. Supreme Court ruling in 1971 that newspapers cannot be censored by the government if there is no threat to national security.

Did North or South Vietnam win? ›

Communist forces ended the war by seizing control of South Vietnam in 1975, and the country was unified as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam the following year.

Who was president during the My Lai massacre? ›

Two days later, President Richard Nixon made the controversial decision to have Calley released from armed custody at Fort Benning, Georgia, and put under house arrest pending appeal of his sentence.

What is Lieutenant Calley doing now? ›

Lt. William L. Calley, Jr. Calley was convicted on 22 counts of premeditated murder and sentenced to life in prison.

What happened to Lieutenant William L Calley? ›

Calley was found guilty of personally murdering 22 civilians and sentenced to life imprisonment, but his sentence was reduced to 20 years by the Court of Military Appeals and further reduced later to 10 years by the Secretary of the Army.

How did the American public react to the My Lai massacre? ›

The nation's reaction to My Lai mirrored its attitudes toward a war that by November 1969 had become markedly unpopular. The press properly expressed horror at the revelations, but it also treated My Lai ethnocentrically as an American story. Some blamed the war itself rather than the men of Charlie Company.

Where did the My Lai massacre happen? ›

On March 16, 1968, a platoon of American soldiers brutally kills as many as 500 unarmed civilians at My Lai, one of a cluster of small villages located near the northern coast of South Vietnam. The crime, which was kept secret for nearly two years, later became known as the My Lai Massacre.

Who stopped My Lai massacre? ›

Everybody's heard of the My Lai massacre — March 16, 1968, 50 years ago today — but not many know about the man who stopped it: Hugh Thompson, an Army helicopter pilot.

Can you visit My Lai? ›

Firstly you don't need to go on a tour through a tour company or hotel. Get a private car and driver or normal taxi. The grounds are open all day, closing at 5pm and the entry ticket is only 10,000 VND! A 4 seater private car return trip from Hoi An to My Lai (Son May) is around VND1,4000,000 total.

Who Survived My Lai massacre? ›

Cong was the only survivor — lying wounded and unconscious for hours before his father and neighbors found him. As Friday's 50th anniversary of the massacre approached, Cong said he is still haunted with nightmares from that day.

What country has committed the most war crimes? ›

  • 20.1 United States perpetrated crimes.
  • 20.2 North Korean perpetrated crimes.
  • 20.3 South Korean perpetrated crimes.

What was the United States primary goal in Vietnam? ›

The main goal was to contain communion in Southeast Asia. The US failed to achieve this goal because it wasn't willing to sacrifice as much to win the war as the Vietnamese communists were. Before the war the US wanted to keep US troops out of Vietnam.

What happened at My Lai quizlet yawp? ›

In 1969, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh revealed that U.S. troops had massacred and/or raped hundreds of civilians in the village of My Lai.

How did the United States respond to the independence movement in Vietnam? ›

How did the United States respond to the independence movement in Vietnam? allowed for the president to send combat troops to Vietnam. What was the intention of the War Powers Resolution?

What was the state of the hippie movement at the very end of the 1960s? ›

What was the state of the hippie movement at the very end of the 1960s? The hard realities the hippies experienced, such as poverty and drug addiction, had caused the hippie phenomenon to begin to fade. capitalizing on southerners' skepticism of federal social welfare programs.

What was the reaction of the US Senate when the last troops returned from Cambodia? ›

What was the reaction of the U.S. Senate when the last troops returned from Cambodia? Senators repealed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.

Why was the Tet Offensive considered a victory for the North Vietnamese? ›

At the end of the Tet Offensive, both sides had endured losses, and both sides claimed victory. The U.S. and South Vietnamese military response almost completely eliminated the NLF forces and regained all of the lost territory.

What is My Lai quizlet? ›

My Lai Massacre. One of the most horrific incidents of violence committed against unarmed civilians during the Vietnam War. A company of American soldiers. Killed more than 500 men, women and children of the village on March 16, 1968.

What resulted from the Pentagon Papers released quizlet? ›

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the government had failed to prove harm to national security, and that publication of the papers was justified under the First Amendment's protection of freedom of the press.

What does the word vietnamization mean? ›

Vietnamization was a strategy that aimed to reduce American involvement in the Vietnam War by transferring all military responsibilities to South Vietnam.


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