My Lai–50 Years On

Closing Thought–16Mar18

Your Daily History Lesson…….

When I was teaching class at university I asked my class to find Vietnam on a map….15 students…..14 wrong answers….the only correct was a vet of that war… their defense they did not know the name Arafat or Begin…..I would bet that it is not much better these days of the information revolution.

How many people remember a Lt. named Calley?  How many remember a town named My Lai?

When I ask a class of college students how many have heard of My Lai, only a few if any raise their hands, tentatively. Even they are unsure what it was, or where, or when, or who was involved. Why have we forgotten the nadir of the Vietnam War? Is our collective amnesia accidental or willful?

March 16 marks the 50th anniversary of the date that does not live in infamy. Does it for any Americans? In 1968, American soldiers slaughtered animals, raped villagers, and murdered 109 “Oriental human beings” in My Lai. That was the number cited in a court-martial 18 months later.

Today is the 50th year anniversary of the massacre……

Americans, including GIs, were losing their once reflexive faith that the U.S. military, with all its skill and firepower, would prevail in Vietnam as it had so often throughout history. Also shattered was the faith that America’s fighting forces were inherently more virtuous than their enemies. The unraveling of that conviction began in earnest in 1969 with the revelation that American soldiers had murdered hundreds of unarmed and unresisting women, children, babies, and old men in the village of My Lai.

For many people, the shocking news came first in the form of several horrifying photographs. One shows almost two dozen dead Vietnamese bodies on a dirt road. Many have fallen in a twisted pile; some are partially naked. Another photograph shows a woman lying in a field with her legs drawn up under her body. Her conical straw hat has flipped off her head. If you look closely you can notice that a large portion of her brain lies exposed beneath the hat.

To be fair……we must hear from the people that were there….the survivors…..

It was the sweet potato harvest season, so Ha Thi Quy woke up early to find a good spot in the village to dry slices of the delicately flavored tuber to sell.

She noticed some American soldiers in the village, but that didn’t alarm her.

“There are no Vietnamese troops here, so why should they start shooting?” Quy recalled her self-assurance in a bitter question that she still has not found the answer to……

Scars of war are the worse to bear…..

I begin my weekend…..lost in memories to times long ago…..chuq


10 thoughts on “My Lai–50 Years On

  1. I remember the event well, and the coverage it received on the news. March 16th is my birthday, so I would have been 16 at the time.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  2. As it is with any AND ALL wars, atrocities on all sides.
    This war was during the time of my birth. SadlyI wasn’t taught very much of it during my school years. I had an uncle that died fighting in this conflict; and for what? What have we learned? Where do we go from here?

    1. Thanx for the visit… answer some of your questions….we have learned nothing….sadly this war can only be taught by those that were there and most us do not talk about it much…..hope you will stop by again….I appreciate your time…chuq

  3. I don’t know how old these students are. However, I’m not remotely surprised that only the Vietnam Vet could point to Vietnam on a globe. And Vietnam has a very distinctive shape you’re not going to misidentify. These are folks taking a course that includes the subject who can’t even point to the country! So you can assume the Gen-pop doesn’t know a single damn thing about this “conflict”. Between WW2 and 2000, this conflict had a longer lasting cultural impact on America than anything else (other than the Cold War itself…which is also forgotten by a majority of people who lived through it!!!)

    But no knowledge of Vietnam? What rock have they lived under??? Haven’t they ever seen Apocalypse Now, Platoon, or Full Metal Jacket? These great movies still get shown on TV a lot. Do none of them have “crazy uncles with PTSD”?

    I wasn’t even a sperm yet. I’ve never taken a course on Vietnam. Yet despite some names & spelling issues…I might even pass that course before taking it. (Okay, so I watched the Ken Burns’ documentary this year. But still.)

    My-Lai is exactly the kind of bullshit that is absolutely inevitable in war. For every example you hear about, there are probably a thousand you don’t. You give youngsters guns, crank up their testosterone, surround them with “enemies”, a few of their buddies get killed and the adrenaline goes wild, especially on the defenceless. What’s really amazing is that individual soldiers resist the group-think and step in to stop it, or tell the truth nobody wants to hear later. I know there were a few of those guys at My Lai. Those are the guys who need to be running the show. Those in charge who looked the other way need to be lined-up at the Welfare Office….or jail.

    And what was the final outcome of the laughable “legal process” regarding this massacre? If I recall, one scapegoat (because ONE GUY could rape & kill an entire village on his own) got some House Arrest. I don’t think House Arrest was even a “thing” back then. What a joke! As if anyone involved in that insanity didn’t spend most of the 70’s in a self-imposed House Arrest, drinking themselves numb on the couch with the curtains closed. “Your punishment is that you get to go home and do what you were going to do anyway.”

    But fuck. Fifty years or not….Only in our society of instant-amnesiac, self-obsessed, pleasure-seekers with 7 second attention spans….can Vietnam not even be pointed to on a map by college students taking a course where it’s a topic. Hell, at that rate…I wonder how many even know there’s a global war going on RIGHT NOW? Can they even point to a globe anymore?

    1. The Ken Burns piece was a total joke making heroes out of the enemy and barfing on our American Heroes under fire in that God Forsaken craphole.

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