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This Day in History

World History

Saturday, March 16, 1968. :   American soldiers massacre villagers in My Lai, Vietnam.

     During the Vietnam War, the Quang Ngai Province of South Vietnam was suspected of being a haven for guerrillas of the People's Liberation Armed Forces and other cadres of the National Front for the Liberation of Vietnam (NLF), also called the "Viet Cong". The military was determined to wipe out all NLF operatives - real or imagined.

Charlie Company, 11th Brigade, American Division arrived in Vietnam in December 1967. US military intelligence believed that the 48th battalion of the NLF had taken refuge in a nearby village, My Lai. Charlie Company was advised by US military command that any genuine civilians at My Lai would have left their homes to go to market early. They were told that they could assume that all who remained behind were either VC or active VC sympathisers. They were instructed to destroy the village.

A memorial at the site of the massacre lists 504 names of villagers who were executed on the morning of 16 March 1968, including old men, women, children, and babies. Some were tortured or raped. Dozens were herded into a ditch and executed with automatic weapons.

Not all troops were in agreement with the action: a US Army helicopter crew saved a group of villagers by landing between the American troops and the remaining Vietnamese hiding in a bunker. The 24-year-old pilot, Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson, Jr., confronted the leaders of the troops and threatened to open fire on them if they continued their attack on civilians.

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