My Lai Vietnam Covering the Massacre in 1968 and Today

My Lai in Vietnam was well-known in the world because of the terrible massacre that happened in 1968. Vietnamdrive studied and collected useful information in this article, which can help readers learn more about what happened during the war in Vietnam. All of us wish bad things of the war do not occur again. And, when we read the war history, we know the value of a peaceful life of the present to live better.

My Lai - Son My Quang Ngai Vietnam
My Lai (or Son My) in Quang Ngai, Vietnam

On the morning of March 16th, 1968, in the area of My Lai Commune in Son My Village, Quang Ngai Province, Vietnam, the unit of US Army soldiers massacred 504 innocent civilians, including mostly elderly, women, and children. The bloody massacre shocked the public all over the world. This activity was a big terrible problem happening during the Vietnam War.

The location of My Lai Village

Son My (My Lai) Village is located next to Highway 24B and belongs to Tu Cung Hamlet, Tinh Khe commune, Son Tinh district, about 12km from the city center of Quang Ngai to the northeast. This place preserves ​​evidence of the massacre in 1968, including displaying historical images, and artifacts and placing a memorial statue of the 504 people for the My Lai massacre or the Son My massacre.

My Lai Vietnam Map
Location of My Lai Village in the map
This is the memorial site where the guests can come to visit now.

Son My was the name of the Saigon government (South Vietnam) for the Tinh Khe commune. My Lai or Mylai was written in the documents, maps of the army, and later in the American presses, appointing Tinh Khe commune.

My Lai is a name that originated from the name of My Lai Commune, one of 4 communes of Son My Village. Also, Pinkville was another name for My Lai, which was used by the US military as a nickname in combat maps.

Information of My Lai/ Son My Vestige Site:
Phone number: 0255 3843 222
Ticket to visit: 20,000 VND/guest
Address: Mỹ Lại, Tịnh Khê, Quảng Ngãi, Việt Nam

My Lai Vietnam Massacre in 1968

My Lai was a peaceful commune with a sand road covered by the shade of coconut trees. Most of the local people were farmers. Here is the brief of the massacre in 1968.

vietnam war my lai massacre
Photo: Ronald Haeberle

My Lai massacre occurred on March 16, 1968, (the 18th of the second lunar month, Mau Than – Monkey Year). The main unit that caused the bloody death, and shocked the world, is Platoon 1 (Lieutenant William Calley was the platoon leader) of Charlie Company (The Captain is Ernest Medina). This group was one of 3 companies of Barker (Task Force Barker), Brigade 11, American Division, and American Expeditionary Forces.

On that terrible morning, after the series of shells rushed into the village, American troops landed by helicopters into the field in the west of Tu Cung and Go hamlets (Co Luy village) in Tinh Khe Commune. The frenzied and destructive massacre began with American soldiers hunting and firing at normal civilians (including the elderly, women, and children). Houses and shelters were collapsed and burned, and castles were shot and killed. Dozens of victims’ bodies were pushed down by the soldiers into a ditch.

Frightening truth: In just one morning, 504 innocent people were killed (407 people in Tu Cung Hamlet, 97 people in My Hoi Hamlet), including 182 women, 173 children, and 60 old people. 24 families were killed, and 247 houses were destroyed.

Seeing the terrible deaths, a soldier Herbert Carter shot himself in the leg to avoid participating in the massacre.

Helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson, the 24-year-old man of the squadron team, witnessed hundreds of people dyed or dying when flying through the village. He and the squadron team saw an unarmed woman in droop, kicked on her body, and shot. They were contacted by radio to seek help for the injured people. After that, the helicopter landed near a ditch which had full of corpses, and there were also some wounded people. Thompson asked soldiers there to help the survivors.

A group of Vietnamese civilians (only children, women, and older men) hid in a cellar that American infantrymen were approaching. Thompson helped about 12-16 people in the tunnel to escape from the massacre.

In 1998, three US military soldiers, including Hugh Thompson (pilot), Glenn Andreotta, and Lawrence Colburn (gunmen in the aircraft), were awarded medals by the US government for blocking civilian killers, reducing casualties in the My Lai Massacre. Thompson and Colburn later returned to the village and met the rescued people.

Telling the truth of My Lai Massacre

However, My Lai Massacre was kept; and until November 1969, its truth was told. Seymour Hersh, the world-renowned investigative journalist, after many conversations with William Laws Calley – who was later accused of ordering the massacre of My Lai – was the one who revealed to the world the terrible slaughter.

And, in November 1969, a series of magazines, including Time, Life, and Newsweek, published on the first page the detailed photos of villagers who were killed at the hands of American soldiers in My Lai.

Terrifying news about the massacre warmed up the anti-war movement in Vietnam. The American people and the world demanded the withdrawal of US troops from South Vietnam. The case of My Lai in Vietnam also caused many young Americans to have more reasons to oppose joining the soldiers coming to Vietnam, and those who had the anti-war ideology received more strength to ask to stop the war. Terrifying stories about the war were also gradually shown to the light.

My Lai Massacre Photos – Horrible Truth of the Vietnam War

In this part, we collect a lot of photos from many authors, photographers, and newspapers telling us about the My Lai Massacre.

We also warn that the photos in this section are terrible about the death and the war in Vietnam, so you should think again before checking these photos.

My Lai Vietnam Massacre 1986
American soldiers coldly shot hundreds of farmers, went to the village to burn houses, and continued to kill old men, women, and children. The massacre took place within 4 hours. Photo: Ronald Haeberle
My Lai Quang Ngai Massacre 1986
An old man was dragged out of the house by the soldier before the massacre occurred. Photo: Ronald Haeberle
My Lai Vietnam Massacre 1986
A brother was protecting his younger one on the road in the rice. Photo: Ronald Haeberle

Mr. Duc – one of the children in the photo – said: “It was a big event that I still remember, and remember each detail very well. At that time I hugged Ha (his younger one) on the way to my grandmother’s house as my mother instructed and advised.
Suddenly, I saw a plane with a shark photo on it showing up from the direction of the Voi station, and it was flying very low towards me. I clearly saw an American soldier sitting by the door. I was afraid our two brothers were shot, so I hugged Ha to lie down to avoid bullets. Ronald Haeberle took the picture at this moment.”

My Lai Vietnam Massacre 1986
Unidentified bodies near the burning house. Photo: Ronald Haeberle/Wikipedia
Below are the photos which I (the editor of Vietnamdrive) always get tears when seeing them. So, you think about it again when you click to open to view.
Open to see these images:
My Lai Vietnam Massacre 1986
A photo was taken on March 16, 1968, immediately after the My Lai massacre, mostly women and children died on the road. Photo: by Ronald Haeberle/Wikipedia
My Lai Vietnam Massacre 1986
The man and the baby. Both were killed. Photo: Ronald Haeberle/Wikipedia

Today in My Lai village in Quang Ngai Province, Vietnam

Currently, My Lai Village in Quang Ngai Province, Vietnam, is a historical relic site with a large number of visitors. The land of My Lai (Son My) has now revived strongly, and its life changes every day. Schools, clinics, welfare facilities, and new roads have developed on the historical death land. Many people visit My Lai Village to understand more about the pain of war, to express their desire for peace, and to share the revival in this countryside.

My Lai - Son My Quang Ngai
My Lai (Son My) Quang Ngai

Many of them are former US veterans during the Vietnam War. Hugh Thompson (pilot) and Lawrence Corburn, two of the three American soldiers who flew on a helicopter to rescue more than 10 civilians on the morning of March 16, 1968, returned to My Lai, and the villagers were welcomed by respectful and thankful attitudes.

Mike Boehm, an American veteran who fought in Vietnam, returned to My Lai almost every year.  He became the main character in the documentary “The Sound of the Violin in My Lai” (Tiếng Vĩ cầm ở Mỹ Lai) directed by Tran Van Thuy, winning the Best Short Film Award at the 43rd Asia-Pacific Film Festival which was held in Thailand in 1999.

Ronald Haeberle, who took photos of the fateful morning of March 16, 1968, also came back and stood still in front of his own photographs that were being hung on a wall of the museum here.

Every year, on 16th March, a big memorial commemoration to the victims of the Son My massacre is held in the historical area of Son My (Quang Ngai).

Who is William Calley? What did he do in 1968 in My Lai?

On March 16, 1968, upon orders from their superiors, many US soldiers fired in My Lai Village, Quang Ngai province, Vietnam, causing 504 deaths. Lieutenant William Calley (25 years old), who commanded Charlie’s legion of the Infantry Brigade 11, launched the massacre. Most victims are elderly, women, and children.

In mid-November 1970, the US military court tried military people who were directly involved in the murder in My Lai. Lieutenant William Calley faced the most crimes. American Public Radio (PBS) announced Calley’s crimes such as ordering the soldiers to shoot all targets and cornering people into a canal to fire.

In 1971, the military court sentenced Calley to murder more than 20 people. Calley was the only soldier to be found guilty and had to receive punishment. In a trial in 1971, Calley did not deny that he participated in the campaign on March 16, 1968, but insisted he must obey his superior, Captain Ernest Medina.

The sentence for Calley is life imprisonment. However, President Richard Nixon decided to reduce the sentence and demanded home detention for Calley. After 3 years, Calley became a free man. He stayed in Columbus, Georgia, and took over the jewelry store left by his father-in-law. The veteran refused all the press requests for interviews about the crime in My Lai for a long time.

However, after more than 40 years, Calley expressed remorse for the old crime at a local volunteer club meeting in August 2009.

Who is Mike Boehm?

As usual, Mike Boehm – the former American soldier – played “The Song of the Violin” at the foot of the monument in Son My (My Lai) Village. Mr. Roy Mike Poehm is an American veteran, stationed in Cu Chi, Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) in 1968 (Mau Than – Mokey Year). That year was also the time when the My Lai (Son My) massacre happened and killed many innocent people.

Mike Boehm at Son My Quang Ngai
Mike Boehm playing the violin at the memorial statues of Son My. Photo: N.X/vnexpress

Although he did not directly participate in the battle in My Lai (Son My) in Quang Ngai, when he learned the horrifying truth of the My Lai massacre on March 16th, 1968, he realized the cruelty of the unjust war, causing big pain to the Vietnamese people, especially women, and children.

For more than the past 26 years, Mike Boehm has returned to My Lai every year when the commemoration of My Lai victims is held. Mike standing at the foot of the monument of Son My, played a song to pray the innocent 504 civilians such as an apology and penance, with the message not to let any places where such pain occurs.

Mike Boehm has tried to do what he can, hoping to heal the wounds of war on this painful and poor land. From 1994 until now, Madison Quakers, Inc.(MQI), Mike Boeh – the director of the donation – has helped the thousands of poor women in Quang Ngai with 17 credit programs, building 3 classrooms, 120 houses of love, assisting victims of Agent Orange … Many families have escaped from poverty, overcame the traumatic losses they suffered from the war.

Ronald Haeberle – A visit of a photograph in My Lai Massacre 1968

After the war, once came back to Vietnam as a tourist, Ronald Haeberle (Ronald L. Haeberle) – the famous photo author about Son My Massacre – did not dare to visit Quang Ngai nor revealed himself as a historical witness to the death of 504 civilians. It’s because he did not know if the people in Quang Ngai forgave him.

On the morning of October 24, 2011, with the mood still haunted by the scene of My Lai, he and a Vietnamese person who survived the massacre returned to the old land.

Visit My Lai Vietnam Quang Ngai
Coming back Son My, walking on peaceful village streets, the former war correspondent was surprised by the strong resurgence in this dead land. Photo: Minh Hoang/Zing

On a sunny morning of March 16, 1968, the war correspondent Ronald Haeberle followed in the footsteps of a US military unit into Son My village. All over the place, the rice was ripe. In the field, some farmers were working. The cold-blooded American soldiers shot and killed the farmers, went to the village to burn houses, and continued to kill older men, women, and children. The massacre had happened for 4 hours.

One of Ronald Haeberle’s photos recorded two brothers crawling on the rice fields to avoid bullets; the older one was protecting the child. A few dozen meters away, about 21 bodies (mostly women and children) were killed by American soldiers. Another black-and-white photograph showed many American soldiers calmly on the edge of a rice field after the massacre.

This massacre was haunting the life of Ronald Haeberle. He decided to tell the world about the horrible truth, so his photos were published in the newspapers in 1969.

The first impression with Haeberle when coming back was the green color of the rice field, and the tall coconut palms swinging in the peaceful early morning. Strolling on the path full of shoes’ prints, he observed meticulously every part of the old ditch when he took a picture of the deaths the shelter, and the house foundation which were burned.

He stood pensively in front of the monument of Son My to remember the victims of the massacre. And, Ronald Haeberle was surprised because the local people opened their arms to welcome him.

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    About the author

    The editorial staff of Vietnamdrive is a team of travel experts managed by Mr. Thom who has worked in tourism for 14 years. Trusted by thousands of tourists from all over the world.