My Lai was the mass murder of 347–504 unarmed citizens in South Vietnam on March 16, 1968, conducted by a unit of the United States Army. All of the victims were civilians and most were women, children (including babies), and elderly people. Many of the victims were raped, beaten, tortured, and some of the bodies were found mutilated.
The massacre took place in the hamlets of Mỹ Lai and My Khe of Sơn Mỹ village during the Vietnam War. While 26 US soldiers were initially charged with criminal offenses for their actions at My Lai, only William Calley was convicted of killing 22 villagers. Originally given a life sentence, he served three and a half years under house arrest.
When the incident became public knowledge in 1969, it prompted widespread outrage around the world. The massacre also increased domestic opposition to the US involvement in the Vietnam War. Three US servicemen who made an effort to halt the massacre and protect the wounded were later denounced by US Congressmen. They received hate mail, death threats and found mutilated animals on their doorsteps. It would take 30 years before they were honored for their efforts.
The massacre is also known as the ‘Sơn Mỹ Massacre’ (Vietnamese: thảm sát Sơn Mỹ) or sometimes as the ‘Song My Massacre.’
In 1989, the British television station Yorkshire Television broadcast the documentary Four Hours in My Lai as part of the ITV networked series First Tuesday. Using eyewitness statements from both Vietnamese and Americans the programme revealed new evidence about the massacre. Watch the video — in seven parts — below.
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