Magazine article Newsweek

The Massacre at My Lai

Magazine article Newsweek

The Massacre at My Lai

Article excerpt

MY LAI, MARCH 16, 1968: During a tour through the village of My Lai, American GIs went on a rampage, raping, looting and killing as many as 400 unarmed South Vietnamese civilians. Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson saw it all from his helicopter-and tried to stop it.

I arrived over my lai, which was better known as Pinkville, at about 7:20 in the morning. I was flying a Scout helicopter and my job was to draw out enemy fire. We had been briefed the night before that there had been a large enemy buildup in the area. But so far, we only saw one draft-age male running out of the village with a weapon. I told my door gunner, Lawrence Colburn, to fire at him. He missed. That was the only enemy person we saw all day.

We were flying back and forth for some time, not getting shot at, when I left to refuel. When we got back on station there were bodies everywhere. These were infants and toddlers, women and very old men-but no young men. On one pass just outside the village, we saw a teenage girl lying on her back in a rice field. She was flailing back and forth, obviously wounded. I hovered over her, marked her with a smoke flare and got on the radio to call for help. A captain approached. He nudged her with his foot, then stood back, put his weapon on automatic, and blew her away. We didn't know what to think of that.

We came across a ditch that had a large number of people in it who appeared to be injured. We noticed babies, women and children and old men. I put the helicopter down, then went over to ask a sergeant to help them out. He said the only way to do that was to put them out of their misery. I thought he was joking. We took off and heard shots right away. My crew chief, Glenn Andreotta, yelled, "My God, they are firing into the ditch." I swung the Scout around so all of us could see. They were standing around, just firing. We said, "My God, what is happening here? …

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