On the morning of March 16, 1968, soldiers of Charlie Company, a unit of the American Division’s 11th Infantry Brigade arrived in the hamlet of My Lai in the northern part of South Vietnam. They were on a “search and destroy” mission to root out 48th Viet Cong Battalion thought to be in the area.
The unit met no resistance in My Lai, which had about 700 inhabitants. Indeed, they saw no males of fighting age. They only found villagers eating breakfast.
Nevertheless, over the next three hours they killed as many as 504 Vietnamese civilians. Some were lined up in a drainage ditch before being shot. The dead civilians included fifty age 3 or younger, 69 between 4 and 7, and 27 in their 70s or 80s.
In addition, Vietnamese women were raped; other civilians were clubbed and stabbed. Some victims were mutilated with the signature “C Company” carved into the chest. One soldier would testify later, “I cut their throats, cut off their hands, cut out their tongues, scalped them. I did it. A lot of people were doing it and I just followed. I lost all sense of direction.” Only one American was injured – a GI who had shot himself in the foot while clearing his pistol.
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