Soldiers went berserk, gunning down unarmed men, women, children and babies. Families which huddled together for safety in huts or bunkers were shown no mercy. Those who emerged with hands held high were murdered. ... Elsewhere in the village, other atrocities were in progress. Women were gang raped; Vietnamese who had bowed to greet the Americans were beaten with fists and tortured, clubbed with rifle butts and stabbed with bayonets. Some victims were mutilated with the signature "C Company" carved into the chest. By late morning word had got back to higher authorities and a cease-fire was ordered. My Lai was in a state of carnage. Bodies were strewn through the village.BBC News.On March 16, 1968, Charlie Company of the American 1st Battalion, swept through hamlets of My Lai and My Khe of Son My village in Vietnam, looking for Viet Cong. There were no Viet Cong in the village, but Charlie Company started a wave of violence, shooting at everything alive. Civilians ran for their lives, and were gunned down. People were herded into an irrigation ditch and shot with automatic weapons. No one was spared. Not even children. When they were finished, over 500 people were murdered.
The American military initially covered up incident. It would take a year and a half later for the story to break, and charges to be laid against soldiers. Of the 26 soldiers charged, only one was ever given prison time -- just four and a half years in military prison. In the court martial, the precedents set in the Nuremberg and Tokyo War Crimes Tribunals, were reversed. The results of the WWII war crimes tribunals set the precedent that following orders was not a defence for committing war crimes. The punishment from the war crimes tribunals was execution.
Tomorrow is the 40th anniversary of the massacre -- and I have to ask, what has changed?