Michal R. Belknap's Murder At My Lai Massacre

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On March 16, 1968, US Army soldiers from the Company C of the 23rd Americal Division marched into the village of My Lai in Vietnam on a search and destroy mission. Although the US soldiers intended to conduct a “combat assault”[ Michal R. Belknap, The Vietnam war on Trial (Lawrece, Kansas: the University Press of Kansas, 2002), 57] on the village which was thought to be the location of the 48th Vietcong Battalion after a tip off, it turned into a mass-killing of hundreds of innocent civilians and noncombatants. After the slaughter at My Lai, the Americal Division deemed the event a success[ Belknap, 78], however once word got out of the massacre a year later, it was met with outrage by the public. Although the killing of civilians during…show more content…
“[We’d have to become] extremely aggressive and we couldn’t afford to take ny more causalities”[ Belknap, 57] Lieutenant William Calley, Jr. Later testifies. After the “impromptu funeral for Sergeant Cox,”[ Belknap, 57] Captain Ernest Medina held a briefing that explained the group were to go on a search and destroy mission the next morning after being tipped off my intelligence reports and that by the time they arrive all innocent civilians should have left for the market. For the Charlie Company, it was their opportunity to get revenge for all of the casualties they had suffered. Medina concluded the briefing by telling the soldiers to destroy the village by burning it down, destroying food crops, and killing all inhabitants. However, reports of Company C veterans all vary about what happened towards the end of the briefing. Vietnam War Veteran James Robert Bergthold reports that Captain Medina “did not give an order to kill,”[ James Robert Bergthold, interviewed by Billy H. Thompson, The Vietnam Center and Archive at Texas Tech University, Noverember 3, 1969] while other veterans such as Herbert L. Carter claim that Medina said “it’s open season. When we leave, nothing will be living.”[ Herbert L. Carter, The Vietnam Center and Archive at Texas Tech University, Noverember 6, 1969] Medina testifies that regarding…show more content…
It is widely believed that there was a misunderstanding and that Medina’s words at the briefing were misinterpreted by the soldier’s “preexisting anger toward the Vietnamese.”[ Belknap, 58] According to the Peers Commission, who was in charge of the My Lai Massacre investigation, “part of the problem was bad intelligence”[ Belknap, 60] and the operation plan “was based on faulty assumptions”[ Belknap, 60] concerning the whereabouts of the enemy soldiers and their belief that the My Lai village was inhabited by innocent civilians for 4 years[ Bergthold interview, 1969]. Another source of confusion were the “ambiguous instructions”[ Belknap, 62] from Lieutenant Colonel Frank Barker, which was later distorted by Medina to the members of Company C. According to those present during Barker’s briefing, he allowed permission to destroy the village and kill livestock, however, he failed to mention anything about slaying noncombatants and how to handle prisoners. According to The Peers Commission, the was no found evidence that claimed Barker’s plan “included explicit or implicit provisions for the deliberate killing on noncombatants.”[ Belknap, 61] Not only that, superiors failed to monitor and control the troops despite Medina’s order to cease fire; criticizers claim that commanders and
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