01 November 2019
lynn pelham / the life images collection / getty images
lynn pelham / the life images collection / getty images

ON 17 NOVEMBER 1970, the court martial of Lieutenant William L Calley began at Fort Benning, Georgia in the United States. Calley was charged with murdering 109 “Oriental human beings” during the 1968 My Lai massacre.

Early in the morning of 16 March 1968, 105 soldiers from Charlie Company of the Eleventh Infantry Brigade advanced on the hamlet of My Lai 4, in the province of Quang Ngai on the northeastern coast of South Vietnam. The soldiers expected to face a crack Vietcong battalion, but instead found villagers preparing breakfast.

Over the next few hours, the soldiers killed 504 unarmed civilians, including 173 children. They raped many women and girls. They burned each home, killed the livestock, destroyed the food and contaminated sources of drinking water. The army reported the operation as a military victory, in which 128 Vietcong guerrillas—and no civilians—had been killed.