My Lai pp 75-112 | Cite as

The Assault on My Lai

  • James S. Olson
  • Randy Roberts
Part of the The Bedford Series in History and Culture book series (BSHC)


In the following selections, American and South Vietnamese participants and witnesses describe what happened on the morning of March 16, 1968, in My Lai village. Their testimony raises a number of compelling moral and psychological issues. As you read the documents, you will discover that some of the troops, without question, obeyed Lieutenant William Calley’s order to kill civilians. There is little doubt about the reality of such orders, but in your opinion, are the troops who obeyed guilty of murder and war crimes? Other members of Calley’s platoon knew immediately that such orders were illegal, and they refused to obey. But even those who disobeyed Calley’s orders did not actively engage in stopping the killing. They simply refused to participate. To what extent might they be accomplices to the slaughter? Also, they did not report the alleged war crimes to higher authorities as required by the Geneva conventions. Did such behavior render them guilty of participating in the cover-up of the massacre? Only Hugh Thompson, a helicopter pilot, actively worked to protect Vietnamese civilians from the American troops. He even threatened to fire on his own men if they continued the slaughter. Was he right or wrong in his actions? In addition, Thompson was the only American at My Lai that day to report the massacre to superior officers.


Rice Paddy Refugee Camp Vietnamese Woman Walk Away Bullet Wound 
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Copyright information

© Bedford Books 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • James S. Olson
    • 1
  • Randy Roberts
    • 2
  1. 1.Sam Houston State UniversityUSA
  2. 2.Purdue UniversityUSA

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