Rheualt Robert, who served as a commander in the army during the Vietnam War observes that when the subject of past atrocities comes up, people immediately think of Germany, Japan or Russia. Few would believe that the American can be responsible for grossly inhuman practices. His experience in Vietnam however makes him believe that the American troops are just as capable of committing atrocities as those of any other nation (Burgan, 2008).
The My Lai massacre would have been easily covered up and left unknown to the world if not for Spec. Ridenhour Ron. Ron learnt of the massacre from his friends who had been in the platoon and when he was discharged from the military, he wrote the president and some members of congress telling them what transpired. His letter carried even greater weight when sergeant Haeberle’s Photos of the massacre were published in the times magazine.
The story begins with the murder of 3 American soldiers by mines, snipers or booby traps. The American troops were enraged because their enemy was afraid of confrontational war and had resorted to a guerilla approach .During a memorial service for the fallen soldiers, Their commander charged them to go an a revenge mission to avenge for their slain comrades (Seymour, 1969).
The testimony of the soldiers that were part of the massacre revels that they had a cold landing in the village. This is to mean that they were not fought back at all but they proceeded to murder the hundreds of the villages who had been caught unawares. The villagers had not had a reason to suspect anything as prior to this; some soldiers had actually passed through the village handing some candy to the children as they passed by (Nixon, 1978).
Many soldiers testified that their commander had instructed them to destroy the village. What fueled the massacre even more were the racist ideologies by most of the troops who considered the Vietnamese to be sub humans that deserved to be killed. The soldiers rounded the villages and shot them while they raped the women. One Vietnamese that survived the massacre by hiding under a pile of bodies recounts how, she saw naked women lying lifeless. She remembers seeing one girl with her vagina ripped open.
One of the soldiers remembers how a little boy that had been shot in the leg walked towards the soldiers with an expressionless face probably too overwhelmed by the days happening. Someone shot the boy three times and they walked away as if it was the most ordinary thing to do. This was too much for one soldier, who decided to shoot himself in the leg just to get an excuse to be evacuated before he could see worse things happening (Burgan, 2008).
However, there were some sympathetic soldiers that tried to help. One such officer was Thompson Warrant. He had been piloting around the area with his men when he noticed some Vietnamese hiding in a bunker. He decided to come to their aid. He ordered his men to shoot back at their fellow Americans if they should try to interfere with his rescue attempt. Thompson managed to radio for a larger chopper and they airlifted the terrified survivors to safety.
Even though the reports of the media on the massacre enraged many people locally and internationally, An Alabaman woman noted that just as is American Custom, they will soon forget the incident as soon as another crisis comes along. However, she observes that although the 504 people who were murdered could easily be forgotten due to the abstraction of the figure, the photographer that captured seven villagers that had been published by the times magazine made the event so real and it would help generations to keep recalling what happened on 16th March, 1968 (Seymour, 1969).