The My Lai massacre was a massacre by American soldiers of hundreds of unarmed Vietnamese civilians,
mostly women and children, on March 16, 1968, during the Vietnam War. Becoming a symbol of US-American war crimes in Vietnam,
it prompted widespread outrage around the world and reduced public support for the war in the United States.
On March 16, 1968 a U.S. platoon under the command of lieutenant William Calley, entered the small village
at My Lai in northern South Vietnam searching for Vietcong rebels. Finding no sign of the enemy the troops rounded up all
the villagers and shot them. They were primarily old men, women, children, and babies. Some were tortured or raped. Dozens
were herded into a ditch and executed with automatic weapons. At one stage, Calley himself turned a machine gun on a ditch
full of villagers. The precise number reported killed varies from source to source, with 347 and 504 being the most commonly
The carnage at My Lai might have gone unknown to history if not for another soldier, Ron Ridenhour, who,
independent of Glen, sent a letter to President Nixon, the Pentagon, the State Department, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and
numerous members of Congress. The copies of this letter were sent in March, 1969, a full year after the event. Most recipients
of Ridenhour's letter ignored it, with the notable exception of Representative Morris Udall. Ridenhour learned about the events
at My Lai secondhand, by talking to members of Charlie Company while he was still enlisted. Eventually, Calley was charged
with several counts of premeditated murder in September 1969, and 25 other officers and enlisted men were later charged with
related crimes. It was another two months before the American public learned about the massacre and trials.
The explosive news of the massacre fueled the outrage of the American peace movement, which demanded the
withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam. It also led more potential draftees to file for conscientious objector status.
Those who had always argued against the war felt vindicated; those on the fringes of the movement became more vocal.