William Calley, the former Army lieutenant convicted on 22 counts of murder in the infamous My Lai Massacre in Vietnam, publicly apologized for the first time this week while speaking in Columbus.
“There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in My Lai,” Calley told members of the Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus on Wednesday. His voice started to break when he added, “I feel remorse for the Vietnamese who were killed, for their families, for the American soldiers involved and their families. I am very sorry.”
In March 1968, U.S. soldiers gunned down hundreds of civilians in the Vietnamese hamlet of My Lai. The Army at first denied, then downplayed the event, saying most of the dead were Vietcong. But in November 1969, journalist Seymour Hersh revealed what really happened and Calley was court martialed and convicted of murder.
Calley had long refused to grant interviews about what happened, but on Wednesday he spoke at a Columbus Kiwanis meeting. He made only a brief statement, but agreed to take questions from the audience.
He did not deny what had happened that day, but did repeatedly make the point — which he has made before — that he was following orders.
Calley explained he had been ordered to take out My Lai, adding that he had intelligence that the village was fortified and would be “hot” when he went in. He also said the area was submitted to an artillery barrage and helicopter fire before his troops went in. It turned out that it was not hot and there was no armed resistance. But he had been told, he said, that if he left anyone behind, his troops could be trapped and caught in a crossfire.
Asked about American casualties, Calley said there were two injuries, but neither was the result of enemy fire, adding, “They didn’t have time.”
When asked if obeying an unlawful order was not itself an unlawful act, he said, “I believe that is true. If you are asking why I did not stand up to them when I was given the orders, I will have to say that I was a second lieutenant getting orders from my commander and I followed them — foolishly, I guess.” Calley then said that was not an excuse; it was just what happened.
RTFA. A day in infamy that most of the literate world knows about and will always associate with American foreign policy.
If you’re an American, a young American, you probably don’t know about it.