Lt. William Calley publicly apologizes for My Lai massacre

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.

5 thoughts on “Lt. William Calley publicly apologizes for My Lai massacre

  1. keaneo says:

    Never forget. Never trust our politicians to tell you the truth. The whole of our military just “follows orders”.

  2. Jägermeister says:

    An acquaintance of mine served in the 18th Airborne Corps in southern Vietnam. He was never keen on talking about his experiences in Vietnam, but he told me a story about his unit taking revenge on a village after they’d found an American soldier tied in a pit with his guts hanging outside his body (he told me the rats had been eating parts of it). Only the people who where there and then knows the feelings and thoughts that lead to the massacre. He told me that it doesn’t go a day without him seeing images of the horrible things he did and experienced.

    War (as well as religion and money) can bring out the worst in people. Mr. Calley will live forever with the images of what he has done. That will be his sentence.

    • Barry says:

      That is not enough. For him or anyone else who carries out such atrocities. I don’t believe in God or the Devil but for him I hope there is a hell.

  3. Cody says:

    These are examples of bad policy there is also good American Policy. Just like every country has good and bad. Hitler/Germany, Napoleon/France, Mussolini/Italy, Iwane/Japan. The list goes on for a long time. But I think you get the idea.

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