After our first night in Hoi An, we traveled by bus over three hours to arrive in the small village where the famous “My Lai Massacre” occurred on March 16th, 1968. Nearly 45 years later, the heartache from that day could be felt by all and our deepest sympathy went out to the 504 men, women and children whose lives were unnecessarily ended. It was interesting to find out, however, that the general American public did not know about this event until late 1969. For Professor Jim, like so many millions of young people growing up during this time, this event forever changed public opinion against war in Vietnam and the truthfulness of the American President and government.
The village itself is fairly small, and no original houses remain, only foundations and restorations of what a traditional rural home would look like. It is vary basic, with one large room with beds and another room for cooking and eating meals. The roof is thatched and the structure would most likely have been made from bamboo. Along each house, many families grew rice and vegetables, and an irrigation canal is nearby for watering, washing clothes, and drinking.
On the morning of March 16th, around 6AM, American troops landed on the outskirts of this village and carried out their “destroy mission” for the next four or so hours. They were led by Lieutenant William Calley, would ordered his company to shoot “anything that moves.” He was later court martialed and convicted of the murders, for which he spent just over a year in prison. Other soldiers who partook in this insisted that they were simply “following orders,” and still hold true to that today. Regardless of the motive, the attack was extremely brutal and savage, yet it was not the only village to have incurred such atrocity. Many villages in Vietnam, especially in the central area, were hit by American troops and 20-30 people would be killed. The reason My Lai is so well known is because of vast number of deaths inflicted.
So….how do the Vietnamese feel about American college students visiting their country? Surprisingly, we have been very welcomed and included with the citizens of Vietnam. I think Americans should take note that many families do not hold hostility against us for what our forefathers have done to their country, rather they want us to learn more about them, more about their culture, and most importantly, educate ourselves and future generations of events like My Lai to prevent future heartbreak.