of Peers Report
THE SON MY VILLAGE INCIDENT
REPORTS OF THE INCIDENT
Reports of Civilian Casualties
Observations and Complaints by Aviation Personnel
The Order to Return to My Lai (4)
The Thompson Report Reaches Division Headquarters
INVESTIGATION OF THE INCIDENT AND REVIEW
1. COL Henderson's "Investigation"
SUPPRESSION AND WITHHOLDING OF INFORMATION
At Company Level
2. At Task Force and Brigade
THE SON MY VILLAGE INCIDENT
During the period 16-19 March 1968, a tactical operation was conducted
into Son My Village, Son Tinh District, Quang Ngai Province, Republic
of Vietnam, by Task Force (TF) Barker, a battalion-size unit of
the Americal Division.
Barker was an interim organization of the llth Brigade, created
to fill a tactical void resulting from the withdrawal of a Republic
of Korea Marine Brigade from the Quang Ngai area. The Task Force
was composed of a rifle company from each of the llth Brigade's
three organic infantry battalions - A/3-1 Inf, B/4-3 Inf, C/1-20
Inf. The commander was LTC Frank A. Barker (now deceased).
plans for the operation were never reduced to writing but it was
reportedly aimed at destroying the 48th VC Local Force (LF) Battalion,
thought to be located in Son MY Village, which also served as
a VC staging and logistical support base. On two previous operations
in the area, units of TF Barker had received casualties from enemy
fire, mines, and boobytraps, been able to close effectively with
the enemy. and had not
15 March 1968, the new llth Brigade commander, COL Oran K. Henderson,
visited the TF Barker command post at Landing Zone (LZ) Dottie
and talked to the assembled staff and commanders. He urged them
to press forward aggressively and eliminate the 48th LF Battlion.
Following these remarks, LTC Barker and his staff gave an intelligence
briefing and issued an operations order. The company commanders
were told that most of the Population of Son My were "VC
or VC sympathizers" and were advised that most of the civilian
inhabitants would be away from Son My and on their way to market
by 0700 hours. The operation was to commence at 0725 hours on
16 March 1968 with a short artillery preparation, following which
C/1-20 Inf was to combat assault into an LZ immediately west of
My Lai (4) and then sweep east through the subhamlet. Following
C Company's landing, B/4-3 Inf was to reinforce C/1-20 Inf, or
to conduct a second combat assault to the east of My Lai (4) into
an LZ south of the subhamlet of My Lai (1) or "Pinkville."
A/3-1 Inf was to move from its field location to blocking positions
north of Son My.
or subsequent to the briefing, LTC Barker ordered the commanders
of C/1-20 Inf, and possibly B/4-3 Inf, to burn the houses, kill
the livestock, destroy foodstuffs and perhaps to close the wells.
No instructions were issued as to the safeguarding of noncombatants
a subsequent briefing by CPT Medina to his men, LTC Barker's orders
were embellished, a revenge element was added, and the men of
C/1-20 Inf, were given to understand that only the enemy would
be present in My Lai (4) on 16 March and that the enemy was to
be destroyed. In CPT Michles' briefing to his platoon leaders,
mention was also apparently made of the burning of dwellings.
the morning of 16 March 1968, the operation began as planned.
A/3-1 inf was reported in blocking positions at 0725 hours. At
about that same time the artillery preparation and fires of the
supporting helicopter gunship were placed on the C/1-20 Inf LZ
and a part of My Lai (4). LTC Barker controlled the artillery
preparation and combat assault from his helicopter. COL Henderson
and his command group also arrived overhead at approximately this
0750 hours all elements of C/1-20 Inf were on the ground. Before
entering My Lai (4), they killed several Vietnamese fleeing the
area in the rice paddies around the subhamlet and along Route
521 to the south of the subhamlet. No resistance was encountered
at this time or later in the day.
infantry assault on My Lai (4) began a few minutes before 0800
hours. During the lst Platoon's movement through the southern
half of the subhamlet, its members were involved in widespread
killing of Vietnamese inhabitants (comprised almost exclusively
of old men, women, and children) and also in property destruction.
Most of the inhabitants who were not killed immediately were rounded
up into two groups. The first group, consisting of about 70-80
Vietnamese, was taken to a large ditch east of My Lai (4) and
later shot. A second group, consisting of 20-50 Vietnamese, was
taken south of the hamlet and shot there on a trail. Similar killings
of smaller groups took place within the subhamlet.
of the 2d Platoon killed at least 60-70 Vietnamese ment women,
and children, as they swept through the northern half of My Lai
(4) and through Binh Tay, a small subhamlet about 400 meters north
of My Lai (4). They also committed several rapes.
3d Platoon, having secured the LZ, followed behind the lst and
2d and burned and destroyed what remained of the houses in My
Lai (4) and killed most of the remaining livestock. Its members
also rounded up and killed a group of 7-12 women and children.
was considerable testimony that orders to stop the killing were
issued two or three times during the morning. The 2d Platoon received
such an order around 0920 hours and promptly complied. The lst
Platoon continued the killings until perhaps 1030 hours, when
the order was repeated. By this time the 1st Platoon had completed
its sweep through the subhamlet.
the time C/1-20 Inf departed My Lai (4) in the early afternoon,
moving to the northeast for link-up with B/4-3 Inf, its members
had killed at least 175-200 Vietnamese men, women, and children.*
The evidence indicates that only 3 or 4 were confirmed as Viet
Cong although there were undoubtedly several unarmed VC (men,
women, and children) among them and many more active supporters
and sympathizers. One man from the company was reported as wounded
from the accidental discharge of his weapon.
C Company had encountered no enemy Opposition, B/4-3 Inf was air
landed in its LZ between 0815 and 0830 hours, following a short
artillery preparation. Little if any resistance was encountered,
although the 2nd Platoon suffered 1 KIA and 7 WIA from mines and/or
boobytraps. The lst Platoon moved eastward separately from the
rest of B Company to cross and secure a bridge over the Song My
Khe (My Khe River). After crossing the bridge and approaching
the outskirts of the subhamlet Of My Khe (4), elements of the
platoon opened fire on the subhamlet with an M-60 machinegun and
M-16 rifles. The fire continued for approximately 5 minutes, during
which time some inhabitants of My Khe (4), mostly women and children,
were killed. The lead elements of the platoon then entered the
subhamlet, firing into the houses and throwing demolitions into
shelters. Many noncombatants apparently were killed in the process.
Casualty figures cited for My Lai (4) were developed by this Inquiry
solely on the basis of statements and testimony of US personnel.
Separate estimates by the Criminal Investigation Division (CID)
agency together with other evidence, indicate the number of Vietnamese
killed in the overall area of Son My Village may have exceeded
is believed that only ten men in B/4-3 Inf directly participated
in the killings and destruction in My Ly (4); two of these are
dead and the remaining eight have either refused to testify or
claim no recollection of the event. As a result, it has not been
possible to reconstruct the events with certainty. It appears,
however, that the number of noncombatants killed by B/4-3 Inf
on 16 March 1968 may have been as high as 90. The company reported
a total of 38 VC KIA on 16 March, but it is likely that few if
any were Viet Cong.
the evening of 16 March 1968, after C/1-20 Inf and B/4-3 Inf had
linked up in a night defensive position, a Viet Cong suspect was
apparently tortured and maimed by a US officer. He was subsequently
killed along with some additional suspects by Vietnamese National
Police in the presence of US personnel.
the period 17-19 March 1968 both C/1-20 Inf and B/4-3 Inf were
involved in additional burning and destruction of dwellings, and
in the mistreatment of Vietnamese detainees.
REPORTS OF THE INCIDENT
Reports of Civilian Casualties
early in the operation, commanders began receiving reports of
civilian casualties in My Lai (4). At about 0930 hours, MG Koster
was advised by COL Henderson that he had observed 6 to 8 such
casualties. The figure was increased when LTC Barker reported
to Henderson during the afternoon that the total was 12 to 14,
and was further increased to 20 in a report Barker made that evening.
This last report was relayed to MG Koster at about 1900 hours.
None of these reports was entered in unit journals or reported
outside the Americal Division.
2. Observations and Complaints by Aviation
element which provided combat support to TF Barker on 16 March
was an aero-scout team from Company B, 123d Aviation Battalion.
A pilot of this team, W01 (now lLT) Hugh Thompson, had been flying
at a low altitude over My Lai (4) during the morning hours and
had observed the actions of C/1-20 Inf. He became greatly concerned
over the "needless and unnecessary killings" he had
witnessed. He landed his helicopter several times to aid the inhabitants
and in an attempt to stop the killing.
before noon, W01 Thompson returned to LZ Dottie and reported his
observations to his company commander, MAJ Frederic Watke. The
complaints of WO1 Thompson were confirmed by other pilots and
crewmen who had also been over My Lai (4). The complaints were
expressed in most serious terms; those who were present heard
the terms "killing" and "murder" used freely
with estimates of the dead in My Lai (4) running over 100. Upon
receipt of this report, MAJ Watke went to the commander of TF
Barker and advised him of the allegations. Watke stated that Barker
then left for his helicopter, presumably to visit C/1-20 Inf.
Watke considered the matter was "in the hands of the man
who could do something about it" and took no further action
at that time. Later that day, he again encountered Barker who
advised him that he could find nothing to substantiate Thompson's
allegations. while Watke testified that he was convinced at the
time that LTC Barker was lying, he took no further action until
2200 hours that night when he reported to his battalion commander,
LTC Holladay, and related for the second time the substance of
what is hereafter referred to as the "Thompson Report."
3. The Order to Return to My Lai (4)
about 1530 hours on 16 March, after receiving a second report
of civilian casualties, COL Henderson stated he became suspicious
and directed TF Barker to send a company back through My Lai (4)
to ascertain the exact number of casualties and the cause of death.
As the order was being transmitted to C/1-20 Inf by TF Barker,
it was monitored by MG Koster, the commander of the Americal Division,
who inquired concerning the reasons. After a brief explanation
by the CO of C/1-20 Inf, during which time MG Koster was advised
that 20-28 noncombatants had been killed, MG Koster countermanded
the order and directed that COL Henderson be notified. There were
no further efforts to make an on-site determination of the cause
or extent of the civilian casualties.
4. The Thompson Report Reaches Division
of the late hour at which LTC Holladay received the report from
MAJ Watke, they waited until the following morning before reporting
to BG Young, an Assistant Division Connander. Watke repeated his
story, which both he and LTC Holladay agree contained the allegations
that there had been "lots of unnecessary killing ... mostly
women, children and old men" and that a confrontation had
taken place between personnel of aviation and ground units; however,
there is conflict as to the number of casualties mentioned. LTC
Holladay and MAJ Watke also agree that BG Young was advised that
the complaints made by Thompson had been confirmed by other aviation
about noon on the 17th, BG Young reported to MG Koster the information
he had received from MAJ Watke and LTC Holladay. There is substantive
disagreement in testimony between what BG Young testified he received
from Watke and Holladay and what the latter two state they reported.
BG Young stated he was not apprised of any charge of indiscriminate
or unnecessary killing of noncombatants. He further stated that
it was his impression the matter of majorconcern was that there
had been a confrontation between the ground forces aviation unit,
resulting from an incident in which noncombatants had been caught
in a cross fire between US and enemy forces.
Young contends that it was this lesser charge he brought to MG
Koster, who directed BG Young to instruct COL Henderson to conduct
a thorough investigation of the incident. MG Koster has confirmed
parts of BG Young's account of this conversation but in a previous
statement before the Criminal Investigation Division (CID), MG
Koster stated that he had been advised of some indiscriminate
shooting of civilians.
Inquiry has concluded that the two general officers received a
muted version of the Thompson Report from Watke and Holladay,
but one that included the allegation that noncombatants had been
indiscriminately killed. Upon receipt of the report, it seems
most likely that they related it to the information MG Koster
had received from TF Barker the previous day, that 20-28 noncombatants
had been inadvertently killed. The information concerning noncombatant
casualties had not been forwarded outside of the Division, although
D4ACV and III MAF regulations required such action, or were the
new allegations reported to higher headquarters. Adopting a "close
hold" attitude concerning all information relating to this
matter, MG Koster directed BG Young to have COL Henderson investigate
INVESTIGATION OF THE INCIDENT AND REVIEW
1. COL Henderson's "Investigation"
Young made arrangements for a meeting which was held on 18 March
at 0900 hours at LZ Dottie. The meeting was attended by five officers:
BG Young, COL Henderson, LTC Barker, LTC Holladay, and MAJ Watke.
BG Young told the group of the Division Commander's instructions
concerning the investigation and MAJ Watke repeated his account
of the complaints. When the meeting terminated, COL Henderson
commenced his "investigation" with an interview of W01
Thompson and two other aviation unit personnel. (While Henderson
states he talked only with Thompson and for only a few minutes,
the testimony of others indicates that he talked individually
with three persons for almost an hour.) These interviews, together
with the information already possessed by Henderson from personal
observation and conversations with TF Barker personnel, should
have provided a full awareness of the nature and extent of the
incident at My Lai (4). From at least this point forward, Henderson's
actions appear to have been little more than a pretense of an
investigation and had as their goal the suppression of the true
facts concerning the events of 16 March.
his interview with aviation personnel, Henderson questioned CPT
Medina, whose explanation concerning civilian casualties left
him "suspicious." The remainder of Henderson's "investigation"
was without substance; his "interview with a substantial
number of C Company personnel" consisted of a discussion
on the afternoon of 18 March with a group which, COL Henderson
claims, numbered from 30 to 40 personnel. After complimenting
them on their performance in the operation, he asked them collectively
if they had witnessed any atrocities. Henderson stated that the
response he received was negative. While COL Henderson claims
he spoke with other individuals and responsible commanders, available
evidence indicates that his so-called investigative actions ended
after a brief flight which he stated he made over the area of
operation on 18 March.
on 19 March, COL Henderson is said to have made a series of oral
reports to BG Young and MG Koster in which he was purported to
have related to them the results of his "investigation."
It seems clear that in his reports Henderson deliberately misrepresented
both the scope of his investigation and the ion he had obtained.
He reported that while 20 civilians had been killed by artillery
and/or gunships, there was no basis in fact to the allegations
made by W01 Thompson. Henderson's final oral report was accepted
by MG Koster as adequately responding to the charges made by W01
Thompson. The matter appears to have rested there until about
mid-April 1968, when information was received at Division Headquarters
from Vietnamese sources.
2. Reaction to Information from Vietnamese Sources
initial reports from Vietnamese sources concerning the incident
were apparently received by the US Advisory teams in Son Tinh
District and Quang Ngai Province.
Son My Village Chief submitted a report to the Son Tinh District
Chief containing allegations of mass killings by US Forces in
Son My Village. The District Chief in turn forwarded two reports
of the incident to the Quang Ngai Province Chief based on the
information furnished to him by the Village Chief. The first of
these reports, dated 28 March 1968, contained little of substance
and remained within Vietnamese channels. The second was dated
11April 1968, and copies of it were provided to both the Provinceand
District Advisory teams. In addition, a copy of the District Chief's
11 April letter went to COL Toan, the Commanding Officer of the
2d ARVN Division.
his 11 April letter, the District Chief referred to an incident
of 16 March in which it was alleged that a US Army unit had assembled
and killed more than 400 civilian residents of Tu Cung Hamlet*
of Son My Village and had killed an additional 90 people at Co
Luy Hamlet.** He stated that, if true he considered this an act
of insane violence.
Includes the subhamlet of My Lai (4).
** Includes the subhamlet of My Khe (4).
in the first half of April, VC propaganda alleging that US forces
had killed 500 people in Son My Village in the middle of March
came into the hands of COL Toan and LTC Khien, the Province Chief
of Quang Ngai Province and, possibly somewhat later, into US hands.
Both COL Henderson and MG Koster appear to have discussed the
District chief's report and the VC propaganda with COL Toan and
LTC Khien, and apparently with LTC Guinn, the US Deputy Province
Koster indicated that the receipt in mid-April 1968 of the VC
propaganda and the information from the District Chief reopened
the subject of civilian casualties in the 16 March operation.
However, it did not stimulate any fresh inquiry. COL Henderson
had already completed his "investigation" and had given
an oral report to MG Koster. The receipt of the allegations from
Vietnamese sources resulted only in MG Koster's directing COL
Henderson to commit his oral report to writing.
response to this direction, COL Henderson prepared and submitted
a so-called "Report of Investigation" dated 24 April
1968 to MG Koster. The report consisted of two typewritten pages
and two inclosures. The first enclosure was a typed copy of a
statement dated 14 April 1968 with the signature block removed,
which this Inquiry determined was prepared by the Deputy Senior
Advisor, Son Tinh District, at the request of the Province Advisory
Team. This statement indicated that the report of the Son My Village
Chief alleging mass-killings was not given much importance by
the Son Tinh District Chief. The second enclosure was a translation
of the VC propaganda message regarding the incident. COL Henderson's
report briefly summarized the operation, listed personnel purportedly
interviewed (but made no reference to W01 Thompson or to any other
members of the aero scout unit), and summarized what purported
to be the District Chief's attitude toward the allegation. The
conclusion stated by COL Henderson in the report was that 20 noncombatants
were inadvertently killed by artillery and by crossfire between
the US and VC Forces, that no civilians were gathered and shot
by US Forces, and that the allegation that US Forces had shot
and killed 450-500 civilians was obviously VC propaganda.
Koster testified that when he received the 24 April report he
found it unacceptable and directed the conduct of a formal investigation
through either BG Young or COL Parson, the Division Chief of Staff.
Both Young and Parson denied having received or passed on any
such instructions. MG Koster and COL Henderson agreed that such
an investigation was conducted, and a report submitted, by LTC
Barker. Both described in detail the form and substance of this
report, but the evidence appears conclusive that no such report
was ever prepared.
SUPPRESSION AND WITHHOLDING OF INFORMATION
the Americal Division, at every command level from company to
division, actions were taken or omitted which together effectively
concealed the Son My incident. Outside the division, advisory
teams at Province, District and possibly the 2d ARVN Division
also contributed to this end. Some of the acts and omissions that
resulted in concealment of the incident were inadvertent while
others constituted deliberate suppression or withholding of information.
initiated in 1968 deliberately to withhold information continue
to this day. Six officers who occupied key positions at the time
of the incident exercised their right to remain silent before
this Inquiry, others gave false or misleading testimony or withheld
information, and key documents relating to the incident have not
been found in US files.
1. At Company Level
reports of the crimes committed by C/1-20 Inf and B/4 - 3 Inf
during the operation were made by members of the units, although
there were many men in both companies who had not participated
in any criminal acts. The comander of C/1-20 Inf assembled his
men after the operation and advised them not to discuss the incident
because an investigation was being conducted, and he advised one
individual not to write to his Congressman about the incident.
He also made a false report that only 20-28 noncombatants had
been killed and attributed the cause of death to artillery and
commander of B/4-3 Inf submitted false reports (possibly without
knowing they were false) that 38 VC had been killed by his lst
Platoon and that none of them were women and children.
2. At Task Force and Brigade
information concerning irregularities in the operation and the
commission of war crimes by C/1-20 Inf was known to the commanders
and staff officers of both TF Barker and the llth Brigade on 16
March but was never transmitted to the Americal Division. Reports
of VC killed by C/1-20 Inf on 16 March terminated at 0840 hours
when the total reached 90, although the killing continued. In
addition to withholding information, the l1th Brigade headquarters
submitted false and misleading reports to Division. One instance
concerned a C/1-20 Inf VC body count report of 69, which was changed
to attribute the cause of death to artillery and to move the location
at which the purported VC were killed from inside the hamlet of
My Lai (4) to a site 600 meters away. A second false report involved
an interrogation report from C/1-20 Inf that 30-40 VC had departed
the hamlet immediately prior to the combat assault. The record
of this interrogation report as received at the Americal Division
on 16 March stated that there were many VC in the C/1-20 Inf area
reporter and photographer attached to the llth Brigade information
office accompanied TF Barker on 16 March and observed many war
crimes committed by C/1-20 Inf. Both individuals failed to report
what they had seen, the reporter wrote a false and misleading
account of the operation, and the photographer withheld and suppressed
from proper authorities the photographic evidence of atrocities
he had obtained.
response to a routine division requirement, LTC Barker submitted
a Combat Action Report, dated 28 March 1968, concerning his unit's
operations on 16 March. The report significantly omitted any reference
to noncombatant casualties and other irregularities, falsely depicted
a hotly-contested combat action, and appears to have been an outright
effort to suppress and mislead.
the most significant action taken to suppress the true facts of
the Son My operation was the deception employed by COL Henderson
to mislead his commander as to the scope and findings of his investigation
of the Thompson allegations. His later submission -- the so-called
Report of Investigation, dated 24 April 1968, which dismissed
the allegations from Vietnamese. sources as baseless propaganda
and restated the fiction that 20 noncombatants had been inadvertently
killed, continued the original deception practiced upon his commander.
3. At Division Level
a. Within Aviation Units
is no evidence to suggest that there were deliberate attempts
within the division aviation unit to conceal information concerning
the Son My incident. However, there were acts and omissions by
the commanders of the 123d Aviation Battalion, and Company B of
that unit, which contributed to concealment of the facts. One
of the principal reasons why the full import of the Thompson Report
was probably not appreciated at the division command level can
be attributed to these two commanders and their failure to verify
or document the serious charges made by W01 Thompson and others.
Neither took action to obtain aocumentary substantiation, to conduct
a low-level aerial reconnaissance or otherwise to verify the allegations,
or to confirm in writing what they reported orally to BG Yo ung.
The initial delay in reporting the matter through command channels
needlessly prevented the report from reaching the Americal Division,
command group until approximately 24 hours after the incident
second serious charge against both of these two commanders is
that they failed to take any action when they became convinced
that the investigation of the incident was a "cover-up."
An admonition was issued by the B Company Commander to his unit
to halt further discussion of the incident while it was being
investigated. This action was not taken to conceal information,
but it probably had the unfortunate, although unintended, result
of aiding in the suppression of the facts.
b. Within Headquarters, Americal Division
Division Headquarters was the recipient of much information concerning
the Son Ply operation from both US and GVN sources. Except for
routine operational data forwarded on 16 March, none of the reports
or allegations concerning irregularities at Son My were transmitted
to higher headquarters, although directives from III MAF and 14ACV
clearly required such action. As previously indicated, the Inquiry
has concluded that on 17 March, when they received a muted version
of the Thompson Report, MG Koster and BG Young may have viewed
the report in relation to information previously received that
20-28 noncombatant casualties had been caused by artillery and
gunships. While COL Henderson's later reports were false, and
the general officers were negligent in having accepted them, they
probably believed they were withholding information concerning
a much less serious incident than the one that had actually occurred.
information from Vietnamese sources reaching the Americal Division
sometime in April implied that a far more serious event had taken
place at Son My. The command response to this information was
so inadequate to the situation and so inconsistent with what would
ordinarily be expected of officers of the ability and experience
of MG Koster and BG Young that it can only be explained as a refusal
or an inability to give credence to information or reports which
were not consistent with their original, and erroneous, conclusions.
summary form, the following are the significant acts done or omitted
at the Americal Division headquarters which contributed to the
concealment of the true facts concerning Son My:
(1) There was a failure to report information concerning noncombatant
casualties and allegations of war crimes known to be to of particular
interest to COMUSMACV and required to be reported by directives
of both III 14AF and MACV;
(2) Having decided to withhold from higher headquarters information
concerning civilian casualties, MG Koster directed that the matter
be investigated by COL Henderson. However, he did not insure that
a thorough investigation was conducted nor did he subject COL
Henderson's reports to adequate review, thereby nullifying his
efforts to determine the true facts;
(3) The Division command group acted to control closely all information
regarding the Son My incident. Information regarding the incident
was not included in daily briefings or provided the General or
Special Staff, and the investigative resources of the staff were
4. By Persons Outside the Americal Division
the Vietnamese officials who came in contact with information
concerning possible war crimes in Son My during the period 16-19
March, there was a natural reluctance to confront their American
counterparts with such serious allegations and to insist upon
inquiry into the matter. Such information as did reach US advisory
personnel was not forwarded through advisory channels, but referred
only to the Americal Division and its llth Brigade. In addition,
there is evidence that at the Quang Ngai Province and Son Tinh
District levels and probably at the 2d ARVN Division, the senior
US military advisors aided in suppressing information concerning
SUMMARY OF FINDINGS
is concluded that:
1. During the period of 16-19 March 1968, troops of Task Force
Barker massacred a large number of Vietnamese nationals in the
village of Son My.
2. Knowledge as to the extent of the incident existed at Company
level, at least among the key staff officers and comander at the
Task Force Barker level, and at the llth Brigade command level.
3. Efforts at the Americal Division command level to conceal information
concerning what was probably believed to be the killing of 20-28
civilians actually resulted in the suppression of a war crime
of far greater magnitude.
4. The commander of the llth Brigade, upon learning that a war
crime had probably been committed, deliberately set out to conceal
the fact from proper authority and to deceive his commander concerning
5. Investigations concerning the incident conducted within the
Americal Division were superficial and misleading and not subjected
to substantive review.
6. Efforts were made at every level of command from company to
division to withhold and suppress information concerning the incident
at Son My.
7. Failure of Americal Division headquarters personnel to act
on information received from GVN/ARVN officials served to suppress
effectively information concerning the Son My incident.
8. Efforts of the Americal Division to suppress and withhold information
were assisted by US officers serving in advisory positions with
3. Company C’s Actions on March 16 and 17, 1968
C: ACTIONS ON 16 AND 17 MARCH 1968
The purpose of this chapter is to describe in detail those events
involving actions of Company C, lst Battalion, 20th Infantry (C/l-20
Inf) and its supporting elements in and around My Lai (4) on 16
March, and in My Khe Hamlet on 17 March.
OPERATIONS ON 16 MARCH
1. 0700-0750 Hours: The Combat Assault Phase
before 0700 hours, the men of C Company, completed the issuance
of ammunition and - made final checks of their weapons and equipment.
They then moved to the loading area at Landing zone (LZ) Dottie
where the lift helicopters and gunships were arriving (see exhibit
Barker had departed earlier in his command and control helicopter
and began to make final coordination for the artillery preparation
and subsequent combat assault.
approximately 0720 hours, "War Lord" gunships the aero-scout
team, which had flown from their base at Chu Lai, approached the
Son My area from the north. The lead gunship contacted Task Force
(TF) Barker by radio and advised the net control station that
the team would remain over the operational area pending commencement
of the combat assault.
0722 hours, the first elements of C Company were lifted off from
LZ Dottie and headed to the southwest. The selected flight path
was intended to serve as a diversionary move away from the target
area, and to permit the lift ships to make their final approach
into the LZ (from south to north) without having to cross the
gun-target line for the artillery preparation (see sketch 6-1).
artillery preparation began at 0724 hours and continued for about
5 minutes. The rounds impacted on the LZ and portions of My Lai
(4). As the preparation began, those inhabitants of My Lai (4)
who had been working in the rice paddies surrounding the hamlet
sought cover along dikes and in the numerous buffalo wallows which
dotted the rice fields. Inside the hamlet, other inhabitants took
cover in homrnade shelters or bunkers adjacent to their houses
and in the several wells located throughout My Lai (4).
artillery preparation ceased just prior to 0730 hours, as the
troop lift helicopters were inbound on their final approach to
the LZ. Smoke and fires, caused inside the hamlet by the artillery
preparation, were clearly visible from the inbound helicopters
(see exhibit P-195). Accompanying "Shark" gunships preceded
the C Company insertion by placing rocket and machine gun fires
along both flanks of the LZ and probably into the western portion
df My Lai (4). The first lift of C Company touched down at 0730
Medina testified that upon landing he reported the LZ as "cold"
(free of enemy fire). Shortly thereafter, according to Medina,
a helicopter pilot cut in on the radio and reported "Negative,
negative - the LZ is hot. You are receiving fire. We are taking
fire. There are VC with weapons running from the village, and
we are engaging them now" or words to that effect. Medina
has further testified that based on this information, he immediately
informed his platoon leaders that the LZ was "hot."
Medina's recollection of this event is substantiated neither by
the TF Barker Journal which officially recorded the LZ as "cold,"
nor by the record of LTC Barker's radio conversation with the
leader of the who confirmed that the LZ was free of enemy fire.
It is possible that CPT Medina gained the impression that the
LZ was "hot" by monitoring transmissions between LTC
Barker and the "Shark" and/or "War Lord" gunships
which were, in fact, then in the process of engaging a few armed
enemy fleeing from the hamlet. Whether CPT Medina's orders to
his platoon were based on facts or on an assumption it seems likely
that such orders, if issued, may have served as a final release
for the events which followed.
the first elements of C Company began to deploy on the LZ, an
OH-23 helicopter from the aero-scout team arrived in the area
south of My Lai (4). The pilot of the scout ship immediately spotted
an armed Viet Cong (VC) south of Route 521 running toward the
south-southwest (see sketch 6-2). The door gunner in the scout
ship fired at the VC but missed. Accompanying "War Lord"
gunships then set up and made a northeast to southwest rocket
run on his last observed location. Subsequently they were unable
to confirm that the VC had been killed.'
the lift helicopters returned to LZ Dottie for the second lift
of C Company, their accompanying "Shark" gunships began
to orbit counterclockwise over the area to the north of Route
521. As they passed along the southern edge of My Lai (4), an
airborne forward air controller (FAC) spotted an armed VC running
to the east on a trail along the southern edge of the hamlet.
The FAC immediately notified the "Sharks" who took the
VC under fire, missed him, turned out to the northeast, and set
up for a south to north rocket run. After coordinating air space
with the "War Lords", the "Sharks" engaged
and apparently killed the man in the extreme southeastern edge
of the hamlet. After shifting their orbit back to the north of
Route 521, the "Sharks" were notified by the FAC that
he had spotted two more armed VC fleeing to the northeast of the
LZ. The VC were quickly engaged and killed by "Shark"
door gunners. In a subsequent orbit to the south, the "Sharks"
spotted a fourth individual (equipped with web gear) who was running
to the south of the hamlet. He was also engaged and reported as
killed. The "Sharks" then began to drop smoke markers
near the bodies to mark their locations for subsequent retrieval
of weapons and equipment by elements of C Company.
of the congestion of air space around My Lai (4), the 'War Lord"
aero-scout team decided to shift its orbit farther to the southeast
and shortly thereafter began to reconnoiter along the coastal
the LZ, the lst Platoon of C Company had moved eastsoutheast for
about 150 meters and set up its portion of the security perimeter
with the lst Squad on the right (south) and the 2d Squad to the
left (north) (see sketch 6-3).
Elements of the 2d Platoon moved approximately 200 meters to the
east-northeast and established a artial perimeter extending from
the western edge of My Lai (4) back to the northwest.
the platoons moved to establish the security perimeter, CPT Medina
and the command group remained near the center of the LZ (see
the platoons moved away from the LZ, Vietnamese began to appear
from various shelters and hiding areas in and around the rice
paddies. They were taken under fire by elements of both the lst
and 2d Platoons and a number of them (approximately 4-9) were
lst Platoon was halted when it reached the western edge of the
hamlet and set up security positions along the dikes in that area,
with SGT Mitchell's lst Squad on the right (South). SSG Bacon's
2d Squad set up to the left (north) flank of the Platoon and quickly
opened fire on what was reported to be an armed individual or
group of armed individuals Observed inside the southwestern edge
of the hamlet. Most of the remainder of the platoon ' then began
firing toward the hamlet into "suspected enemy positions"
such as bushes, bunkers, and wells, and at Vietnamese fleeing
to the southwest of the hamlet.
halting and attempting to tie in its right flank with the lst
Platoon, the 2d Platoon also began to fire upon Vietnamese in
the rice paddies to its north, and placed a heavy volume of fire
into the northwestern portion of My Lai (4). Several Vietnamese
were hit and apparently killed as a result of this fire.
second and final lift of C Company departed LZ Dottie at 0738
hours (see exhibit P-27). As the lift ships were making their
final approach into the secured LZ, CPT Medina marked the designated
touchdown point with smoke and assisted in guiding the ships in.
The second lift touched down at 0747 hours (see exhibit P-65 and
P-29). As the lift ships were departing the LZ, the lead pilot
reported to LTC Barker, who was overhead in his helicopter, that
the lift had received fire from one of the surrounding hamlets
as they were making their descent into the LZ. Based on this information,
the LZ was recorded in the TF Journal as "hot." Neither
the helicopters nor their passengers sustained any hits from the
the south of the LZ, the "Sharks" threw smoke markers
near the body of the VC killed previously to the north of Route
521. They requested that Barker dispatch ground elements to the
south to retrieve the man's equipment. The "War Lords"
who were by that time conducting aerial reconnaissance along the
coast, reported to Barker that they had also killed two additional
armed enemy south of the LZ. Based on this information, Barker
directed Medina to dispatch an element to the south.
immediately after landing, the 3d Platoon Leader (LT [now Mr.]
LaCross) received orders from CPT Medina to send an element from
his platoon to retrieve the enemy equipment and weapons to the
south (see sketch 6-4).
LaCross directed his 3d Squad Leader, SP4 (now Mr.) Grimes, to
move his men out to the south toward the smoke markers dropped
by the "Sharks" gunships. As they moved out (see exhibit
P-64), they were accompanied by LaCross, his radio operator, and
two llth Brigade Public Information office (PIO) men. The remainder
of the 3d Platoon and a mortar squad from' the company weapons
platoon had meanwhile moved a short distance off the LZ to the
northwest. They oriented their defensive perimeter generally toward
remaining elements of the 2d Platoon, who had landed in the second
lift, moved rapidly to the northeast and assembled with the rest
of the platoon. After link-up, the platoon was deployed with SGT
Hodges' lst Squad on the left (north), CPL (now SGT) Schiel's
2d Squad in the center, and SGT LaCroix's 3d Squad on the right
lst and 2d Platoons were deployed generally along the western
edge of the hamlet, and at approximately 0750 hours began moving
to the east. As they entered My Lai (A), CPT Medina and the command
group moved a short distance to the northeast and set up a temporary
commandpost location outside the hamlet.
2. 0750-0845 Hours: Actions of 3d Platoon, Aviation, and Command
Elements Outside of My Lai (4)
At about 0755 hours, LTC Barker contacted his tactical operations
center (TOC) at LZ Dottie to notify them that all of C Company's
elements were on the ground and that the 3d Platoon element was
moving out to secure weapons and equipment from VC killed by the
gunships. He also reported that C Company had had no contact as
of that time but was informed by the TOC that C Company had already
been credited with 15 VC killed. These apparently had been reported
previously by CPT Medina.
LT LaCross and his 3d Squad approached the area where the VC body
had been marked by the "Sharks, " the smoke markers
burned out (see sketch 6-5). They searched the area for a short
time but were unable to find the weapon, and consequently began
to move back toward the LZ. LT LaCross contacted CPT Medina and
advised him that they were returning to My Lai (4). Medina, however,
ordered them to remain in that area and continue their search
for weapons and equipment. Th their south, the "Sharks"
had spotted another armed VC running southwest along the southern
edge of Route 521. The "Sharks" took him under fire
as he evaded toward a small tree line running south from the road.
By 0800 hours, several groups of Vietnamse from My Lai (4) and
surrounding subhamlets had begun moving out of the area to the
southwest along Route 521. As the "Sharks" fired on
the VC south of the highway, many of the Vietnamese squatted along
the road. These groups were composed primarily of old men, women,
apparently killing the armed VC, the "Sharks" began
dropping smoke markers on his location and the location of several
wmo boxes which the VC had discarded in his attempts to evade.
The "Sharks" notified LTC Barker of the details, and
LI' LaCross' 3d Squad, which was already moving farther south,
was told to orient its movement on the "Sharks" smoke
At approximately 0800 hours, LTC Barker was contacted by MAJ McKnight,
who was airborne over the area with COL Henderson, and was informed
about the large number of people moving out along Route 521 to
the southwest. MAJ McKnight also indicated that COL Henderson's
command and control helicopter was orbiting over the departing
group of people.
LT LaCross and SP4 Grimes' 3d Squad approached Route 521, they
observed the group of Vietnamese moving to the southwest. The
squad took the group under fire (see exhibit P-30). Members of
the squad and "Shark" crew members who were overhead
testified that from three to 15 Vietnamese were killed by the
squad's initial volley (see exhibits P-31, P-38)
the killing of the Vietnamse, a part of the 3d Squad remained
along the road to search for documents and equipment (see exhibit
P-26),. The remainder of the squad proceeded across the road to
the south. As they crossed the road, a woman (possibly accompanied
by a small girl) was observed hiding in a ditch which paralleled
the road. "Shark" crew members who were still orbiting
over the area observed an individual, followed by a radio operator,
shoot and kill the woman (see P-32). (The two PIO men who had
accompanied the 3d Squad to the south also observed the woman
when she was alive and subsequently saw her after she had been
killed.) The squad element then moved farther south and retrieved
a weapon and two ammunition boxes, probably from the body of the
VC killed by the "Sharks." After recovering the weapon,
the soldiers who had gone south of the road, returned to rejoin
the rest of the squad.
approximately 0810 hours, the aero-scout team contacted COL Henderson's
helicopter and notified MAJ McKnight that two VC suspects had
been separated from the large group of Vietnamese moving to the
southwest, and that the two suspects were stripped down (i.e.
had taken their shirts off) and were available for pickup. Shortly
thereafter, COL Henderson's helicopter landed 400-500 meters southwest
of the 3d Squad's location and picked up the two suspects. Wol
(now lLT) Thompson was pilot of the scout ship that had separated
and cornered the suspects.
assisting COL Henderson with the apprehension of the two VC suspects,
W01 Thompson began aerial reconnaissance of the area around the
crest of Hill 85 and discovered a cache of enemy 60mm mortar ammunition.
An infantry platoon from the aero-scout company was subsequently
inserted on the hill to capture and destroy the ammunition. Because
of its involvement with the capture of the ammunition, and because
of its return to LZ Dottie for refueling, the aero-scout team
was somewhat separated from the actions in and around My Lai (4)
from about 0815 hours until after 0900 hours. The "Shark"
gunships also returned to LZ Dottie for refueling and rearming
between 0845 and 0900 hours.
The 3d Squad left Route 521 and began retracing its route back
to the north toward the LZ (see sketch 6-6). En route, members
of the squad detected two Vietnamese running southwest from the
vicinity of My Lai (4) across the squad's path. They were fired
on by the squad and were either killed or wounded. There is evidence
to indicate that at least one of the individuals was a child.
The evidence also indicates that these two people, or a subsequent
group of Vietnamese encountered by the 3d Squad (before reaching
the LZ), were killed or "finished off" at close range
by a machinegunner working with the squad (see exhibit P-39).
As the squad continued northi at least one of its members observed
a large group of Vietnamese, under the guard of US sol.diers,
off to his east near the southern edge of My Lai
The squad returned to the southwest corner of the hamlet at approximately
0845 hours. The entire 3d Platoon then began moving into the western
edge of My,Lai (4), for the mop-up operation. The PIO men who
had accompanied SGT Grimes's squad to the south, observed the
squad as it began to burn the houses in the southwestern portion
of the hamlet (see exhibits P-60, 59, 69 ' and 68) and then moved
off to the northwe st where CPT Medina and the command group were
still located jus t inside the western edge of the hamlet.
3. 0750-0845 Hours: Initial Actions of Ist Platoon Inside My Lai
In the lst Platoon sector, LT Calley and his radio operator followed
behind the right (lst) squad led by SCT Mitchell. The platoon
sergeant, SFC Cowan, moved behind SSG Bacon's 2d squad. (The general
directions of squad movements shown on sketch 6-7 result from
a detailed reconstruction based on witness staternents as to location/distance/time
where they observed or participated in certain actions. The routes
portrayed are at best the central axes of the paths followed by
most members of the squads.)
As the lst Platoon moved into the hamlet, its soldiers began placing
heavy fire on fleeing Vietnamese, throwing grenades into houses
and bunkers, slaughtering livestock, and destroying foodstuffs.
Several witnesses testified to having observed an old Vietnamese
man being bayoneted to death by a member of the Platoon and to
having seen another man thrown alive into a well and subsequently
killed with a hand grenade. Several members of the platoon also
testified to having participated in "mercy" killings
of badly wounded Vietnamese as the platoon advanced. The 1st Platoon's
actions in the southwestern portion of My Lai (4 ) were characterized
by one notable, albeit transient, difference from the actions
of the 2d Platoon - live detainees were rounded up, in the midst
of the scattered killing and destruction. As the villagers were
collected, they were moved generally eastward to the main north-south
trail running through the center of the village (see sketch 6-7).
After reaching the trail, they were moved south in two main groups
toward LT Calley's location. The first group consisted of 60-70
people, comprised primarily of women and children. A few elderly
males were also among the group. After reaching the southern edge
of the hamlet, the first group was escorted by a few soldiers
from the lst Squad to a ditch located approximately 100-150 meters
to the east of the southeastern edge of the village. After reaching
the ditch they were herded into it and kept under guard.
second group of villagers, numbering between-20 and 50, also was
moved south along the main north-south trail and then moved out
into the rice paddies where they were placed under the guard of
several men (probably a fire team) from the lst Squad. This second
group of villagers reached the southern edge of the hamlet at
approximately 0830 hours.\
4. 0750-0845 Hours: Initial Actions of 2d Platoon and Command
Elements in and North of My Lai (4)
the 2d Platoon entered My Lai (4), LT Brooks (2d Platoon Leader)
followed behind the right flank (3d) squad led by SGT LaCroix.
Platoon Sergeant Buchanon testified that he generally followed
behind SGT Hodges' left flank (lst) squad. CPL Schiel led the
2d Squad located in the center (see sketch 6-8). As the platoon
advanced through the northwestern and north-central part of the
hamlet, members of the various squads became intermingled with
each other and, in some cases, with elements of the lst Platoon
located to their right flank.
of the 2d Platoon began killing Vietnamese inhabitants of My Lai
(4) as soon as they entered its western edge. The evidence available
indicates they neither sought to take nor did they retain any
prisoners, suspects, or detainees while in My Lai (4). As they
advanced and discovered homemade bunkers or bomb shelters, many
of the soldiers yelled "Lai Day" (the Vietnamese words
for "come here"). Failing any response from the Vietnamese
inside the bunkers, the soldiers tossed fragmentation grenades
into the bunkers, and followed up by spraying the inside with
small arms fire. Many witnesses also testified that when Vietnamese
did respond most of them were shot down as they exited the bunkers.
In at least three instances inside the village, Vietnamese of
all ages were rounded up in groups of 5-10 and were shot down.
Other inhabitants were shot down in the paddies bordering the
northern edge of the hamlet while attempting to escape. Women
and children, many of whom were small babies, were killed sitting
or hiding inside their homes. At least two rapes were participated
in and observed by members of the platoon. Most of the livestock
and fowl inside the hamlet were also slaughtered. A precise determination
of the number of Vietnamese killed by the 2d Platoon is virtually
impossible. However, the preponderance of the evidence indicates
that at least 50 and perhaps as many as 100 inhabitants, comprised
almost exclusively of old men, women, children, and babies, were
killed by members of the 2d Platoon while they were in My Lai
the platoon approached the northeastern portion of the village,
LT Brooks received a call from CPT Medina directing him to move
the entire platoon to the north to secure two weapons from VC
killed earlier by "Shark" gunships which were, by this
time, re-marking the location of the VC bodies with smoke. The
2d Platoon exited the northern edge of My Lai (4) at approximately
0830 hours. Up to that time it had taken no casualties, and the
preponderance of the testimony strongly indicates it had received
no enemy fire.
Henderson had continued to orbit the operational area after his
pickup of the two VC suspects, and after observing the B Company
combat assault, returned to the area where "Shark" gunships
were marking the location of the two VC they had killed to the
north of My Lai (4). The smoke was used to assist in orienting
the movements of the 2d Platoon which was moving north from the
hamlet toward the smoke markers. After observing the ground troops
move to within 100-150 meters of the two bodies and weapons, COL
Henderson apparently departed for LZ Dottie to refuel and drop
off the two suspects.
Barker also had been orbiting over the operational area for most
of the morning. After coordinating the B Company combat assault
on My Lai (1), he made a final check with CPT Medina and then
headed back to LZ Dottie for refueling. During the conversation
with CPT Medina, he was apparently informed that C Company had
accounted for a total of 84 enemy killed. Fifteen enemy killed
had been reported earlier by CPT Medina to the TF TOC. En route,
LTC Barker contacted the TOC and advised them that he was returning
to refuel and would bring them Up to date on the results of the
operation. LTC Barker arrived at LZ Dottie at approximately 0835
hours. An entry, crediting C Company with the additional 69 enemv
killed, was made on the TF Barker Journal as of 0840 hours.
Using the smoke markers of the "Sharks" to guide on,
the 2d Platoon found the two VC bodies north of My Lai (4) and
retrieved a carbine and an M-1 rifle from nearby. The two VC had
been killed while running from the vicinity of the small subhamlet
of Binh Tay (see sketch 6-9) located to the northwest of the 2d
Platoon's position. The platoon was consequently ordered to Proceed
to Binh Tay to check it out and reached its southern edge at approximately
5. 0845-0945 Hours: Location and Actions of Command Elements,
and C Company at My Lai (4) and Binh Tay
0855 hours, LTC Barker completed his refueling stop at LZ Dottie
and was airborne over the operational area. COL Henderson, who
arrived at LZ Dottie at approximately 0845 hours, apparently remained
there until after 0950 hours.
0845-0900 hours, the group of villagers (20-50) who had been moved
by the lst Plat6on to the south of the hamlet and held under guard
in the rice paddies were shot down by members of the platoon (see
sketch 6-10). Following the killing, the fire team that had guarded
the villagers was sent through the southeastern portion of the
hamlet to round up additional villagers and move them farther
east to the ditch LT Calley and the command group moved from south
of the hamlet to the east and arrived at the ditch at approximately
0900 hours. SGT Mitchell's lst Squad (minus a fire team) had set
up a defensive perimeter just to the east of the ditch. SSG Bacon's
2d Squad, which was moving through the northeastern portion of
the hamlet, subsequently set up defensive positions as the left
flank element of the platoon.
fire team of the lst Squad, which had searched through the southeastern
portion of the hamlet, arrived at the ditch at about 0900 hours
and brought with it approximately 10 additional villagers. The
villagers were herded into the ditch with the larger group of
60-70. (There has been testimony from Vietnamese witnesses that
an additional number of villagers, pos sibly 50 or more, were
either brought to the ditch from surrounding subhamlets or sought
refuge in the ditch from the C Company action. Testimony from
US personnel to substantiate the Vietnamese statements has not
been developed by this Inquiry.) At approximately 0900-0915 hours,
Vietnamese personnel who had been herded into the ditch were shot
down by menters of the lst Platoon.
the subhamlet of Binh Tay, the 2d Platoon continued the pattern
of burning, killings, and rapes which it had followed in My Lai
(4). Besides scattered killing which took place inside the subhamlet,
a group of Vietnamese women and children (approximately 10-20)
were rounded up, brought to the southern end of Binh Tay, and
made to squat in a circle. Several 40mm rounds from an M-79 grenade
launcher were fired into their midst, killing several and wounding
many. The wounded were subsequently killed by small arms fire
from members of the platoon. Witnesses from the platoon have testified
to observing at least one gang-rape of a young Vietnamese girl,
an act of sodomy, and several other rape/killings while inside
the LZ, the 3d Squad of the 3d Platoon had returned at approximately
0845 hours from its movement to the south. LT LaCross left the
squad and moved to the northwest corner of the hamlet where he
conferred with CPT Medina for a short while. CPT Medina told him
to have his platoon begin moving through the village for the mop-up
operation. LT LaCross followed behind SGT (now Mr.) Smail's lst
Squad on the left (north) flank (see sketch 6-11). SGT Grimes'
3d Squad moved on the southern flank. The platoon, accompanied
by SFC Maroney's mortar squad, entered the western edge of the
hamlet between 0845-0900 hours. CPT Medina and his command group
followed behind the platoon.
CPT Medina and the command group had moved into the hamlet for
a short distance (see sketch 6-12), an old Vietnamese man with
two children was apprehended and brought to their location. He
was interrogated by SGT Phu, CPT Medina's Vietnamese interpreter
(see exhibits P-66 and 67). The old mm informed Medina that 30-40
VC had been in My Lai (4) the previous, evening but had departed
the hamlet that morning prior to the combat assault. (This information
was reported and recorded on the llth Brigade Journal. The command
group then moved farther into the village toward the east and
of the command group, the 3d Platoon went about the destruction
of crops-and the burning of houses in a thorough systematic manner
(see exhibits P-15, 35, 16, 33, 56, and 14). Throughout the hamlet,
members of the platoon and the two PIO men who accompanied them
observed the bodies of Vietnamese killed earlier during the lst
and 2nd Platoons' advance (see exhibits P-34, 37, and 32). Members
of the 3d Platoon slaughtered most of the remaining livestock,
and in at least one instance participated in the killing of about
five or six seriously wounded Vietnamese to "put them out
of their misery" since "they did not give them medical
completion of his first refueling stop at LZ Dottie, It approximately
0845-0900 hours, W01 Thompson returned to the 'My Lai (4) area.
MAJ Watke testified that since the "Shark" gunships
had departed at this time, he had received permission for the
aero-scout team to commence reconnaissance in the area north of
Route 521. After arriving in the area, Thompson noticed numerous
wounded Vietnamese south of the hamlet and observed the woman
killed earlier by the 3d Platoon south of Route 52q. Thompson
testified that he marked the location of the with smoke and contacted
his lower gunship to request ground elements provide medical aid
to the wounded. The lower gunship had the only radio with which
Thompson could communicate. His transmissions were then relayed
by the low gunship to the high gunship which in turn passed the
information on to TF Barker elements over the TF command net).
while reconnoitering for additional wounded to the east of the
hamlet, his crew chief spotted the ditch containing the bodies
of Vietnamese killed earlier by the lst Platoon. Seeing that some
of the Vietnamese were still alive, Thompson landed between the
ditch and the lst Platoon's defensive perimeter at approximately
0915-0930 hours. While on the ground, he spoke to a fire team
leader in the lst Squad and then with LT Calley. Thompson testified
that the sergeant's response to his question about helping the
wounded was to the effect that the only way he could help them
was to kill them. Thompson states that he thought the sergeant
was joking. (The substance of Thompson's conversation with LT
Calley is unknown, inasmuch as Thompson did not recall LT Calley
at the ditch and LT Calley elected to remain silent before this
Inquiry. Several members of the lst Platoon, including the sergeant
with whom W01 Thompson spoke, testified or made sworn statements
that LT Calley and W01 Thompson did talk with each other during
the incident at the ditch.) Thompson subsequently took off, and
his crew chief observed a sergeant shooting into the ditch. Thompson
did not personally observe the shooting.
W01 Thompson's departure, several members of the lst Squad of
the lst Platoon were ordered to return to My Lai (4) to assist
the 3d Platoon in searching the eastern portion of the hamlet.
the subhamlet of Binh Tay, the killing and rapes of Vietnamese
by the 2d Platoon were stopped when LT Brooks received an order
from CPT Medina at approximately 0915-0930 hours telling him to
"cease fire" or "stop the killing," to round
up the remaining inhabitants and move them out of the area, and
to burn the houses. (whether this same order was also received
by the lst and 3d Platoons is not entirely clear inasmuch as additional
killing, involving members of both the lst and 3d Platoons, apparently
did occur after this time. The basis for CPT Medina's order is
even less clear. Since Medina and the command group were apparently
moving inside My Lai (4) at this time, what Medina observed inside
the hamlet may have caused him to issue the 0915-0930 order. If
that were the case, however, it would appear that the same order
would also have been issued to the lst and 3d Platoons. The evidence
indicates that killing by members of the company, except for those
in the 2d Platoon, continued until at least 1015 hours.-) Testimony
conclusively indicates that following receipt of the order from
CPT Medina, the remaining inhabitants of Binh Tay (consisting
of about 50-60 people) were rounded up by the 2d Platoon and instructed
to move out of the area. They departed to the southwest without
further harm being done to them.
6. 0945-1045 Hours: Continuing Actions Involving C Company and
Aviation Elements Around My Lai (4) - Return of 2d Platoon From
W01 Thompson's departure from the ditch east of My Lai (4), several
members of the lst Platoon returned to the hamlet to assist the
3d Platoon in clearing the eastern portion. They became intermingled
with members of the 3d Platoon in the vicinity of the main north-south
trail running through the center of the hamlet (see sketch 6-13).
Various members of both platoons observed numerous dead Vietnamese
along the north-south trail inside the hamlet and several drifted
far enough to the south that they observed the group killed earlier
in the rice paddies (see exhibit P-41). During the time that the
two elements were together, additional killings also took place.
In one incident, a group of 7-12 women and children were herded
together, and members of the 3d Platoon attempted to rip the blouse
off a Vietnamese girl. They halted their attempts after observing
that the PIO photographer was near their location and had taken
a picture of the scene (see exhibit P-40). The women and children
were then killed.
approximately 0930-0945, the 2d Platoon departed Binh Tay and
headed southeast toward the northeastern corner of My Lai (4)
(see sketch 6-14). As they approached My Lai (4) some Of the members
of the platoon re-entered the northern edge of the hamlet. Other
elements of the platoon apparently moved farther to the east toward
a point where they were eventually to establish a part of the
company's defensive perimeter. The Platoon arrived in the area
at approximately 0945-1000 hours.
the ditch incident with the lst Platoon, W01 Thompson had returned
to the area south of My Lai (4) where he had earlier marked the
positions of wounded Vietnamese. He testified that he contacted
his low gunship to request that ground elements be sent to assist
the wounded. His intent was misunderstood by the gunships, for
at approximately0945 hours the high gunship contacted LTC Barker
and identified the wounded/killed to the south of My Lai (4) as
"8-9 'dinks'. . . with web gear and everything." The
gunship also suggested that ground elements pick up the web gear
and equipment from the bodies. (The probability that Thompson's
message was either garbled or misunderstood by the gunships is
further substantiatiated by the fact that during the events which
followed there is no evidence to indicate that either wounded
or killed VC (or any enemy equipment) were discovered by the C
Company command element.
directing CPT Medina to recover the equipment from the bodies
being marked by Thompson, LTC Barker proceeded to the B company
area where he landed to pick up three soldiers 4nd,o,u DY a boobytrap.
He had his command and control helicopter then drop him off at
LZ Dottie at approximately 0950 hours, while the B Company wounded
were flown to a medical facility at Chu Lai
C Company coninand group had exited the southern edge of My Lai
(4) at approximately 0930-0945 hours (see sketch 6-15). They moved
farther south after CPT Medina received LTC Barker's call indicating
that VC bodies and weapons were being marked by smoke in that
area. CPT Medina testified that he decided to check the area out
himself since the platoons were engaged elsewhere. He stated that
en route to the smoke markers he observed three dead Vietnamese,
consisting of a man, a woman and a child (see sketch 6-15). Both
he and LT (now Mr.) Alaux, his artillery forward observer (FO),
testified that the appearance of the bodies indicated they had
been killed by artillery or gunships. LT Alaux also testified
that as they were approa ing the smoke, he believes someone in
the command group fired at and hit a fleeing Vietnamese who was
subsequently determine to be a woman. (The details surrounding
CPT Medina's subsequent killing of the woman are, of course, a
matter of current criminal investigation. CPT -Medina admitted
shooting the woman The truth concerning the circumstances which
caused him to shoot her is outside the scope of this Inquiry).
Following the shooting of the woman, CPT Medina and the command
group searched the surrounding area for a short while, and then
headed back toward My Lai (4)
LaCross, 3d Platoon Leader, reached the northern edge of the hamlet
and tried unsuccessfully to contact CPT Medina by radio. He testified
that he wanted Medina to pass on to LT Brooks that he (LaCross)
had spotted 15-20 Vietnamese males running in the vicinity of
Binh Tay. LT LaCross' platoon medic testified that LaCross had
tried, unsuccessfully, to contact Medina in an effort to find
out the reason for all the killingIn any event, LaCross decided
to move south,to personally contact Medina who was then approaching
the southern edge of the hamlet from the southwest. LaCross went
south on the main north-south trail as he traveled to meet Medina.
the command group returned to My Lai (4) (see sketch 6-16), CPT
Medina spoke to LT LaCross for a few minutes and then directed
him to return to the northern part of the hamlet to complete the
sweep through the eastern edge of the hamlet., Evidence indicates
that during the time frame in which Medina spoke to LaCross, various
members of the command group strayed from Medina's location and
were involved in random killing of wounded Vietnamese located
in the vicinity of the intersection formed by the north-south
trail and the east-west trail at the southern edge.of the hamlet.
After LaCross left, Medina proceeded farther east, along the east-west
trail, and observed the bodies of the villagers located to the
south in the rice paddies. He testified that he observed 20-24
bodies. He did not examine the bodies to actually determine the
cause of death, but testified that he considered them "innocent
civilians." There is evidence that during the time he observed
the bodies, a member of his command group also shot and killed
a small child who was standing, crying, in the midst of the group
the incident involving CPT Medina's shooting of the woman, W01
Thompson continued to reconnoiter the area east of My Lai (4).
While so engaged, Thompson's crew chief spotted a bunker occupied
by Vietnamese children (see sketch 6-17). Thompson observed US
troops approaching the area and landed near the bunker. SP4 (now
Mr.) Colburn, Thompson's door gunner, testified that Thompson
told his crew that if the American troops fired on the Vietnamse,
while he (Thompson) was trying to get them out of the bunker,
the crew was to fire back at them. Thompson then got out of the
aircraft. Thompson testified that he spoke with a lieutenant and
told him there were women and children in the bunker, and asked
if the lieutenant would help get them out. According to Thompson,
"he [the lieutenant] said the only way to get them out was
with a hand grenade." Thompson testified he then told the
lieutenant to "just hold your men right where they are, and
I'll get the kids out. (In June 1969, Thompson identified the
lieutenant, from a personnel lineup, as having been LT Calley.
While the evidence is clear that Thompson had spoken to LT Calley
earlier at the ditch, there is evidence to indicate that it was
probably the 2d Platoon leader, LT Brooks, who talked with Thompson
at the bunker. ) Thompson then walked over to the bunker, motioned
for the Vietnamese to come out, and discovered that there were
approximately 12-16 people consisting of one or two old men, several
women, and children. Thompson then went back to his aircraft and
called the low gunship pilot, W01 (now CW2) Millians. He asked
Millians to set down and assist in the evacuation. WO1 Millians.
landed just north of the bunker. He subsequently made two or three
trips to evacuate the Vietnarnese from the bunker to a safe area
southwest of My Lai (4) along Route 521.
Thompson, W01 Millians, and other "War Lords" crew members
who were airborne over the area during this time, testified that
several large groups of bodies were clearly visible from the air
- one group was located along Route 521, another in the ditch,
a further one south of the hamlet, and another north of the hamlet.
Henderson testified that after departing LZ Dottie (at approximately
1000 hours) he returned to and overflew the operational area for
a period of time. He departed the area at approximately 1030 hours.
After observing the bodies of the villagers located in the rice
paddies to his south, CPT Medina and the command group probably
moved east from the intersection of the north-south trail and
east-west trail (see sketch 6-18). As they were moving, CPT Medina
received a report that a member of the lst Squad, lst Platoon,
had been wounded inside the village. The soldier, PFC (now Mr.)
Carter, shot himself through the foot while trying to clear his
.45 caliber pistol. This pistol jammed while being used by a member
of CPT Medina's command group. Several members of the squad testified
that the pistol was used to finish off wounded Vietnamese, including
one 4-5 year old child.
wound was initially treated inside the village where he had discharged
the weapon (see exhibits P-6 and 7). He was then carried south
on the north-south trail (see exhibit P-9) and was held near the
north-south and east-west trail intersection until a medical evacuation
helicopter could be provided (see exhibits P-8, 10, and 36.)
Barker's command and control helicopter, which had just returned
from taking the B Company wounded to Chu Lai, was dispatched to
My Lai (4) to pick up Carter and return him to LZ Dottie. LTC
Barker remained at Dottie during the medical evacuation.
Barker's helicopter arrived in an area just southwest of the intersection
of the two trails and Carter was brought out into the rice paddy
for pickup (see exhibits P-11 and 12). The copilot of the helicopter
testified that he observed the group of bodies on the north-south
trail, while waiting for Carter to be put aboard. Carter was evacuated
to LZ Dottie at 1025 hours.
Carter's medical evacuation, the command group remained in the
general area of the intersection for approximately 15-20 minutes
(see sketch 6-19). Several witnesses testified that during this
period, a few remaining Vietnamse were rounded up and interrogated
by CPT Medina and the attached military intelligence (MI) team,
while most of the command group rested (see exhibits P-4, 3, 2,
and 13). There is some evidence to indicate that one of the Vietnamese,
an elderly male, may have been shot and killed by a Vietnamese
interpreter, subsequent to interrogation.
During this same period, the attached PIO and MI teams requested
and received a helicopter to take them from My Lai (4) to the
B Company area (see Exhibit P-17).
At approximately 1030-1045, CPT Medina received an order from
MAJ Calhoun, TF S3, to "stop the killing" or "stop
the shooting." CPT Medina testified that he assumed the order
was generated by the helicopter pilot (WO1 Thompson) having observed
his shooting of the woman. MAJ Calhoun admits that he issued such
an order, but was not clear as to the timing involved. His testimony
is also inconclusive as to whether the order was based on an accumulation
of indicators of unnecessary killing of civilians by TF elemnts
or merely the report of the Medina/woman incident.) Following
the issuance of the order to all of his platoon leaders, CPT Medina
and the command group began to move to the northeast through the
hamlet (see sketch 6-19). lLT Alaux, who was with CPT Medina throughout
the operation, testified that during this time he observed 17-18
bodies along the north-south trail inside the hamlet and had observed
a total of 60-70 throughout the area, excluding those probably
killed in bunkers.
7. 1045-1330 Hours: Actions Involving C Company and Aviation Elements
East of My Lai (4)
W01 Thompson testified that following the evacuation of the Vietnamese
from the bunker, he again flew over the ditch to the east of the
hamlet. Observing that some of the Vietnamese in the ditch were
still alive, he stated that he landed his helicopter in approximately
the same area as on his first trip. According to Thompson and
his door gunner, the door gunner and crew chief went down into
the ditch and found a small boy who was slightly wounded. The
door gunner and crew chief told Thompson that others were still
alive in the ditch at the time, but since the OH-23 had room for
only one person (the boy was held on the crew chief's lap) the
boy was evacuated to the Vietnamese hospital at Quang Ngai. Following
this, Thompson and his crew returned to LZ Dottie, where Thompson
contacted his company commander, MAJ Watke, and rendered what
is now referred to as the "Thompson Report" (see chap
reaching the eastern edge of My Lai (4), CPT Medina stopped, ordered
a lunch break, and called a meeting with his Platoon leaders.
MAJ Calhoun arrived over the area in LTC Barker's helicopter at
approximately 1145. During the time that he was over the area,
he received from LTC Barker and relayed to CPT Medina an order
to make sure there was no unnecessary killing/burning or words
to that effect. Barker's order was apparently issued in response
to information which he had received from MAJ Watke concerning
the "Thompson Report" (see chap 10).
1245 hours, W01 Thompson returned to Lai (4) area, and while in
the process of conducting low-level reconnaissance of the area,
his helicopter struck some tree limbs, suffered minor damage to
its main rotor blade, and he had to land near C Company positions.
An element from the company secured the helicopter for a short
while until the rotor blade was checked and Thompson departed
for LZ Dottie.
Henderson returned to the operational area at approximately 1330
hours. He testified that he overflew the area at least twice during
the afternoon. LTC (now COL) Luper, who had flown with COL Henderson
during the morning hours, testified that during the morning he
had observed approximately 15-20 bodies south of My Lai (4). SGT
(now Mr.) Adcock, COL Henderson's radio operator, testified that
during their overflights of My Lai (4) during the morning hours,
he had also observed 35-40 bodies from the air.
8. 1330 Hours: Summary of Results of C Company Actions In and
Around My Lai (4)
Based exclusively on the testimony of US personnel who participated
in or observed the actions in and around My Lai (4) on 16 March,
it is evident that by the time C Company was prepared to depart
the area, its members had killed no less than 175-200 Vietnamese
men, women, and children. The company suffered only the one casualty
previously discussed. From among the group of Vietnamese killed,
the evidence indicates only three or four confirmd VC. There were
quite possibly several unarmed VC (men and womn) among the group
and many more who were active and passive supporters of and sympathizers
with the VC forces. Three enemy weapons, and allegedly several
sets of web gear and grenades were also captured. There is no
substantive evidence to indicate that the company received any
enemy fire or any other form of resistance during its movement
through the area.
Vietnamese casualty figures cited above are based on those incidents
in and around My Lai (4) (including the subhamlet of Binh Tay)
wherein clearly identifiable killings of Vietnamese (individuals
and groups) were testified to and corroborated by US witnesses
who were on the scene ' It is considered that the figures are
conservative as many of the Vietnamese killed inside bunkers and
houses were not observed by the witnesses. The figures do not
include additional killings which may have taken place as C Company
passed through the several subhamlets east of My Lai (4) en route
to their night defensive position, nor do they include additional
killings which did take place late on the afternoon of 16, March,
after C Company had reached the night defensive position.
a separate study (see exhibit M-124) the Criminal Investigation
Division (CID) agency estimates that 347 Vietnamese residents
of My Lai (4) were killed on 16 March. This figure, which is based
on a population census of My Lai (4) (i.e. before and after the
16 March operation) does not include Vietnamese who lived in the
several subhamlets around My Lai (4) (such as Binh Tay) nor does
it include those who may have come to My Lai (4) from surrounding
subhamlets on the morning of the operation.
killings which apparently occurred in the B Company area are not
included in the 175-200 figure cited above nor in the CID agency's
9. 1330-1530 Hours: Movement of C Company From My Lai (4) to Night
At approximately 1330 hours, C Company departed My Lai (4) and
moved northeast toward the link-up position with B Company. C
Company apparently brought no detainees from the My Lai (4) area.
En route, however, the 2d Platoon which was moving on the northern
flank of the company passed through the subhamlet of My Lai (5)
(Binh Dong) and rounded up approximately 50-75 villagers. Eight
to 10 military aged males were separated from the group and were
taken with the company to the night defensive position. The remainder
of the villagers were told by CPT Medina's interpreter to move
out of the area and head southwest toward Quang Ngai City.
There was some testimony to the effect that additional killing
and burning of houses occurred as C Company elements Passed through
subhamlets east of My Lai (4). The preponderance of the testimony,
however, does not support this contention.
10. 1530-1700 Hours: The Night Defensive Position
After reaching the night defensive position and linking up with
B Company, the VC suspects who had been brought into the area
by both C Company and B Company were interrogated by the Vietnamese
National Police. The police had been brought into the area via
helicopter by the S2. The S2 also participated in the interrogation.
During the course of the interrogation, one of the suspects was
tortured and maimed. He was subsequently shot and killed along
with several (1-7) additional suspects. Both the torture and the
killings were witnessed by "significant number of C Company
soldiers and officers. (This matter is also currently under investigation
by the CID.)
At 1555 hours, CPT Medina notified the TF headquarters that approximately
10-11 women and children had been killed (earlier) by gunships
or artillery, but were not included in his previous report of
OPERATIONS ON 17 MARCH
C Company departed the night defensive position early on the morning
of 17 March and moved toward the south (see sketch 6-20). As the
lead elements of the company passed to the east of Hill 85, the
lst Platoon, which was on the right (western) flank of the company,
was ordered to establish an observation post on the high ground.
CPT Medina testified the observational, post was set up to detect
any efforts by the VC to flank or strike the rear of the company.
In the process of establishing the outpost, the lst Platoon's
point man detonated and was severely wounded by an enemy mine
or boobytrap. He was evacuated by helicopter at 1000 hours. The
platoon then rejoined the company.
As C Company moved south through the subhamlets of My Khe (3),
(1), and (2) it burned the houses in those areas. CPT Medina testified
that the subhamlets were deserted and that he had received permission
to destroy the houses. As My Khe (2) was being burned, members
of the lst Platoon detected and ap prehended four suspects consisting
of three males, and one fe male who was brought to CPT Medina's
location with her blouse off.
During interrogation of the suspects, CPT Medina testified that
two of the males were identified as VC and the female as a VC
nurse. He admitted hitting one of the male suspects sufficiently
hard to cause profuse bleeding from a skin laceration. He also
testified to the effect that after discussing this individual
with SGT Phu (his Vietnamese interpreter) he decided to make the
suspect "talk." CPT Medina placed the individual against
a tree and testified to the effect that he personally induced
the suspect to "talk" by firing an M-16 round into the
tree approximately 8 inches over the man's head (from a distance
of 10-15 meters). Failing a response from the individual, CPT
Medina fired a second round from the same distance to a point
4-5 inches over the man's head. After indicating to the indiv
idual that the third round would hit "right between the eyes,"
CPT Medina then moved away to fire a third round. Medina testified
the man talked before the third round was fired and that he admitted
being a "card carrying member in the Communist Party for
13 years." CPT Medina's recollection of firing over the man's
head is essentially substantiated by the testimony of many other
C Company witnesses. The testimony of several witnesses also indicates
that the female suspect may have been mistreated during this sane
period. The suspects were subsequently evac uated from the area
by helicopter. A readout of official interrogation reports concerning
the four suspects indicates that two of the males and the female
were subsequently classified as civil defendants. The remaining
male was classified as a VC.
interrogation of the VC suspects, C Company turned back to the
north toward their night defensive position arriving at that location
by late evening.
4. Viet Cong Broadcast
"American Evil Appears"
(Coordinate this broadcast with leaflets:"Let American Enemy
Pay This Bloody Debt".)
American imperialists make Vietnam aggressive war, but he said
that he came here to "help" our people and he calls
himself as our friends.
he arrives in South Vietnam he tries to hide his bad aggressive
ambition. He told his troopers to respect Vietnamese people and
make good relationship with them. His psyops also give troops
"commandments" whose contents are "Have to respect
women and Vietnamese traditions and customs."
American troops had just arrived in Vietnam, they tried to show
themselves as "Honorable gentlemen" selling or buying
fair and square, even, paying higher than market prices. When
they destroyed something, they paid for it with money. Then some
posts allowed people to come, and doctors were sent to some where
to give people medical aid. American press shows some pictures
of Americans and Vietnamese shaking hands - Americans kiss Vietnamese
people and give them candies - or Americans with Red Cross signs
at their arms give medical aid to Vietnamese people . . . and
they boast that this is one of familiar pictures around American
demagogy makes some ARVN troops believe Americans are good friends.
How happy it is if we have such good and rich friends!
any play has to end, although the actors are skillful, but they
play only one act, they will become soon unskillful - and the
play will become a bad one. So the demagogy will become "true",
"unmask", easier than any plays.
role can be played more beautifully if U.S. troops collect more
victories every year, but they are beaten more heavily by our
people year by year. So the demagogy is unmasked more easy. Now,
U.S. troops can not hide anything, they have shown all bad ambition
which belongs to any aggressive troops. In sweep operations, they
loot people's properties, destroy everything, rape women, they
have shown their animal ambition, their civilization. In Saigon
one American had put his penis outside his pants, and one dollar
was put on it, which he paid to a girl. U.S. troops play girls
every public areas: beach, roadside ... they do not care about
people passing by. In U.S. troop locations, they search people
to get piaster, gold rings, watches, ear rings, they are so cunning
that they do not pick up false gold.
to their great defeats in the recent Spring, they are like wild
wounded animal, the more they wriggle, the more bad actions are
done - definitely inhuman doings. They had dropped bombs at random
onto populous areas and cities such HUE, SAIGON, BEN TRE. They
confirmed that 90% of houses were destroyed in HUE City. Thousands
of our people were killed or homeless. Western newspapers and
radio stations also confirmed that all the damages of houses in
South Vietnam cities came from American bombs and ainmo because
U.S. has more fire power than NLF troops. British newspapers said
Americans bombed cities, especially Saigon City, it would be condemned
by opinion it was too much when Americans did that. Japanese public
opinion said: America would be isolated and lose appreciation
when they bomb South Vietnamese cities. It would make an anti-American
wave in the South Vietnam, unless the world public opinion protested,
and also there was not a unanimity of Allies. Americans still
close their eyes, shut their ears to perform their cruel acts.
sweep operation was conducted on 15 Mar 68 recently in SON TINH.
Crazy American enemy used light machineguns and all kinds of weapons
to kill our innocent civilian people in TINH KHE Village (SON
MY (V)). Most of them were women, kids, there were some just born
babies and pregnant women. They shot everything they saw, they
killed all domestic animals, they burned all people's houses.
There were 26 families killed completely - no survivors.
fierce devil Americans dropped down their priest covers to become
barbarous, and cruel.
wolf forgot their good sheeps' appearance. They opened mouth to
eat, drink our people blood with all their animal barbarity.
people have only one way, it is to kill them so they can not bite
officers, soldier brothers, it is about time to know the true
face of Americans. There were so many times they forgot you when
you were bitten by NLF's troops but they have never fired any
mortar round to support you. Even they are right beside you and
they also dropped bombs on puppet dead bodies to suppress and
sometimes they mortared right on your formation.
position of puppet troops as their targets are so clear. Any one
still doubt, just look at the 39th Ranger Battalion stationed
in KHE SANH area. They used the unit as an obstacle in the front
for American Marines, you already know they offered this battalion
as "ready to die" but it doesn't mean the same as the
meaning of "die for fatherlands" as NLF soldiers, they
said that because they wanted to protect 6000 American troops
it is the American civilization it is the good of friend as you
see them - a murderer, killed your blood people - made a Vietnamese
blood stream running as blood in our own bodies - as an allied
are you waiting for! Use right American guns to shoot right their
heads in order to avenge our people, to wash out insult to our
nation and save your proud and your own life.
time: more than ever before
American guns are in your hands
Point to American heads and shoot!
TRANSLATION TO THE BEST OF MY KNOWLEDGE, CHU LAI, REPUBLIC OF
VIETNAM, 1 JANUARY 1970)
5. Suppression and Withholding of Information
AND WITHHOLDING OF INFORMATION
aspect of the Son My operation most difficult to comprehend is
that the facts remained hidden for so long. Within the Americal
Division, at every command level from company to division, actions
were taken or omitted which together effectively concealed from
higher headquarters the events which transpired in TF Barker's
operation of 16-19 March 1968. Some of these acts and omissions
were by design, others perhaps by negligence, and still others
were the result of policies and procedures. Outside the Division,
personnel in the Province and District and possibly the 2d ARVN
Division Advisory Teams also contributed to the end result.
purpose of this chapter of the report is to identify, insofar
as it is possible at this time, those acts and omissions which
aided in the concealment from appropriate authorities of the true
facts of the Son My operation. In this connection, it should be
noted that efforts to withhold information continue to this date.
Six officers who occupied key positions during the Son My operation
exercised their right to remain silent before this Inquiry. There
is evidence that an even larger number of witnesses either withheld
information or gave false testimony, and no trace has been found
in US files of several contemporaneous documents bearing upon
the incident. Despite such obstacles to the complete development
of the facts, it seems clear that the following acts and omissions
constituted or contributed to the suppression or withholding of
information concerning the events which took place in Son My Village
on 16 March 1968.
C COMPANY, 1ST BATTALION, 20TH INFANTRY
Failure to Report Acts of Murder and Other War Crimes
has been established elsewhere in this report that members of
C/1-20 Inf did not report the crimes perpetrated by that unit
in Son My Village on 16 March 1968. While no explanation is needed
in the case of those members who actively participated in criminal
acts, C Company's collective failure to make any reports of crimes
committee on the operation probably resulted from the large proportion
of its members implicated in such acts and from the apparent sanction
given to the entire operation by company officers. The sheer enormity
of the acts committed by some and observed by all on 16 March
caused many of the men to put the Son My operation out of their
minds and to avoid talking about it even among themselves. This
collective reluctance to expose what had occurred was facilitated
by the nature of the operation, which isolated C/1-20 Inf from
other elements of TF Barker, by the fact that the company was
detached from its parent battalion at the time of the operation
and remained so for some weeks thereafter, and by the fact that
Son My Village was located in a VC-controlled area.
False Report of 20-28 Noncombatant Casualties
is clear from the testimony of persons who were with the C/1-20
Inf command group on 16 March that a far greater number of noncombatant
casualties was observed by CPT Medina than the 20-28 he reported.
That CPT Medina reported any noncombatant casualties at all is
probably due to the fact that COL Henderson had observed some
bodies of women and children on the ground and questioned LTC
Barker about them, or to the circumstance that a large group of
bodies (largely women and children) were lying in the open on
the trail leading south from My Lai (4), in plain view of anyone
flying overhead. In any event, the result of CPT Medina's admission
that some noncombatants had been killed, coupled with the false
attribution of such casualties to artillery and gunships, provided
the basis subsequently used by COL Henderson to explain and dismiss
the Thompson Report.
Instructions Not to Discuss or Report the Operation of 16 March
their return to LZ Dottie on 18 March, the members Of C/1-20 Inf
were advised by CPT Medina that the incidents of 16 March were
to be investigated and that they were not to discuss them except
in the course of the investigation. This action, combined with
the natural reluctance of many of the men to discuss the acts
they had participated in, proved an effective means Of containing
the story of Son My within C Company. In the same sense, CPT Medina
advised a member of C/1-20 Inf, who had indicated an intention
to write his Congressman concerning the operation, not to do so
"until the investigation was complete."
B COMPANY, 4TH BATTALION, 3D INFANTRY
Reports of VC Killed
16 March, B/4-3 Inf reported a total of 38 VC killed in action
(KIA) at My Khe. Testimony reveals that, at a minimum, such reports
included women and children killed by B Company's lst Platoon.
While there is no testimony to indicate that CPT Michles had knowledge
of this, there is evidence that lLT (now CPT) Willingham was aware
that the majority (if not all) the persons reported as VC KIA
were women and children. On the afternoon of 16 March, in response
to a request for information concerning the number of women and
children who may have been killed, CPT Michles submitted a negative
report to TF Barker. It is not known whether CPT Michles made
this report knowing it was false or innocently transmitted a false
report made to him by LT Willingham.
Failure to Report Acts of Murder and Other War Crimes
presented to this Inquiry indicates that acts of murder and aggravated
assault were committed by members of B/4-3 Inf during the Son
My operation. None of these criminal acts was reported outside
the company, probably as a result of factors similar to some of
those mentioned above in connection with C/1-20 Inf.
TASK FORCE BARKER AND 11TH BRIGADE
of the most significant acts of suppression and withholding of
information concerning the Son My incident involved the commanders
and certain key staff officers and other personnel of TF Barker
and the llth Brigade. Due to the fact that several of these individuals
(other than LTC Barker, who is dead) either gave false testimony
before this Inquiry or refused to give further testimony, or both,
it has not been possible to sort out acts of concealment that
may have been initiated by and known only to TF Barker from those
done or approved by the llth Brigade as well. False and misleading
testimony by COL Henderson; the death Of LTC Barker; the refusal
to testify further by MAJ McKnight, MAJ Calhoun, and CPT Kotouc,
and the professed inability of LTC Blackledge, MSG Johnson, and
other key personnel to recall any significant information have
together precluded a reconstruction of exactly what transpired
between the two headquarters. For this reason, the roles played
by TF Barker and the llth Brigade in the suppression and withholding
of information are considered jointly.
Failure to Report Casualties Inflicted by C/1-20 Inf After 0840
0840 hours on 16 March, C/1-20 Inf had apparently been reporting
to TF Barker as VC KIA all persons they had killed in My Lai (4),
although few if any of the victims had actually been identified
as VC. After 0840 hours, no further reports of VC KIA by C Company
were recorded by TF Barker and the llth Brigade, or reported to
Division headquarters. The discontinuance of these reports conceivably
was initiated by C Company even though there is some evidence
that CPT Medina did make further reports of VC KIA. More probably,
recording and reporting of VC dead reported by C Company was halted
by TF Barker either in response to the order from COL Henderson
to stop the "unnecessary killing," or to avoid attracting
undue attention to C Company's operations in My Lai (4). It is
entirely possible that such action was either ordered or condoned
by COL Henderson, who was present in the TF Barker TOC between
0840 and 1000 hours on 16 March.
Failure to Report Noncombatant Casualties
is clear from the testimony of many witnesses that any overflight
of My Lai (4) on the morning of 16 March, at an altitude of less
than 1,000 feet, would have permitted observation of a large number
of bodies of noncombatants. According to COL Henderson's testimony,
he observed 6-8 such bodies early on the 16th and discussed this
matter with MG Koster about 0935 hours at LZ Dottie. Others in
COL Henderson's aircraft admit to seeing 15-20 bodies. By noon,
LTC Barker had been advised of the Thompson Report by MAJ Watke,
and during the afternoon hours LTC Barker and MAJ Calhoun were
both aware of a report from CPT Medina that 20-28 noncombatants
had been killed. A 1555 hours entry in the TF Barker Journal recorded
that "10-11 women and children were killed" in the C
Company area of operations. By early evening, COL Henderson was
admittedly aware that at least 20 noncombatants had been killed.
some of this information may have been given by COL Henderson
to MG Koster in oral reports, such reports could not have been
considered a substitute for the normal spot report required when
any friendly forces, any enemy forces, or any civilians are known
to have been killed.
addition to the requirement for an immediate spot report concerning
casualties of any type, directives from MACV, USARV, and III MAF
in effect at the time clearly required civilian casualties to
be reported as a special matter. Had such a report been made as
required, it might well have generated a thorough investigation
of the Son My operation.
Changes in Report of 69 VC Killed by C Company
of the most obvious efforts to suppress information uncovered
by this Inquiry concerns the matter of 69 VC purportedly killed
by artillery. The source of this false report has not been established,
but it is known that by 0758 hours on 16 March C Company had reported
14 VC KIA in the hamlet of My Lai (4) and one VC KIA at the LZ
just west of My Lai (4). It is also known that LTC Barker, who
was flying over My Lai (4), received a radio message at about
0830 hours advising him that C Company's VC body count had reached
84. Shortly after receiving this message, Barker advised the TOC
that he was coming in and would bring them "up to date."
Returning to the TOC at LZ Dottie, Barker met with COL Henderson,
LTC Luper, MAJ "McKnight, and MAJ Calhoun. An entry was made
in the TF Barker Journal as of 0840 hours of 69 VC KIA at a location
(by map coordinates) in the hamlet of My Lai (4). Inexplicably,
this report of 69 VC KIA was not reported to the llth Brigade
TOC for about an hour. The delay alone is suspicious for several
reasons. First, there is the operational requirement to report
immediately information of this type--a requirement which TF Barker
fulfilled in transmitting all other VC body count reports on 16
March. Secondly, the natural reaction of a combat unit in reporting
such obvious proof of success is haste, not an hour's delay.
this period of almost one hour during which the report of 69 VC
KIA was held at the TF Barker TOC, a decision was apparently made
to attribute the cause of death to the artillery preparation and
to shift the location at which the VC were reported killed from
inside the hamlet to a point 600 meters outside the hamlet and
generally on the gun-target line from LZ Uptight to the C Company
LZ. This decision was reflected in an entry at 0930 hours in the
llth Brigade Journal and in a report made by the llth Brigade
at the same time to Division. There was no factual basis for attributing
the killing to artillery, and the change of map coordinates cannot
reasonably be explained as resulting from a transposition of numbers
or sozne other inadvertent error.
reasonable inference is that the changes effected in the original
report of the 69 VC killed by C Company were made to lessen the
attention which might have been attracted had the original report
reached Division headquarters. Such a report would have reflected
a total of 83 VC killed by small arms fire at a single location
inside the hamlet of My Lai (4). Coupled with the absence of any
casualties to C Company personnel and the few weapons captured,
it might have prompted inquiries that could not readily have been
Failure to Report Allegations of War Crimes
most significant act of withholding information is the apparent
failure of TF Barker to report to llth Brigade (or, alternatively,
the failure of the Brigade to report to the Americal Division)
the allegations of W01 Thompson, which were reported by MAJ Watke
to LTC Barker shortly after noon on 16 March. There issome testimony
that after MAJ Watke apprised LTC Barker of the complaints of
W01 Thompson, Barker left LZ Dottie ostensibly to visit C Company.
There is little evidence to show that he made any real effort
to investigate the charges; in fact, the Inquiry has failed to
uncover a single member of C Company who recalls Barker landing
at Son My at any time during the operation. There is a similar
absence of any evidence that Barker reported Thompson's allegations
to llth Brigade. If he did, his report was neither recorded nor
relayed to Division by the llth Brigade.
Failure to Report Acts of Destruction of Private Property
the course of the Son My operation, both a and C Companies engaged
in extensive destruction of private dwellings and structures through
demolition and burning. There is ample testimony to establish
that such destruction had been ordered by LTC Barker and must
have been observed by COL Henderson and
MAJ McKnight. Although such acts violated MACV directives and
the strong poiicy within the Americal Division against the burning
and destruction of houses, no report of these violations was made.
Change in Report of 30-40 VC Departing My Lai (4)
about 0900 hours on 16 March, during the interrogation of a Vietnamese
inhabitant of My Lai (4), C/1-20 Inf received information that
30-40 VC had departed the hamlet prior to the combat as sault.
This information was apparently transmitted to the TF Barker TOC
where, for reasons unknown, it was not recorded in the unit journal.
The records at llth Brigade, however, do reflect this information
in a journal entry made at 0915 hours. At the Americal Division
TOC, however, it was recorded that tne prisoner "so far has
said their (sic) lots of VC in vic BS716788." The reason
for this erroneous entry has not been explained. It may have resulted
from a simple error in the transmission of information, or from
a deliberately false report made to withhold from Division the
fact that the VC had departed the area prior to the combat assault
and to create the impression that C/1-20 Inf was involved in a
contested combat action. This matter is discussed in more detail
in Chapter 10.
TF Barker's Combat Action Report
the Americal Division would direct subordinate elements to prepare
special after-action reports on Operations which appeared to have
been particularly successful. The Son My operation was selected
as the subject of such a report, and on 28 March 1968, LTC Barker
submitted a Combat Action Report (CAR) to the llth Brigade, covering
the period 0730-1800 hours, 16 March 1968.
this report, LTC Barker made no mention of the many noncombatants
killed by C Company on 16 March, although US and claimed VC casualties
were reported. He disingenuously explained the problem of "population
control and medical care of those civilians caught in fires of
the opposing forces," but there was no mention of the magnitude
of the problems of that type which TF Barker actually encountered
on 16 March. In an apparent reference to W01 Thompson's aero-scout
unit, he reported that helicopters assisted civilians in leaving
the area, but again there was no indication of the true circumstances
of this aspect of the operation.
report contained a narrative description of the operations of
B and C Companies on 16 March that was pure fabrication. It described
an artillery preparation on the enemy "combat post positions"
which killed 68 VC. It reported contact with "two local force
companies and two or three guerrilla platoons" until 1630
hours when "surviving enemy elements had broken all contact."
appreciation of the misleading and deceptive nature of LTC Barker's
report can be gained from the following extract:
Analysis: This operation was well planned, well executed, and
successful. Friendly casualties were light and the enemy suffered
heavily. On this operation the civilian population supporting
the VC in the area numbered approximately 200. This created a
problem in population control and medical care of those civilians
caught in fires of the opposing forces. However the infantry unit
on the ground and helicopters were able to assist civilians in
leaving the area and in caring for and/or evacuating the wounded."
Combat Action Report can only be considered an effort by LTC Barker
deliberately to suppress the true facts and to mislead higher
headquarters into believing that there had been a combat operation
in Son My Village on 16 March involving a hotly contested action
with a sizable enemy force.
Withholding and Suppression of Knowledge and Evidence of War Crimes
by Information Office Personnel
16 March, a two-man team from the 31st Public Information Detachment,
a part of the llth Brigade, accompanied C/1-20 Inf on the combat
assault. These men, SGT (now Mr.) Ronald Haeberle, photographer,
and SP5 (now Mr.) Jay Roberts, journalist, witnessed numerous
war crimes committed by members of C/1-20 Inf in My Lai (4). SGT
Haeberle took a series of photographs using both personal and
government owned cameras. He used the color film to record scenes
of atrocities and the black and white for other pictures. Both
men remained with C/1-20 Inf until approximately 1100 hours, when
they departed for B/4-3 Inf. They observed nothing unusual in
the B Company area.
leaving the operations area, they discussed what they had seen
and during the discussion, according to SP5 Roberts, SGT Haeberle
mentioned that he was curious concerning "what the press
would do with photos like that," referring to the pictures
taken at My Lai (4).
that evening SP5 Roberts wrote a story concerning the incident,
making no mention of the atrocities he had seen and lauding the
efforts of TF Barker. His account was relayed to the Americal
Division Information Office and was the basis for a misleading
article in the llth Brigade news sheet. Indicative of the misleading
nature of the article was the statement that a suspect had "told
an interpreter that 35 VC had moved into the Village [My Lai (4)]
two hours earlier," when in fact an inhabitant of the hamlet
interrogated by C/1-20 Inf that morning had said that a comparable
size force had departed My Lai (4) prior to the combat assault.
SGT Haeberle nor SP5 Roberts took any action to report what they
had seen, nor did SGT Haeberle make available to proper authority
the photographic evidence of war crimes he had obtained. SGT Haeberle
retained the color film he had exposed during the operation as
personal property and shortly thereafter rotated to the United
States for eventual discharge. Late in 1969, and after his separation
from the service, SGT Haeberle sold the photographs to a publisher.
is apparent that both these individuals had firsthand knowledge
of the incident, and that neither took any action to report it.
To the contrary, both actively contributed to the suppression
of information concerning the incident. It should be noted also
that neither of these men was under command of TF Barker and,
in contrast to the other enlisted personnel in My Ly4 (4) that
day, they were in a position to report what they had seen without
the same fear of retaliation.
COL HENDERSON'S REPORTS
being charged to investigate the allegations made by W01 Thompson,
and after hearing directly from Thompson and other aviation personnel
accounts of what they had observed on the ground on 16 March,
COL Henderson failed to make any real investigation of the matter.
His subsequent oral reports to BG Young and MG Koster with respect
to the scope and findings of his so called investigation were
knowingly false and deceptive.
Henderson's deception of his commanders as to what he had done
to investigate the matter and as to the facts he had learned probably
played a larger role in the suppression of the facts of Son My
than any other factor. Whatever may be said of the failure of
BG Young and MG Koster to subject COL Henderson's reports to adequate
review, they had to rely upon the veractiy of what Henderson told
them. In misrepresenting to his commanders that he had made a
real effort to determine the facts and that W01 Thompson was the
only individual he could find who had seen anything unusual on
16 March, COL Henderson effectively closed off the full exposure
of the facts of the Son My incident that would have resulted from
a real investigation and a factual report.
Henderson's written "Report of Investigation," according
to MG Koster, was supposed to have put in writing the details
of his previous oral report in response to W01 Thompson's allegations.
In fact, however, it made no mention of Thompson's complaints
and is addressed solely to the allegations from Vietnamese sources
(VC propaganda and the Son Tinh District Chief's letter of 11
April 1968). It dismissed these allegations as baseless propaganda
and restated the fiction that 20 noncombatant casualties had been
inadvertently killed on 16 March. There had been no further investigation,
and the manner in which the statement by CPT Rodreguez was appended
to the "Report of Investigation" suggests that the intent
was to imply a Vietnamese origin and concurrence from that source
in Henderson's findings.
COMPANY B, 123D AVIATION BATTALION
is no evidence to establish that members of Company B, 123d Avn
Bn deliberately set about to withhold or suppress information
concerning the Son My incident. There were, however, several acts
of omission and commission by this unit which contributed to those
Failure to Make a Spot-Report of Alleged War Crimes
receipt of the complaints of W01 Thompson and other members of
his unit, MAJ Watke acted only to report the matter to the commander
of the Task Force charged with the offense. Later in the day,
after being advised by Barker that he could find nothing to substantiate
the charges and despite the fact that he "didn't believe
Colonel Barker" Watke did nothing further until approximately
2200 hours. The fact that W01 Thompson's complaint did not reach
the Division Commander until almost 24 hours after it was received
by MAJ Watke, and the fact that it never reached the Division
Staff, is due in large part to Watke's failure to make the complaint
the subject of a spot-report.
Failure to Report the Complete Facts Concerning Allegations of
disparity between what W01 Thompson saw at My Lai (4) and what
MAJ Watke stated he reported to BG Young was discussed in detail
in Chapter 10. The fact that the complete story did not reach
BG Young and subsequently the Division Commander, is largely attributable
to MAJ Watke's failure to confirm or document the complaints of
W01 Thompson and others. If MAJ Watke did not gain a full appreciation
of Thompson's complaint on the basis of what Thompson told him,
a full awareness of the nature of the incident would have been
obtained through any efforts to confirm the allegations. MAJ Watke
had available to him other pilots and crew members who had been
over the area as well as the complete "aero-scout" team
which could have been used for aerial reconnaissance.
Instructions to Members of the Unit to Curb Discussion of the
Son My Operation
by former members of the unit reveals that following the Son My
operation there was considerable discussion among members of Company
B concerning what had occurred in My Lai (4). MAJ Watke has testified
that he was aware of this general unrest and approximately two
days after the operation, he spoke to the assembled company and
"asked them not to discuss the matter any further (that)
nothing good could come of their discussion of it and...it would
be taken care of." At this time MAJ Watke was aware that
COL Henderson was conducting an investigation and, according to
his testimony, he had no reason to suspect the investigation would
not be thorough. While MAJ Watke's intent may have been the elimination
of rumors and stories while the incident was being investigated,
the effect was largely to silence further discussion of the matter
within the company.
Failure to Take Appropriate Action When Convinced a "Cover-Up"
Was Taking Place
Watke testified that he was convinced a "cover-up" taking
place after he observed that no serious effort was taking place
after he observed that no serious effort was being made to interrogate
the members of his unit. This conviction reinforced his earlier
impression that LTC Barker was lying when Barker said he could
not substantiate W01 Thompson's allegations. Having once come
to this conclusion, Watke was faced with a difficult decision
and elected not to pursue the matter further. MAJ Watke has testified
that he was reluctant to go outside the division with the charge,
and could not offer an explanation for his failure to document
Thompson's allegations with statements from his pilots and crewmen
or to take any other steps to make the allegations a matter of
Failure to Act on Reports of Extensive Civilian Casualties
former members of Company B have testified that they submitted
written reports concerning the events of 16 March. These reports
were submitted through the Company Operations Section and made
reference to as many as 150 civilian casualties.. There has been
no satisfactory explanation concerning the disposition of these
reports and no indication that any action was initiated as a result
of their submission. It would appear that MAJ Watke considered
his obligations to report the incident satisfied once he delivered
his report to BG Young.
HEADQUARTERS, 123D AVIATION BATTALION
actions at this level in the chain of command in suppressing information
are similar to those taken by B Company of the same unit. Both
LTC Holladay and MAJ Watke have testified that they were in agreement
concerning two facts: First, that the allegations made by W01
Thompson and others were true; and second, that there had been
a "cover-up." In considering the reaction of these two
officers to the situation, it should be noted they possessed the
capability to do much that was not done: to obtain sworn statements
from the many eyewitnesses within the unit; to conduct a low-level
aerial reconnaissance of My Lai (4); and to seek approval for
employment of a small infantry unit into the area to confirm or
HEADQUARTERS, AMERICAL DIVISION
16 March 1968, the Americal Division was the principal headquarters
to which information and reports concerning the Son My operation
was directed. Subsequent to that date, other reports and allegations
concerning that operation, from both US units and GVN sources,
were channeled to that headquarters. Except for routine operational
data forwarded on 16 March, none of these reports and allegations
were transmitted by the Americal Division to higher headquarters,
even though information had been received by 17 March concerning
the events at My Lai (4) that warranted a thorough investigation.
it is clear that information which should have been reported was
withheld by the Americal Division from III MAF and MACV, the matter
of motivation and intent is difficult to determine. There is little
evidence to warrant a conclusion that the Americal Division headquarters
actually had an awareness of the full dimension of what had taken
place at Son My. While such a possiblity cannot be entirely excluded,
there is no direct evidence to that effect, and it appears much
more likely that (at least prior to mid-April) the CG, ADC, and
the Chief of Staff believed they were dealing with the killing
of 20-28 noncombatants by TF Barker. Although the reports they
received to that effect were false and they were negligent to
have believed them, they probably thought they were withholding
information concerning a much less serious incident than the one
which had actually occurred.
is also clear that some information reaching the command element
of the division in April indicated that a much more serious event
had taken place on 16 March. The command reaction to these subsequent
reports was so inadequate to the situation and so inconsistent
with what ordinarily would be expected of officers of the ability
and experience of MG Koster and BG Young, that it can only be
explained by a refusal or an inability to accept or give any credence
to evidence or reports which were not consistent with their original,
and erroneous, conclusion.
following is a summary of specific acts of omission or commission
taken at the Americal Division headquarters which contributed
to the concealment of the true facts of the incident.
Failure to Report Information Concerning Noncombatant Casualties
Koster has testified that by 1600 hours on 16 March, he was aware
that at least 20 noncombatants had been killed by elements of
TF Barker. As commander of a major combat unit, he was aware of
the concern expressed by COMUSMACV concerning noncombatant casualties
and of the requirement that such matters be reported as a serious
incident. No such report was made by the Americal Division.
Failure to Report Allegations of Suspected War Crimes
there is some conflict in testimony concerning the extent to which
MG Koster, BG Young, and COL Parson were apprised of the full
contents of the Thompson Report, there is sufficient testimony
to establish that these three individuals had been advised of
the allegation that noncombatants had been indiscriminately killed
in My Lai (4). MACV directives in effect at that time clearly
required that such allegations be reported. No such report was
made by the Americal Division.
Failure to Insure a Thorough and Impartial Investigation of Allegations
of War Crimes
receipt of the Thompson Report, MG Koster directed an investigation
by the commander of the unit accused in the allegation. Such an
investigation, subject to a thorough and impartial review, might
have been an acceptable response to the allegations. However,
it is clear from the testimony of the principals concerned that
the investigation was a pretense and the review inadequate.
Efforts by the Division Command Group to Limit Information Concerning
Noncombatant Casualties and Alleged War Crimes
the testimony of MG Koster, BG Young, and COL Parson, it appears
that each individual acted to restrict knowledge of matters being
investigated by COL Henderson. Specific actions included the failure
to include pertinent information in daily staff briefings; the
failure properly to employ the investigative resources of the
division staff; the failure to advise key staff members concerning
the allegations and investigations; and the failure to advise
the staff of matters which should have been reported to higher
headquarters. Testimony indicates that members of the General
and Special Staffs had but little inforation concerning the incident
or of the subsequent investigation or review.
Failure of the Division Chaplain to Report Allegations of War
discussed in Chapter 10, shortly after 16 March 1968, W01 Thompson
went to the Division Artillery Chaplain, CPT Carl Creswell, with
a report of what he had seen at My Lai (4). Chaplain Creswell
in turn, without reporting the matter to his commander, went to
the Division Chaplain, LTC Francis Lewis, with the story. As previously
discussed, LTC Lewis' efforts at investigation were futile and
he allowed the matter to pass without substantive effort to bring
it to the attention of his superiors.
ACTIONS BY PERSONNEL OUTSIDE THE AMERICAL DIVISION
the Vietnamese officials who came in contact with information
concerning possible war crimes in Son My during the period 16-19
March, there was a natural reluctance to confront their American
counterparts with such a serious allegation and to insist on inquiry
into the matter. Such information as did reach US advisory channels
was not forwarded through advisory channels but referred only
to the Americal Division and its llth Brigade. There is evidence
that at least at the Quang Ngai Province and Son Tinh District
levels, and possibly at the 2d ARVN Division, the senior US military
advisors aided in suppressing information concerning the incident.
is evident that efforts to suppress and withhold information concerning
the Son My incident were made at every level in the Americal Division.
These efforts, coupled with the false and misleading reports by
COL Henderson were successful in containing the story of Son My
within the division. It is evident to this Inquiry, after interviewing
most of those who witnessed the events at Son My, that any serious
attempt to interrogate such individuals immediately following
the incident would have resulted in full disclosure of the event.
Many testified in a manner which showed an eagerness to express
what had apparently caused them great concern. If there had been
real concern in the chain of command, if anyone had taken action
to ask questions, they would have had full and complete answers.
matter which casts further suspicion on the Americal Division
is the almost total absence of files and records of documents
relating to the Son My incident and its subsequent investigation.
With few exceptions the files have been purged of these documents
and records of their removal or destruction have not been maintained.
The single notable exception to this has been the copy of COL
Henderson's 24 April report, and this document was found in the
files of the llth Brigade S2 where it would not normally have
been filed. The files of US advisory teams which had knowledge
of the Son My incident were similarly barren.
factor which may have contributed to suppression was the manner
in which information concerning the Son My incident Was handled
in Vietnamese circles. Such information was apparently not discussed
to any extent in GVN channels as witnessed by the number of US
personnel who worked closely with Province, District, and ARVN
authorities and yet had no knowledge that the incident had occurred.
Even on the Vietnamese civilian side, a measure of silence fell
over the community. Without exception, Americans who worked and
lived closely with Vietnamese in both official and social circles
in Quang Ngai Province, stated that they had not obtained an inkling
of the incident.
6. Findings and Recommendations
ON THE BASIS OF THE FOREGOING, THE FINDINGS OF THE INQUIRY ARE
A. Concerning Events Surrounding The Son My Operation of 16 -
19 March 1968
(1) During the period 16-19 March 1968, US Army troops of TF Barker,
11th Brigade, Americal Division, massacred a large number of noncombatants
in two hamlets of Son My Village, Quang Ngai Province, Republic
of Vietnam. The precise number of Vietnamese killed cannot be
determined but was at least 175 and may exceed 400.
(2) The massacre occurred in conjunction with a combat operation
which was intended to neutralize Son My Village as a logistical
support base and staging area, and to destroy elements of an enemy
battalion thought to be located in the Son My area.
(3) The massacre resulted primarily from the nature of the orders
issued to persons in the chain of command within TF Barker.
(4) The task force commander's order and the associated intelligence
estimate issued prior to the operation were embellished as they
were disseminated through each lower level of command, and ultimately
presented to the individual soldier a false and misleading picture
of the Son My area as an armed enemy camp, largely devoid of civilian
(5) Prior to the incident, there had developed within certain
elements of the 11th Brigade a permissive attitude toward the
treatment and safeguarding of noncombatants which (contributed
to the mistreatment of such persons during the Son Ply Operation.
(6) The permissive attitude in the treatment of Vietnamese was,
on 16-19 March 1968, exemplified by an almost total disregard
for the lives and property of the civilian population of Son My
Village on the part of commanders and key staff officers of TF
(7) On 16 March, soldiers at the squad and platoon level, within
some elements of TF Barker, murdered noncombatants while under
the supervision and control of their immediate superiors.
(8) A part of the crimes visited on the inhabitants of Son My
Village included individual and group acts Of murder, rape, sodomy,
maiming, and assault on noncombatants and the mistreatment and
killing of detainees. They further included the killing of livestock,
destruction of crops, closing of wells, and the burning of dwellings
within several subhamlets.
(9) Some attempts were made to stop the criminal acts in Son My
Village on 16 March; but with few exceptions, such efforts were
too feeble or too late.
(10) Intensive interrogation has developed no evidence that any
member of the units engaged in the Son My operation was under
the influence of marijuana or other narcotics.
B. Concerning The Adequacy Of Reports, Investigations And Reviews
(11) The commanders of TF Barker and the 11th Brigade had substantial
knowledge as to the extent of the killing of noncombatants, but
only a portion of their information was ever reported to the Commanding
General of the Americal Division.
(12) Based on his observations, W01 Thompson made a specific complaint
through his command channels that serious war crimes had been
committed but through a series of inadequate responses at each
level of command, action on his complaint was delayed and the
severity of his charges considerably diluted by the time it reached
the Division Commander.
(13) Sufficient information concerning the highly irregular nature
of the operations of TF Barker on 16 March 1968 reached the Commanding
General of the Americal Division to require that a thorough investigation
(14) An investigation by the Commander of the 11th Brigade, conducted
at the direction of the Commanding General of the Americal Division,
was little more than a pretense and was subsequently misrepresented
as a thorough investigation to the CG, t Americal Division in
order to conceal froM him the true enormity of the atrocities.
(15) Patently inadequate reports of investigation submitted by
the commander of the 11th Brigade were accepted at face value
and without an effective review by the CG, Americal Division.
(16) Reports of alleged war crimes, noncombatant casualties, and
serious incidents concerning the Son My operation of 16 March
were received at the headquarters of the Americal Division but
were not reported to higher headquarters despite the existence
of directives requiring such action.
(17) Reports of alleged war crimes relating to the Son My operation
of 16 March reached Vietnamese government officials, but those
officials did not take effective action to ascertain the- true
(18) Efforts of the ARVN/GVN officials discreetly to inform the
US commanders of the magnitude of the war crimes committed on
16 March 1968 met with no affirmative response.
C. Concerning Attempts To Suppress Information
(19) At every command level within the Americal Division, actions
were taken, both wittingly and unwittingly, which effectively
suppressed information concerning the war crimes committed at
Son My Village.
(20) At the company level there was a failure to report the war
crimes which had been committed. This, combined with instructions
to members of one unit not to discuss the events of 16 March,
contributed significantly to the suppression of information.
(21) The task force commander and at least one, and probably more,
staff officers of TF Barker may have conspired to suppress information
and to mislead higher headquarters concerning the events of 16
- 19 March 1968.
(22) At the 11th Brigade level, the commander and at least one
principal staff officer may have conspired to suppress information
to deceive the division commander concerning the true facts of
the Son My operation of 16-19 March.
(23) A reporter and a photographer from the 11th Brigade observed
many war crimes committed by C/1-20 Inf on 16 March. Both failed
to report what they had seen; the reporter submitted a misleading
account of the operation; and the photographer withheld and suppressed
(and wrongfully misappropriated upon his discharge from the service)
photographic evidence of such war crimes.
(24) Efforts within the 11th Brigade to suppress information concerning
the Son My operation were aided in varying degrees by members
of US Advisory teams working with ARVN and GVN officials.
(25) Within the Americal Division headquarters, actions taken
to suppress information concerning what was purportedly believed
to be the inadvertent killing of 20 to 28 noncombatants effectively
served conceal the true nature and scope of the events which had
taken place in Son My Village on 16-19 March 68.
(26) Failure of the Americal Division headquarters to act on reports
and information received from GVN/ARVN officials in mid April
served effectively to suppress the true nature and scope of the
events which had taken place in Son My Village on 16-19 March
(27) Despite an exhaustive search of the files of the 11th Brigade,
Americal Division, GVN/ARVN advisory team files, and records holding
centers, with few exceptions, none of the documents relating to
the so-called investigation of the events of 16-19 March were
D. With Respect To Individuals
(1) During the period March-June 1968 a number of persons assigned
to the Americal Division and to US Advisory elements located in
Quang Ngai Province had information as to the killing of noncombatants
and other serious offenses committed by members of TF Barker during
the Son My operation in March 1968 and did one or more of the
a. Failed to make such official report thereof as their duty required
them to make;
b. Suppressed information concerning the occurrence of such offenses
acting singly or in concert with others;
c. Failed to order a thorough investigation and to insure that
such was made, or failed to conduct an adequate investigation,
or failed to submit an adequate report of investigation, or failed
to make an adequate review of a report of investigation, as applicable;
committed other derelictions related to the events of the Son
My operation, some constituting criminal offenses.
(2) attached to this chapter at Inclosure 1 is a list of such
persons and the omissions and commissions of which they are suspected
and upon which the above findings are based.
a. The officers named in Inclosure 1, their position in 1968,
and their current grade and status, are listed below:
GRADE POSITION CURRENT STATUS
Koster, Samuel W. MG CG, Americal Div Active Duty
Young, George H. BG ADC (OPS), Americal Div Active Duty
Henderson, Oran K. COL CO, 11th Inf Bde Active Duty
Hutter, Dean E. COL Senior Advisor 2nd ARVN Div Active Duty
Luper, Robert B. COL CO, 6-11th Arty Active Duty
Parson, Nels A. COL Chief of Staff Americal Div Active Duty
Barker, Frank A. LTC CO TF Barker Deceased
Gavin, David C. LTC (then MAJ) Senior District Advisor, Son Tinh
District Active Duty
Guinn, William D. LTC Dep. Senior Advisor. Quang Ngai Province
Holladay, John L. LTC CO, 123d Avn Bn Active Duty
Lewis, Francis R. LTC (Ch) Div Chaplain, Americal Div Active Duty
Calhoun, Charles C. MAJ XO/S3, TF Barker Active Duty
McKnight, Robert W. MAJ S3, 11th Inf Bde Active Duty
Watke, Frederic W. MAJ CO, Co B, 123d Avn Bn Active Duty
Boatman, Kenneth W. CPT (then 1LT) Forward Observer, Command Group,
B/4-3 Active Duty
Creswell, Carl E. CPT (Ch) Div Arty Chaplain Americal Div Civilian
Johnson, Dennis H. CPT (then 1LT) Military Intelligence officer
in support of TF Barker Active Duty
Koutoc, Eugene M. CPT S2, TF Barker Active Duty
Medina, Ernest L. CPT CO, C/1-20 Inf Active Duty
Michles, Earl A. CPT CO, B/4-3 Inf Deceased
Vazquez, Dennis R CPT Artillery Liason officer in support of TF
Willingham, Thomas K. CPT (then 1LT) Plt Ldr, 1st Plt, B/4-3 Inf
Calley, William L., Jr. 1LT (then 2LT) Plt Ldr, 1st Plt, C/1-20
Inf Active Duty
Alaux, Roger L., Jr. 2LT Arty Forward Observer attached to C/1-20
Brooks, Steven K. 2LT Plt Ldr, 2d Plt, C/1-20 Deceased
LaCross, Jeffrey U. 2LT Plt Ldr, 2d Plt, C/1-20 Civilian
Lewis, Michael L. 2LT Plt Ldr, 2d Plt, B/4-3 Inf Deceased
Mundy, John E. 2LT Executive Officer, B/4-3 Civilian
b. The following enlisted members of the Army operating in support
of TF Barker, on 16 March 1968 and now civilians, by reason of
their military training and assignment, and having a particular
duty to report any knowledge of suspected or apparent war crimes
which came to their attention, failed to perform this duty:
NAME GRADE POSITION
Haeberle, Ronald L. SGT Photographer, Info Office, 11th Inf Bde
Roberts, Jay A. SP5 Senior Correspondent, Info Office, 11th Inf
Bde (31st PID)
(3) Evidence adduced in this Inquiry also indicates that, numerous
serious offenses in violation of the Uniform Code of Military
Justice and the law of war may have been committed by military
personnel who participated in the TF Barker operation in Son My
during the period 16 - 19 March 1968. Evidence of these suspected
offenses has been furnished to representatives of the Provost
Marshal General of the Army for further investigation.
(4) Some of the officers and enlisted men concerned fulfilled
their minimum obligation to report their knowledge of crimes committed
during the Son My operation to their commanding officers. However,
had they exhibited deeper concern for their units, the United
States Army and the Nation by taking action beyond that which
was technically required, it is probable that the details of the
Son My incident would have come to light promptly. Those who failed
to do so have contributed to a serious obstruction of justice.
E. Concerning The Adequacy of Certain Policies, Directives, And
(1) In 1968, the then existing policies and directives at every
level of command expressed a clear intent regarding the proper
treatment and safeguarding of noncombatants, the humane handling
of prisoners of war, and minimizing the destruction of private
(2) Directives prescribing the procedures for the reporting of
war crimes were not clear as to the action which should be taken
by subordinates when their unit commander participated in or sanctioned
a war crime. Directives prescribed only that war crimes would
be reported to the commanding officer.
(3) Many soldiers in the 11th Brigade were not adequately trained
a. Their responsibilities regarding obedience to orders received
from their superiors which they considered palpably illegal.
b. Their responsibilities concerning the procedures for the reporting
of war crimes.
c. The provisions of the Geneva Conventions, the handling and
treatment of prisoners of war, and the treatment and safeguarding
F. Peripheral Issues
Findings regarding peripheral issues are discussed in Annex B.
IT IS RECOMMENDED THAT:
A. You take cognizance of the findings set forth above.
B. The names of the members of the Army listed in paragraph D
(2) a, above, together with information concerning their omissions
and commissions, be referred to their respective general court-martial
convening authorities for possible disciplinary or administrative
C. Consideration be given to the modification of applicable policies,
directives, and training standards in order to correct the apparent
deficiencies noted in paragraph IE above.
7. The Omissions and Commissions of Col. Oran K. Henderson
THE OMISSIONS AND COMMISSIONS OF COL. ORAN K. HENDERSON
a. When briefed on the concept of the operation of TF Barker into
the Son My area, he did not insure that the plan included provisions
for handling, screening, and treatment of noncombatants and refugees.
After observing the bodies of noncombatnats in and around My Lai
(4) during the morning of 16 March, and despite his knowledge
that C Company had not encountered resistance, he failed to take
effective action to prevent further killing of noncombatants by
He failed to take any action to insure that medical treatment
was provided to noncombatants in the Son My area on 16 March.
After C Company had reported killing 84 VC in My Lai (4) by 0840
hours on 16 March, he either participated in or condoned the making
of fictitious reports to higher headquarters and false entries
in official records to the effect that 69 VC had been killed by
artillery at a location north of My Lai (4).
Having observed on 16 March that many of the dwellings and other
structures in My Lai (4) were being burned in violation of division
policy and the provisions of pertinent directives, he failed to
take any effective action to:
(1) Stop such destruction.
(2) Report the facts to higher headquarters.
f. Having observed the bodies of women and children in and around
My Lai (4) on 16 March, and after receiving subsequent reports
and information on the same day indicating that many additional
noncombatants may have been killed by artillery or gunship, he
failed to initiate:
(1) An immediate investigation to determine the extent and the
causes of the casualties.
(2) An investigation of an artillery incident, or to recommend
that such an investigation be initiated, as required by USARV
and Americal Division directives.
(3) A SIR as required by regulations.
Having been directed to investigate and report to his commanding
officer concerning the Thompson Report and after personally hearing
from W01 Thompson, CWO Culverhouse, and SP Colburn accounts of
their observations of the events in Son My Village he failed to
make an appropriate investigation to determine the truth of such
Having been directed to investigate and report to his commanding
officer concerning the report of W01 Thompson; having personally
interrogated Thompson, Culverhouse, and Colburn; and having failed
to make a genuine investigation of their reports, he:
(1) Made a series of false and misleading reports to his commanding
officer to the effect that:
(a) He had made a thorough investigation of the Thompson Report.
(b) He had interrogated all of the commanders and many of the
soldiers and aviation personnel involved.
(c) W01 Thompson was the only person he had found who had seen
anything unusual on 16 March.
(d) There was no substance to Thompson's allegations.
(2) Concealed the existence of war crimes.
i. About mid-April 1968, having received information that (1)
the Son Tinh District Chief had submitted a report to the Quang
Ngai Province Chief alleging that US forces had killed approximately
500 noncombatants in Tu Cung and Co Luy hamlets of Son My Village
on 16 March 1968, and (2) VC propaganda broadcasts were stressing
that US forces had killed a large number of noncombatants in the
Son My Village on 16 March 1968, he:
(1) Failed to conduct any investigation of the allegations of
the district Chief.
(2) Falsely informed the CG, 2d ARVN Division, and the Province
Chief that he had previously investigated similar allegations
respecting the 16 March operation and had found them to be entirely
j. Having been subsequently directed to investigate the allegations
of the District Chief and the VC propaganda, and to submit a written
report incorporating the evidence he claimed to have collected
in response to the Thompson Report, and having made no invesdiiqation
of such allegations, he submitted to his commanding officer a
written Report of Investigation, dated 24 April 1968, which was
false and misleading in the following particulars:
(1) While the document purported to be a "Report of Investigation"
and implied that he had made an investigation in response to the
allegations of the District Chief, no proper investigation was
(2) It avoided any reference to the Thompson Report.
(3) It falsely stated that his interviews with the TF Barker S3
and the commanders involved revealed that at no time were civilians
gathered together and killed by US soldiers.
(4) It falsely stated that 20 noncombatants were inadvertently
killed by preparatory fires and in the cross fires of US and VC
forces on 16 March 1968.
k. It appears that in conjunction with one or more members of
his command, and possibly of the Province Advisory Team, he conspired
to withhold and suppress facts concerning the actions of elements
of TF Barker on 16 March and information regarding the origin
of and basis for a statement dated 14 April 1968 prepared by CPT
l. He gave false testimony before the Inquiry in a manner calculated
to mislead this Inquiry in many particulars. For example, he testified
(1) On 16 March 1968 he observed the bodies of only 6-8 women
and children in and around My Lai (4).
(2) He directed LTC Luper to investigate whether any artillery
rounds landed on My Lai (4) and that LTC Luper thereafter reported
to him that an investigation had been made and had disclosed that
no artillery had struck the village.
(3) W01 Thompson was the only individual he spoke with who had
observed anything unusual on 16 March.
(4) He had not been directed to submit his written Report of Investigation,
dated 24 April 1968, and that the Report was prepared and submitted
in order to bring to MG Koster's attention reports and propaganda
received from Vietnamese sources.
(5) In May 1968, MG Koster directed a formal investigation be
conducted and,that he (COL Henderson) directed LTC Barker to conduct
such an investigation.
(6) In May 1968, LTC Barker conducted an investigation and prepared
a formal report of investigation, including 15-20 written statements
of witnesses, which he (COL Henderson) then transmitted to Division.
8. The Omissions and Commissions of Cpt. Ernest L. Medina
THE OMISSIONS AND COMMISSIONS OF CPT. ERNEST L. MEDINA
a. He informed the men of C/1-20 Inf that nearly all the civilian
residents of the hamlets in Son My Village would be gone to market
by 0700, 16 March 1968, and that any who remained would be VC
or VC sympathizers. This caused many of the men in C/1-20 Inf
to believe that they would find only armed enemy in the hamlets
and directly contributed to the killing of noncombatants which
He planned, ordered, and supervised the execution by his company
of an unlawful operation against inhabited hamlets in Son My ,
Village which included the destruction of houses by burning, killing
of livestock, and the destruction of crops and other foodstuffs,
and the closing of wells; and impliedly directed the killing of
any persons found there.
There is evidence that he possibly killed as many as three noncombatants
in My Lai (4).
He probably conspired with LTC Barker and others to suppress information
concerning the killing of noncombatants during the Son My operation.
He actively suppressed information concerning the killing of noncombatants
in Son My Village on 16 March 1968 by:
(1) Telling the men of C/1-20 Inf not to talk about what happened
in Son My Village on 16 March.
(2) Advising at least one member of his company not to write to
(3) Giving false reports as to the number of noncom killed by
the men of C/1-20 Inf and the cause of death.
He failed to report the killings in and around My Lai (4) as a
possible war crime as required by MACV Directive -4.
If he in fact believed that 20-28 civilians had been killed in
My Lai (4) by artillery or gunship fire, he failed request an
artillery incident investigation.
He obstructed an inquiry into the killing of civilians in My Lai
(4) by objecting to orders to return C/1-20 Inf to the hamlet
for that purpose.
He failed to prevent the killing of VC suspects by the RVN National
Police on 16 March 1968 and subsequently failed to report these
killings as required in MACV Directive 20-4.
He personally mistreated a VC suspect during an examination on
17 March 1968 by striking him on the head and repeatedly firing
an M-16 close to the prisoner's head to induce him to talk.
He failed to determine the cause of death of the 24 people whose
bodies he admitted seeing on the trail leading south from My Lai
He gave false testimony before this Inquiry in a manner calculated
to be misleading when he stated that:
(1) He d id not see any bodies or wounded as he moved within My
Lai (4) .
(2) Only 20 to 28 civilians were killed by C/1-20 Inf in and around
My Lai (4) on 16 March 1968.
(3) He questioned his platoon leaders about killing of civilians
in My Lai (4).