Summary of Peers Report

A. THE SON MY VILLAGE INCIDENT

B. REPORTS OF THE INCIDENT

1. Reports of Civilian Casualties

2. Observations and Complaints by Aviation Personnel

3. The Order to Return to My Lai (4)

4. The Thompson Report Reaches Division Headquarters

C. INVESTIGATION OF THE INCIDENT AND REVIEW

1. COL Henderson's "Investigation"

D. SUPPRESSION AND WITHHOLDING OF INFORMATION

1. At Company Level

2. At Task Force and Brigade Levels


A. 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.

TF 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).

The 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

On 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.

During 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 found there.

During 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.

On 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 time.

By 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.

The 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.

Members 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.

The 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.

There 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.

By 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.

Since 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.

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* 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 400.

It 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.

On 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.

During 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.

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B. REPORTS OF THE INCIDENT

1. Reports of Civilian Casualties

Commencing 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.

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2. Observations and Complaints by Aviation Personnel

One 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.

Shortly 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."

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3. The Order to Return to My Lai (4)

At 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 Headquarters

Because 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 unit personnel.

At 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.

BG 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.

The 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 the incident.

C. INVESTIGATION OF THE INCIDENT AND REVIEW

1. COL Henderson's "Investigation"

BG 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.

Following 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.

Commencing 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

The initial reports from Vietnamese sources concerning the incident were apparently received by the US Advisory teams in Son Tinh District and Quang Ngai Province.

The 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.

In 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.
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* Includes the subhamlet of My Lai (4).
** Includes the subhamlet of My Khe (4).

Also 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 Advisor.

MG 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.

In 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.

MG 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.

D. SUPPRESSION AND WITHHOLDING OF INFORMATION

Within 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.

Efforts 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

No 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 gunships.

The 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 Levels

Significant 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 of operation.

A 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.

In 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.

Perhaps 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

There 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 had occurred.

A 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

Americal 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.

Additional 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.

In 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 not employed.

4. By Persons Outside the Americal Division

Among 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 the incident.

E. SUMMARY OF FINDINGS

It 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 the matter.

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 Vietnamese agencies.

3. Company C’s Actions on March 16 and 17, 1968

COMPANY 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.

A. OPERATIONS ON 16 MARCH

1. 0700-0750 Hours: The Combat Assault Phase

Shortly 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 P-26).

LTC Barker had departed earlier in his command and control helicopter and began to make final coordination for the artillery preparation and subsequent combat assault.

At 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.

At 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).

The 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).

The 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 hours.

CPT 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.

As 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.'

While 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.

Because 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 peninsula.

From 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.

While the platoons moved to establish the security perimeter, CPT Medina and the command group remained near the center of the LZ (see exhibit P-202).

As 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 killed.

The 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.

After 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.

The 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 fire.

To 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.

Almost 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).

LT 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 the west.

The 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 (south) .

The 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.

As 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, and children.

After 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 markers.

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.

As 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)

Following 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.

At 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.

After 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 (4)

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.

A 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)

As 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.

Members 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 (4).

As 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.

COL 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.

LTC 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 0845 hours.

5. 0845-0945 Hours: Location and Actions of Command Elements, and C Company at My Lai (4) and Binh Tay

By 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.

Between 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.

The 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.

Inside 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 Binh Tay.

On 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.

After 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 southeast.

Forward 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 aid."

After 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.

Following 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.

In 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 Binh Tay

Following 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.

At 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.

Following 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.

After 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

The 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)

LT 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.

After 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 of bodies.

Following 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.

W01 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.

COL 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.

Carter's 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.)

LTC 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.

LTC 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.

Following 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 10).

After 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).

Approximately 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.

COL 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.

The 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.

In 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.

Additional 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 estimate.

9. 1330-1530 Hours: Movement of C Company From My Lai (4) to Night Defensive Position

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 enemy killed.

B. 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.

Following 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

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.

When 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."

When 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 troops locations.

This demagogy makes some ARVN troops believe Americans are good friends. How happy it is if we have such good and rich friends!

But 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.

The 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.

Due 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.

A 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.

The fierce devil Americans dropped down their priest covers to become barbarous, and cruel.

American wolf forgot their good sheeps' appearance. They opened mouth to eat, drink our people blood with all their animal barbarity.

Our people have only one way, it is to kill them so they can not bite around anymore.

Vietnam 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.

The 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 there.

So 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 or not?

What 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.

This time: more than ever before
American guns are in your hands
Point to American heads and shoot!

(TRUE TRANSLATION TO THE BEST OF MY KNOWLEDGE, CHU LAI, REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM, 1 JANUARY 1970)


5. Suppression and Withholding of Information

SUPPRESSION AND WITHHOLDING OF INFORMATION
A. INTRODUCTION

One 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.

The 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.

B. C COMPANY, 1ST BATTALION, 20TH INFANTRY

1. Failure to Report Acts of Murder and Other War Crimes

It 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.

2. False Report of 20-28 Noncombatant Casualties

It 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.

3. Instructions Not to Discuss or Report the Operation of 16 March

Upon 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."

C. B COMPANY, 4TH BATTALION, 3D INFANTRY

1. Reports of VC Killed

On 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.

2. Failure to Report Acts of Murder and Other War Crimes

Testimony 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.

D. TASK FORCE BARKER AND 11TH BRIGADE

Some 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.

1. Failure to Report Casualties Inflicted by C/1-20 Inf After 0840 Hours

Until 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.

2. Failure to Report Noncombatant Casualties

It 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.

While 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.

In 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.

3. Changes in Report of 69 VC Killed by C Company

One 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.

During 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.

A 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 answered.

4. Failure to Report Allegations of War Crimes

A 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.

5. Failure to Report Acts of Destruction of Private Property

During 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.

6. Change in Report of 30-40 VC Departing My Lai (4)

At 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.

7. TF Barker's Combat Action Report

Periodically, 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.

In 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.

The 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."

An appreciation of the misleading and deceptive nature of LTC Barker's report can be gained from the following extract:

"Commander's 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."

The 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.

8. Withholding and Suppression of Knowledge and Evidence of War Crimes by Information Office Personnel

On 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.

After 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).

Later 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.

Neither 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.

It 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.

E. COL HENDERSON'S REPORTS

After 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.

COL 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.

COL 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.

F. COMPANY B, 123D AVIATION BATTALION

There 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 ends.

1. Failure to Make a Spot-Report of Alleged War Crimes

Upon 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.

2. Failure to Report the Complete Facts Concerning Allegations of War Crimes

The 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.

3. Instructions to Members of the Unit to Curb Discussion of the Son My Operation

Testimony 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.

4. Failure to Take Appropriate Action When Convinced a "Cover-Up" Was Taking Place

MAJ 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 record.

5. Failure to Act on Reports of Extensive Civilian Casualties

Several 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.

G. HEADQUARTERS, 123D AVIATION BATTALION

The 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 deny suspicions.

H. HEADQUARTERS, AMERICAL DIVISION

On 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.

While 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.

It 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.

The 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.

1. Failure to Report Information Concerning Noncombatant Casualties

MG 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.

2. Failure to Report Allegations of Suspected War Crimes

While 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.

3. Failure to Insure a Thorough and Impartial Investigation of Allegations of War Crimes

Upon 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.

4. Efforts by the Division Command Group to Limit Information Concerning Noncombatant Casualties and Alleged War Crimes

From 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.

5. Failure of the Division Chaplain to Report Allegations of War Crimes

As 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.

I. ACTIONS BY PERSONNEL OUTSIDE THE AMERICAL DIVISION

Among 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.

J. SUMMARY

It 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.

One 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.

Another 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

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

I ON THE BASIS OF THE FOREGOING, THE FINDINGS OF THE INQUIRY ARE AS FOLLOWS:

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 inhabitants.

(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 Barker.

(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 be conducted.

(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 facts.

(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 1968.

(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 located.

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 following:

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;

or 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:

NAME 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 Active Duty
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 Barker Civilian
Willingham, Thomas K. CPT (then 1LT) Plt Ldr, 1st Plt, B/4-3 Inf Active Duty
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 Inf Civilian
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 (31st PID)
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 Training

(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 property.

(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 as to:

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 of noncombatants.

F. Peripheral Issues

Findings regarding peripheral issues are discussed in Annex B.

II. 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 action.

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

PEERS REPORT
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.

b. 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 C Company.

c. He failed to take any action to insure that medical treatment was provided to noncombatants in the Son My area on 16 March.

d. 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).

e. 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.

g. 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 reports.

h. 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 without substance.

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 ever conducted.

(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 Rodriguez.

l. He gave false testimony before the Inquiry in a manner calculated to mislead this Inquiry in many particulars. For example, he testified that:

(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

PEERS REPORT:
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 followed.

b. 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.

c. There is evidence that he possibly killed as many as three noncombatants in My Lai (4).

d. He probably conspired with LTC Barker and others to suppress information concerning the killing of noncombatants during the Son My operation.

e. 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 his Congressman.

(3) Giving false reports as to the number of noncom killed by the men of C/1-20 Inf and the cause of death.

f. He failed to report the killings in and around My Lai (4) as a possible war crime as required by MACV Directive -4.

g. 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.

h. 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.

i. 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.

j. 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.

k. 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 (4).

1. 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).


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