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My Lai 4: A History Class Book Report
On March 16, 1968, "Charlie Company" was sent into a small Viet Cong village called (by the U.S.) My Lai 4. Their instructions by commanding officers were: "... kill every man, woman, child and animal in the village. Burn all the homes .... nothing should be walking, growing or crawling." Orders were followed, and as I read the first 65 pages of this book, I was exposed to the detailed death of 306 civilians, mostly women, small children, and old people. There was no threat to any American GIs ... there were no Viet Cong Solders in the area. I read of the rape of a 14 year old girl by twenty GIs ... in front of the parents. They were all shot after the GIs were "done with their business." This was only one of many. Most of the murders were conducted, BY ORDER OF OFFICERS, to round-up the families from their homes, forced into ditches, and shot. Women dove to cover their children. Later, children just old enough to walk crawled out from under their mutilated mothers' bodies, only to be shot as target practice by the GIs. It is later estimated that approximately 500 civilians were murdered, and (probably) no VC were in the area. I could go into detail about the killing. However, most of the book was devoted to the time before the massacre, and afterward. The officers and GIs of "Charlie Company" were introduced in the beginning of the book: the officers had been social outcasts all their life (LT. Calley & Medina). Both had decided to devote their life to the military. The GIs were selected for "Charlie Company" specifically because they had all scored too low on the initial exam to be put into a regular battalions. After the massacre, nothing was done. As a matter of fact, "Charlie Company" was praised for having the "most kills" in one day. By late 1969, most of the GIs in Charlie Company were civilians again, and a few began to tell what they had seen (and participated in). A Government Investigation was called against Lt. Calley (who ordered, and participated in the murders). Some of the photographs from the massacre were published. You wouldn't believe what the civilian response was! The overwhelming public response was to drop the charges; they thought that there was nothing wrong with the massacre, OR they didn't believe it really happened. As a matter of fact, Lt. Calley had become a hero as an AMERICAN! There was a hugely-supported donation drive to pay for Calley's legal fees. The final outcome: nothing. Calley was demoted to a Army "Office Job" after the murders were proved. The soldiers of Charlie Company went on with life, most of whom are/were suffering mental disorders from the scaring event. Calley's officer above him (who REALLY gave the initial orders) was never investigated, though it was proven that he also participated in the massacre. The author, Seymour M. Hersh, wrote (I read that book 3 years ago), which is credited with having a major influence on this country's decision to stop production of biological weapons. Mr. Hersh began his journalism career as a police reporter for the city news bureau in Chicago, and later covered the Pentagon for the Associated Press. Mr. Hersh was press secretary for the Senator Eugene McCarthy early in his campaign for Democratic Presidential nomination. He won a special George Polk Memorial Award in February, 1970, and the Worth Bengham Prize in March, 1970, for his reporting on the My Lai 4 massacre. He is married and lives in Washington, D.C. As I have read 2 books by this man, I feel that he provides some really good, controversial information. He has obviously done a lot of studying. From the information I could find on him, I cannot determine if he has had any past occurrences that motivated him to find out about atrocities of war. However, he may be like me .... and has a bit of compassion for others, and hates to see others hurt by unnecessary wars! In the preface of this book, Mr Hersh made a point to outline his sources. Everything in the book is a compilation of quotes from different people who participated in the massacre, and people who saw it. He published letters written by the GIs after the massacre (some of them I had seen in Zinn's book too!). He printed public opinion polls of the time, and generally avoided printing his own opinion. However, as any book written, he definitely projected the event as a negative occurrence; but, with as little of his own printed opinion as possible. Also at the end of the book, there is a notes section. If a quote or fact was really in question, he has all of his sources are listed. This was a good-read. A very serious situation was wrote about, in a way that there was nothing but quotes and facts presented. At the same time, it was INTERESTING! I was able to read half the book in an afternoon easily! However, the only thing I would change, if I wrote the book would be the EMOTION behind it. I have studied the Vietnamese culture myself from other books ... I want to know how THEY feel and believe. This side was not presented; but, because of personal knowledge, his information was very useful. Without a doubt, I would recommend this book to anyone who supports wars or the Army in general. Too many people are isolated from what war IS, and how it effects civilians. Perhaps it would force today's ignorant people to THINK about our recent "police action:" DESERT STORM. For some reason (the Media), nobody thinks that anyone DIED! I love the last line in the book: "The people didn't know what they were dying for, and the guys didn't know why they were shooting them." Quote: Carter, Soldier in Charlie Company.

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