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My Lai

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Cynthia Wu

on 13 March 2013

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Transcript of My Lai

My Lai Massacre In the Lake of the Woods vs. Let's first look at the actual massacre and the descriptions of it in O'Brien's book compared to the actual massacre. O'Brien wrote of the horrors of the war, such as soldiers shooting children and raping the girls living in My Lai before murdering them:
"He watched Weatherby shoot two little girls in the face. Deeper into the village, in front of a small L-shaped hootch, he came across a GI with a woman's black ponytail flowing from his helmet. The man wiped a hand across his crotch. He gave a little flip to the ponytail and smiled at Sorcerer and blooped an M-79 round into the L-shaped hootch" (O'Brien 106). The reader is able to get a glimpse of how one-sided the war was and that the army was mistaken about the Viet Congs being situated in My Lai, as there were only unarmed civilians:
"He shot the smoke, which shot back, and then he took refuge behind a pile of stones. If a thing moved, he shot it. If a thing did not move, he shot it" (O'Brien 63).

"The war was aimless. No targets, no visible enemy. There was nothing to shoot back at. Men were hurt and then more men were hurt and nothing was ever gained by it. The ambushes never worked. The patrols turned up nothing but women and kids and old men" (O'Brien 102). On page 107, O'Brien writes that the American soldiers were killing children and anything that they could kill. They killed villagers, including women and their babies, using knives and guns. In the evidence chapters, the soldiers admit to torturing the civilians by cutting their tongues out, cutting their hands off, and scalping them. O'Brien describes the ditch and the innocent people killed at My Lai to illustrate to the reader the crimes committed by the soldiers on page 139. This appeals to the readers' emotions and makes it clear how wrong the soldiers' actions were.
"It was seven to ten feet deep, maybe ten to fifteen feet across. The bodies were all across it. There was one group in the middle and more on the sides. The bodies were on top of each other" (O'Brien 139). Not only did the soldiers kill civilians, but they also killed anything that was living, including livestock:
"Just inside the village, Sorcerer found a pile of dead goats. He found a pretty girl with her pants down. She was dead too...He found dead dogs, dead chickens. Farther along, he encountered someone's forehead. He found three dead water buffalo. He found a dead monkey" (O'Brien 106). In the actual massacre, similar to the descriptions in the book, about 300 unarmed civilians were massacred (Mintz). Soldiers used bayonets and guns, and some even raped the girls before killing them. Civilians were clubbed and stabbed, and were tortured before being killed. Many had carved up chests and were disemboweled ("The My Lai Massacre"). The civilians were indeed unarmed, and no males were even old enough to be fighting (Mintz). Even though nobody fired back, the troops continued their "search and destroy" mission and killed anybody they saw, regardless of age, and anything that moved ("The My Lai Massacre"). They used methods of torture, and soldiers later admitted to cutting the civilians' throats, hands, and tongues out. They carved the words "C Company" into the chests of some civilians (Mintz). Hugh Thompson, a helicopter pilot, pleaded the soldiers to help the wounded; instead, they shot the wounded to "help" them out of their misery. Only one American was injured, with his own gun ("The Heroes"). Similarly, some Vietnamese were marched into and lined up in a drainage ditch, and the soldiers shot them one by one ("The Heroes"). Anyone who moved was shot at again, and anybody escaping was killed almost immediately by the soldiers. In addition to killing livestock, such as water buffalo and pigs, soldiers also poisoned rice fields, destroyed forests, and burned down religious pagodas (Nyden). As for the coverup of the massacre, in the book, Lieutenant Calley ordered the soldiers not to speak of what had happened at My Lai. Some lied during their trials, but there was no mentioning of the time period between the actual massacre and the revealing of what happened. In reality, the army did try to cover up what had happened at My Lai. After Hugh Thompson, a pilot, claimed that they killed villagers at My Lai, the commanders lied about how many were murdered and said that about twenty civilians had been killed accidentally. They reported that 128 of the enemy had been killed (Mintz). The massacre wasn't revealed until a year later, when another helicopter pilot took it a step further and wrote to political and military leaders. So...exactly how historically accurate is In the Lake of the Woods? It is quite accurate in depicting the horrors that occurred in the village of My Lai, concerning the killing and torture of the civilians. Many elements are the same when compared to what actually happened, especially noticeable through Sorcerer's experiences and the evidence chapters, where the soldiers spoke of the incident at their trials. However, it did not speak of how the soldiers lied about the number of civilians killed and their motives for entering My Lai, or of the actual cover up of the massacre. While the book only mentioned that the soldiers kept quiet, in reality, Hugh Thompson, the helicopter pilot, broke the silence and reported the killing of civilians. But, instead of telling the truth, the commanders lied that they killed civilians inadvertently. Not until a year later was everything revealed. Also, some of the characters were fictional. vs. vs. vs. vs. vs. We will now listen to Hugh Thompson's personal account. The soldiers shot at the ditch until all the civilians were dead, or until they all seemed dead. If anybody tried to escape, they shot and killed him:
"PFC Weatherby rattled off twenty rounds and wiped his rifle and reloaded and leaned over the ditch and shook his head and stood straight and kept firing....They shot anybody who was alive: "He watched a little boy climb out of the ditch and start to run, and he watched Calley grab the kid and give him a good talking to and then toss him back and draw down and shoot the kid dead." (O'Brien 214-215). Some of the characters in the book were made up, although the events were real. Paul Meadlo and William Calley were the real commanders of the army, but other soldiers like Richard Thinbill, who are often quoted in the evidence chapters, were made up by O'Brien.
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