Many My Lais

“The United States sent their troops over here with the intent to destroy all, burn all, and kill all. They destroyed the land. In the South, the Americans burned villages and herded the women and children into camps surrounded by barbed wire. South Vietnam became an enormous prison. Many children couldn’t go to school, people weren’t free to work their land. They killed brutally, indiscriminately. You remember the massacre at My Lai, in Quang Ngai Province. There were many other villages where the people were massacred. My Lai was only the worst.” 

– Mrs. Truong My Hoa

Combatants are not the main participants in modern war. Modern war affects civilians far more and far longer than combatants. Most American soldiers and Marines spent 12 or 13 months, respectively, serving in Vietnam. 

Vietnamese from what was once South Vietnam, in provinces like Quang Nam, Quang Ngai, Binh Dinh, as well as those of the Mekong Delta – rural population centers that were also hotbeds of the revolution — lived the war week after week, month after month, year after year, from one decade into the next. 

– Nick Turse

“[The My Lai Massacre] was different because they [the military] were killing Vietnamese point-blank with rifles and grenades. They were murdering them directly. They weren’t doing it with bombs and artillery. If they were doing it with bombs and artillery, nobody would have said a word, because it was going on all the time.”

-Neil Sheehan, Journalist in Vietnam speaking in the Ken Burns The Vietnam War series.

“What makes the memory of this war so worthy of repression is that its defining feature was mass atrocities against civilians. Rape; the massacres of women, children, and the elderly; military vehicles running over civilians for sport; ‘Zippo raids’ that burned down villages; indiscriminate shelling and aerial bombardment; despoliation of crops and drinking water; routinized torture—this was the unredeemable essence of our Vietnam War, not American teenagers coming of age and bonding against a bamboo backdrop, not ‘good intentions’ in Washington leading us into a ‘quagmire.’” 

-Nick Turse

– Nick Turse, Ken Burns Documentary Glosses Over Devastating Civilian Toll,
– Chase Madar, Vietnam: A War on Civilians,
– Martha Hess, And Then the Americans Came: Voices from Vietnam
– Heonik Kwon, After the Massacre; Commemoration and Consolation in Ha My and My Lai
– Nick Turse, Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam