Journal of American Studies



Atrocity, Authenticity and American Exceptionalism: (Ir)rationalising the Massacre at My Lai


KENDRICK OLIVER a1
a1 Department of History at the University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton S017 1BJ.

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On the morning of 16 March 1968, the men of Charlie Company, 11th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division, US Army, entered the village of Son My, on the coast of Central Vietnam. The company was led by Captain Ernest Medina. In charge of the company's 1st Platoon was Lieutenant William Calley. The company encountered no enemy forces, no opposing fire of any kind. Its only casualty was self-inflicted. Nevertheless, by early afternoon, over 400 villagers lay dead. Those killed were – almost exclusively – either women, old men or small children. For many of the women, rape had preceded death. Other victims had been tortured and mutilated, then killed. Much of the killing, though not all, had occurred in the collection of hamlets known by the Americans as My Lai 4 and had been conducted by 1st Platoon.



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