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
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
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
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.
PEERS REPORT PAGE
MY LAI COURTS-MARTIAL HOMEPAGE