The purpose of this chapter is to describe in detail those events involving actions of Company C, lst Battalion, 20th Infantry (C/l-20 Inf) and its supporting elements in and around My Lai (4) on 16 March, and in My Khe Hamlet on 17 March.
A. OPERATIONS ON 16 MARCH
1. 0700-0750 Hours: The Combat Assault Phase
Shortly before 0700 hours, the men of C Company, completed the issuance of ammunition and - made final checks of their weapons and equipment. They then moved to the loading area at Landing zone (LZ) Dottie where the lift helicopters and gunships were arriving (see exhibit P-26).
LTC Barker had departed earlier in his command and control helicopter and began to make final coordination for the artillery preparation and subsequent combat assault.
At approximately 0720 hours, "War Lord" gunships the aero-scout team, which had flown from their base at Chu Lai, approached the Son My area from the north. The lead gunship contacted Task Force (TF) Barker by radio and advised the net control station that the team would remain over the operational area pending commencement of the combat assault.
At 0722 hours, the first elements of C Company were lifted off from LZ Dottie and headed to the southwest. The selected flight path was intended to serve as a diversionary move away from the target area, and to permit the lift ships to make their final approach into the LZ (from south to north) without having to cross the gun-target line for the artillery preparation (see sketch 6-1).
The artillery preparation began at 0724 hours and continued for about 5 minutes. The rounds impacted on the LZ and portions of My Lai (4). As the preparation began, those inhabitants of My Lai (4) who had been working in the rice paddies surrounding the hamlet sought cover along dikes and in the numerous buffalo wallows which dotted the rice fields. Inside the hamlet, other inhabitants took cover in homrnade shelters or bunkers adjacent to their houses and in the several wells located throughout My Lai (4).
The artillery preparation ceased just prior to 0730 hours, as the troop lift helicopters were inbound on their final approach to the LZ. Smoke and fires, caused inside the hamlet by the artillery preparation, were clearly visible from the inbound helicopters (see exhibit P-195). Accompanying "Shark" gunships preceded the C Company insertion by placing rocket and machine gun fires along both flanks of the LZ and probably into the western portion df My Lai (4). The first lift of C Company touched down at 0730 hours.
CPT Medina testified that upon landing he reported the LZ as "cold" (free of enemy fire). Shortly thereafter, according to Medina, a helicopter pilot cut in on the radio and reported "Negative, negative - the LZ is hot. You are receiving fire. We are taking fire. There are VC with weapons running from the village, and we are engaging them now" or words to that effect. Medina has further testified that based on this information, he immediately informed his platoon leaders that the LZ was "hot." Medina's recollection of this event is substantiated neither by the TF Barker Journal which officially recorded the LZ as "cold," nor by the record of LTC Barker's radio conversation with the leader of the who confirmed that the LZ was free of enemy fire. It is possible that CPT Medina gained the impression that the LZ was "hot" by monitoring transmissions between LTC Barker and the "Shark" and/or "War Lord" gunships which were, in fact, then in the process of engaging a few armed enemy fleeing from the hamlet. Whether CPT Medina's orders to his platoon were based on facts or on an assumption it seems likely that such orders, if issued, may have served as a final release for the events which followed.
As the first elements of C Company began to deploy on the LZ, an OH-23 helicopter from the aero-scout team arrived in the area south of My Lai (4). The pilot of the scout ship immediately spotted an armed Viet Cong (VC) south of Route 521 running toward the south-southwest (see sketch 6-2). The door gunner in the scout ship fired at the VC but missed. Accompanying "War Lord" gunships then set up and made a northeast to southwest rocket run on his last observed location. Subsequently they were unable to confirm that the VC had been killed.'
While the lift helicopters returned to LZ Dottie for the second lift of C Company, their accompanying "Shark" gunships began to orbit counterclockwise over the area to the north of Route 521. As they passed along the southern edge of My Lai (4), an airborne forward air controller (FAC) spotted an armed VC running to the east on a trail along the southern edge of the hamlet. The FAC immediately notified the "Sharks" who took the VC under fire, missed him, turned out to the northeast, and set up for a south to north rocket run. After coordinating air space with the "War Lords", the "Sharks" engaged and apparently killed the man in the extreme southeastern edge of the hamlet. After shifting their orbit back to the north of Route 521, the "Sharks" were notified by the FAC that he had spotted two more armed VC fleeing to the northeast of the LZ. The VC were quickly engaged and killed by "Shark" door gunners. In a subsequent orbit to the south, the "Sharks" spotted a fourth individual (equipped with web gear) who was running to the south of the hamlet. He was also engaged and reported as killed. The "Sharks" then began to drop smoke markers near the bodies to mark their locations for subsequent retrieval of weapons and equipment by elements of C Company.
Because of the congestion of air space around My Lai (4), the 'War Lord" aero-scout team decided to shift its orbit farther to the southeast and shortly thereafter began to reconnoiter along the coastal peninsula.
From the LZ, the lst Platoon of C Company had moved eastsoutheast for about 150 meters and set up its portion of the security perimeter with the lst Squad on the right (south) and the 2d Squad to the left (north) (see sketch 6-3).
Elements of the 2d Platoon moved approximately 200 meters to the east-northeast and established a artial perimeter extending from the western edge of My Lai (4) back to the northwest.
While the platoons moved to establish the security perimeter, CPT Medina and the command group remained near the center of the LZ (see exhibit P-202).
As the platoons moved away from the LZ, Vietnamese began to appear from various shelters and hiding areas in and around the rice paddies. They were taken under fire by elements of both the lst and 2d Platoons and a number of them (approximately 4-9) were killed.
The lst Platoon was halted when it reached the western edge of the hamlet and set up security positions along the dikes in that area, with SGT Mitchell's lst Squad on the right (South). SSG Bacon's 2d Squad set up to the left (north) flank of the Platoon and quickly opened fire on what was reported to be an armed individual or group of armed individuals Observed inside the southwestern edge of the hamlet. Most of the remainder of the platoon ' then began firing toward the hamlet into "suspected enemy positions" such as bushes, bunkers, and wells, and at Vietnamese fleeing to the southwest of the hamlet.
After halting and attempting to tie in its right flank with the lst Platoon, the 2d Platoon also began to fire upon Vietnamese in the rice paddies to its north, and placed a heavy volume of fire into the northwestern portion of My Lai (4). Several Vietnamese were hit and apparently killed as a result of this fire.
The second and final lift of C Company departed LZ Dottie at 0738 hours (see exhibit P-27). As the lift ships were making their final approach into the secured LZ, CPT Medina marked the designated touchdown point with smoke and assisted in guiding the ships in. The second lift touched down at 0747 hours (see exhibit P-65 and P-29). As the lift ships were departing the LZ, the lead pilot reported to LTC Barker, who was overhead in his helicopter, that the lift had received fire from one of the surrounding hamlets as they were making their descent into the LZ. Based on this information, the LZ was recorded in the TF Journal as "hot." Neither the helicopters nor their passengers sustained any hits from the fire.
To the south of the LZ, the "Sharks" threw smoke markers near the body of the VC killed previously to the north of Route 521. They requested that Barker dispatch ground elements to the south to retrieve the man's equipment. The "War Lords" who were by that time conducting aerial reconnaissance along the coast, reported to Barker that they had also killed two additional armed enemy south of the LZ. Based on this information, Barker directed Medina to dispatch an element to the south.
Almost immediately after landing, the 3d Platoon Leader (LT [now Mr.] LaCross) received orders from CPT Medina to send an element from his platoon to retrieve the enemy equipment and weapons to the south (see sketch 6-4).
LT LaCross directed his 3d Squad Leader, SP4 (now Mr.) Grimes, to move his men out to the south toward the smoke markers dropped by the "Sharks" gunships. As they moved out (see exhibit P-64), they were accompanied by LaCross, his radio operator, and two llth Brigade Public Information office (PIO) men. The remainder of the 3d Platoon and a mortar squad from' the company weapons platoon had meanwhile moved a short distance off the LZ to the northwest. They oriented their defensive perimeter generally toward the west.
The remaining elements of the 2d Platoon, who had landed in the second lift, moved rapidly to the northeast and assembled with the rest of the platoon. After link-up, the platoon was deployed with SGT Hodges' lst Squad on the left (north), CPL (now SGT) Schiel's 2d Squad in the center, and SGT LaCroix's 3d Squad on the right (south) .
The lst and 2d Platoons were deployed generally along the western edge of the hamlet, and at approximately 0750 hours began moving to the east. As they entered My Lai (A), CPT Medina and the command group moved a short distance to the northeast and set up a temporary commandpost location outside the hamlet.
2. 0750-0845 Hours: Actions of 3d Platoon, Aviation, and Command Elements Outside of My Lai (4)
At about 0755 hours, LTC Barker contacted his tactical operations center (TOC) at LZ Dottie to notify them that all of C Company's elements were on the ground and that the 3d Platoon element was moving out to secure weapons and equipment from VC killed by the gunships. He also reported that C Company had had no contact as of that time but was informed by the TOC that C Company had already been credited with 15 VC killed. These apparently had been reported previously by CPT Medina.
As LT LaCross and his 3d Squad approached the area where the VC body had been marked by the "Sharks, " the smoke markers burned out (see sketch 6-5). They searched the area for a short time but were unable to find the weapon, and consequently began to move back toward the LZ. LT LaCross contacted CPT Medina and advised him that they were returning to My Lai (4). Medina, however, ordered them to remain in that area and continue their search for weapons and equipment. Th their south, the "Sharks" had spotted another armed VC running southwest along the southern edge of Route 521. The "Sharks" took him under fire as he evaded toward a small tree line running south from the road. By 0800 hours, several groups of Vietnamse from My Lai (4) and surrounding subhamlets had begun moving out of the area to the southwest along Route 521. As the "Sharks" fired on the VC south of the highway, many of the Vietnamese squatted along the road. These groups were composed primarily of old men, women, and children.
After apparently killing the armed VC, the "Sharks" began dropping smoke markers on his location and the location of several wmo boxes which the VC had discarded in his attempts to evade. The "Sharks" notified LTC Barker of the details, and LI' LaCross' 3d Squad, which was already moving farther south, was told to orient its movement on the "Sharks" smoke markers.
At approximately 0800 hours, LTC Barker was contacted by MAJ McKnight, who was airborne over the area with COL Henderson, and was informed about the large number of people moving out along Route 521 to the southwest. MAJ McKnight also indicated that COL Henderson's command and control helicopter was orbiting over the departing group of people.
As LT LaCross and SP4 Grimes' 3d Squad approached Route 521, they observed the group of Vietnamese moving to the southwest. The squad took the group under fire (see exhibit P-30). Members of the squad and "Shark" crew members who were overhead testified that from three to 15 Vietnamese were killed by the squad's initial volley (see exhibits P-31, P-38)
Following the killing of the Vietnamse, a part of the 3d Squad remained along the road to search for documents and equipment (see exhibit P-26),. The remainder of the squad proceeded across the road to the south. As they crossed the road, a woman (possibly accompanied by a small girl) was observed hiding in a ditch which paralleled the road. "Shark" crew members who were still orbiting over the area observed an individual, followed by a radio operator, shoot and kill the woman (see P-32). (The two PIO men who had accompanied the 3d Squad to the south also observed the woman when she was alive and subsequently saw her after she had been killed.) The squad element then moved farther south and retrieved a weapon and two ammunition boxes, probably from the body of the VC killed by the "Sharks." After recovering the weapon, the soldiers who had gone south of the road, returned to rejoin the rest of the squad.
At approximately 0810 hours, the aero-scout team contacted COL Henderson's helicopter and notified MAJ McKnight that two VC suspects had been separated from the large group of Vietnamese moving to the southwest, and that the two suspects were stripped down (i.e. had taken their shirts off) and were available for pickup. Shortly thereafter, COL Henderson's helicopter landed 400-500 meters southwest of the 3d Squad's location and picked up the two suspects. Wol (now lLT) Thompson was pilot of the scout ship that had separated and cornered the suspects.
After assisting COL Henderson with the apprehension of the two VC suspects, W01 Thompson began aerial reconnaissance of the area around the crest of Hill 85 and discovered a cache of enemy 60mm mortar ammunition. An infantry platoon from the aero-scout company was subsequently inserted on the hill to capture and destroy the ammunition. Because of its involvement with the capture of the ammunition, and because of its return to LZ Dottie for refueling, the aero-scout team was somewhat separated from the actions in and around My Lai (4) from about 0815 hours until after 0900 hours. The "Shark" gunships also returned to LZ Dottie for refueling and rearming between 0845 and 0900 hours.
The 3d Squad left Route 521 and began retracing its route back to the north toward the LZ (see sketch 6-6). En route, members of the squad detected two Vietnamese running southwest from the vicinity of My Lai (4) across the squad's path. They were fired on by the squad and were either killed or wounded. There is evidence to indicate that at least one of the individuals was a child. The evidence also indicates that these two people, or a subsequent group of Vietnamese encountered by the 3d Squad (before reaching the LZ), were killed or "finished off" at close range by a machinegunner working with the squad (see exhibit P-39). As the squad continued northi at least one of its members observed a large group of Vietnamese, under the guard of US sol.diers, off to his east near the southern edge of My Lai
The squad returned to the southwest corner of the hamlet at approximately 0845 hours. The entire 3d Platoon then began moving into the western edge of My,Lai (4), for the mop-up operation. The PIO men who had accompanied SGT Grimes's squad to the south, observed the squad as it began to burn the houses in the southwestern portion of the hamlet (see exhibits P-60, 59, 69 ' and 68) and then moved off to the northwe st where CPT Medina and the command group were still located jus t inside the western edge of the hamlet.
3. 0750-0845 Hours: Initial Actions of Ist Platoon Inside My Lai (4)
In the lst Platoon sector, LT Calley and his radio operator followed behind the right (lst) squad led by SCT Mitchell. The platoon sergeant, SFC Cowan, moved behind SSG Bacon's 2d squad. (The general directions of squad movements shown on sketch 6-7 result from a detailed reconstruction based on witness staternents as to location/distance/time where they observed or participated in certain actions. The routes portrayed are at best the central axes of the paths followed by most members of the squads.)
As the lst Platoon moved into the hamlet, its soldiers began placing heavy fire on fleeing Vietnamese, throwing grenades into houses and bunkers, slaughtering livestock, and destroying foodstuffs. Several witnesses testified to having observed an old Vietnamese man being bayoneted to death by a member of the Platoon and to having seen another man thrown alive into a well and subsequently killed with a hand grenade. Several members of the platoon also testified to having participated in "mercy" killings of badly wounded Vietnamese as the platoon advanced. The 1st Platoon's actions in the southwestern portion of My Lai (4 ) were characterized by one notable, albeit transient, difference from the actions of the 2d Platoon - live detainees were rounded up, in the midst of the scattered killing and destruction. As the villagers were collected, they were moved generally eastward to the main north-south trail running through the center of the village (see sketch 6-7). After reaching the trail, they were moved south in two main groups toward LT Calley's location. The first group consisted of 60-70 people, comprised primarily of women and children. A few elderly males were also among the group. After reaching the southern edge of the hamlet, the first group was escorted by a few soldiers from the lst Squad to a ditch located approximately 100-150 meters to the east of the southeastern edge of the village. After reaching the ditch they were herded into it and kept under guard.
A second group of villagers, numbering between-20 and 50, also was moved south along the main north-south trail and then moved out into the rice paddies where they were placed under the guard of several men (probably a fire team) from the lst Squad. This second group of villagers reached the southern edge of the hamlet at approximately 0830 hours.\
4. 0750-0845 Hours: Initial Actions of 2d Platoon and Command Elements in and North of My Lai (4)
As the 2d Platoon entered My Lai (4), LT Brooks (2d Platoon Leader) followed behind the right flank (3d) squad led by SGT LaCroix. Platoon Sergeant Buchanon testified that he generally followed behind SGT Hodges' left flank (lst) squad. CPL Schiel led the 2d Squad located in the center (see sketch 6-8). As the platoon advanced through the northwestern and north-central part of the hamlet, members of the various squads became intermingled with each other and, in some cases, with elements of the lst Platoon located to their right flank.
Members of the 2d Platoon began killing Vietnamese inhabitants of My Lai (4) as soon as they entered its western edge. The evidence available indicates they neither sought to take nor did they retain any prisoners, suspects, or detainees while in My Lai (4). As they advanced and discovered homemade bunkers or bomb shelters, many of the soldiers yelled "Lai Day" (the Vietnamese words for "come here"). Failing any response from the Vietnamese inside the bunkers, the soldiers tossed fragmentation grenades into the bunkers, and followed up by spraying the inside with small arms fire. Many witnesses also testified that when Vietnamese did respond most of them were shot down as they exited the bunkers. In at least three instances inside the village, Vietnamese of all ages were rounded up in groups of 5-10 and were shot down. Other inhabitants were shot down in the paddies bordering the northern edge of the hamlet while attempting to escape. Women and children, many of whom were small babies, were killed sitting or hiding inside their homes. At least two rapes were participated in and observed by members of the platoon. Most of the livestock and fowl inside the hamlet were also slaughtered. A precise determination of the number of Vietnamese killed by the 2d Platoon is virtually impossible. However, the preponderance of the evidence indicates that at least 50 and perhaps as many as 100 inhabitants, comprised almost exclusively of old men, women, children, and babies, were killed by members of the 2d Platoon while they were in My Lai (4).
As the platoon approached the northeastern portion of the village, LT Brooks received a call from CPT Medina directing him to move the entire platoon to the north to secure two weapons from VC killed earlier by "Shark" gunships which were, by this time, re-marking the location of the VC bodies with smoke. The 2d Platoon exited the northern edge of My Lai (4) at approximately 0830 hours. Up to that time it had taken no casualties, and the preponderance of the testimony strongly indicates it had received no enemy fire.
COL Henderson had continued to orbit the operational area after his pickup of the two VC suspects, and after observing the B Company combat assault, returned to the area where "Shark" gunships were marking the location of the two VC they had killed to the north of My Lai (4). The smoke was used to assist in orienting the movements of the 2d Platoon which was moving north from the hamlet toward the smoke markers. After observing the ground troops move to within 100-150 meters of the two bodies and weapons, COL Henderson apparently departed for LZ Dottie to refuel and drop off the two suspects.
LTC Barker also had been orbiting over the operational area for most of the morning. After coordinating the B Company combat assault on My Lai (1), he made a final check with CPT Medina and then headed back to LZ Dottie for refueling. During the conversation with CPT Medina, he was apparently informed that C Company had accounted for a total of 84 enemy killed. Fifteen enemy killed had been reported earlier by CPT Medina to the TF TOC. En route, LTC Barker contacted the TOC and advised them that he was returning to refuel and would bring them Up to date on the results of the operation. LTC Barker arrived at LZ Dottie at approximately 0835 hours. An entry, crediting C Company with the additional 69 enemv killed, was made on the TF Barker Journal as of 0840 hours.
Using the smoke markers of the "Sharks" to guide on, the 2d Platoon found the two VC bodies north of My Lai (4) and retrieved a carbine and an M-1 rifle from nearby. The two VC had been killed while running from the vicinity of the small subhamlet of Binh Tay (see sketch 6-9) located to the northwest of the 2d Platoon's position. The platoon was consequently ordered to Proceed to Binh Tay to check it out and reached its southern edge at approximately 0845 hours.
5. 0845-0945 Hours: Location and Actions of Command Elements, and C Company at My Lai (4) and Binh Tay
By 0855 hours, LTC Barker completed his refueling stop at LZ Dottie and was airborne over the operational area. COL Henderson, who arrived at LZ Dottie at approximately 0845 hours, apparently remained there until after 0950 hours.
Between 0845-0900 hours, the group of villagers (20-50) who had been moved by the lst Plat6on to the south of the hamlet and held under guard in the rice paddies were shot down by members of the platoon (see sketch 6-10). Following the killing, the fire team that had guarded the villagers was sent through the southeastern portion of the hamlet to round up additional villagers and move them farther east to the ditch LT Calley and the command group moved from south of the hamlet to the east and arrived at the ditch at approximately 0900 hours. SGT Mitchell's lst Squad (minus a fire team) had set up a defensive perimeter just to the east of the ditch. SSG Bacon's 2d Squad, which was moving through the northeastern portion of the hamlet, subsequently set up defensive positions as the left flank element of the platoon.
The fire team of the lst Squad, which had searched through the southeastern portion of the hamlet, arrived at the ditch at about 0900 hours and brought with it approximately 10 additional villagers. The villagers were herded into the ditch with the larger group of 60-70. (There has been testimony from Vietnamese witnesses that an additional number of villagers, pos sibly 50 or more, were either brought to the ditch from surrounding subhamlets or sought refuge in the ditch from the C Company action. Testimony from US personnel to substantiate the Vietnamese statements has not been developed by this Inquiry.) At approximately 0900-0915 hours, Vietnamese personnel who had been herded into the ditch were shot down by menters of the lst Platoon.
Inside the subhamlet of Binh Tay, the 2d Platoon continued the pattern of burning, killings, and rapes which it had followed in My Lai (4). Besides scattered killing which took place inside the subhamlet, a group of Vietnamese women and children (approximately 10-20) were rounded up, brought to the southern end of Binh Tay, and made to squat in a circle. Several 40mm rounds from an M-79 grenade launcher were fired into their midst, killing several and wounding many. The wounded were subsequently killed by small arms fire from members of the platoon. Witnesses from the platoon have testified to observing at least one gang-rape of a young Vietnamese girl, an act of sodomy, and several other rape/killings while inside Binh Tay.
On the LZ, the 3d Squad of the 3d Platoon had returned at approximately 0845 hours from its movement to the south. LT LaCross left the squad and moved to the northwest corner of the hamlet where he conferred with CPT Medina for a short while. CPT Medina told him to have his platoon begin moving through the village for the mop-up operation. LT LaCross followed behind SGT (now Mr.) Smail's lst Squad on the left (north) flank (see sketch 6-11). SGT Grimes' 3d Squad moved on the southern flank. The platoon, accompanied by SFC Maroney's mortar squad, entered the western edge of the hamlet between 0845-0900 hours. CPT Medina and his command group followed behind the platoon.
After CPT Medina and the command group had moved into the hamlet for a short distance (see sketch 6-12), an old Vietnamese man with two children was apprehended and brought to their location. He was interrogated by SGT Phu, CPT Medina's Vietnamese interpreter (see exhibits P-66 and 67). The old mm informed Medina that 30-40 VC had been in My Lai (4) the previous, evening but had departed the hamlet that morning prior to the combat assault. (This information was reported and recorded on the llth Brigade Journal. The command group then moved farther into the village toward the east and southeast.
Forward of the command group, the 3d Platoon went about the destruction of crops-and the burning of houses in a thorough systematic manner (see exhibits P-15, 35, 16, 33, 56, and 14). Throughout the hamlet, members of the platoon and the two PIO men who accompanied them observed the bodies of Vietnamese killed earlier during the lst and 2nd Platoons' advance (see exhibits P-34, 37, and 32). Members of the 3d Platoon slaughtered most of the remaining livestock, and in at least one instance participated in the killing of about five or six seriously wounded Vietnamese to "put them out of their misery" since "they did not give them medical aid."
After completion of his first refueling stop at LZ Dottie, It approximately 0845-0900 hours, W01 Thompson returned to the 'My Lai (4) area. MAJ Watke testified that since the "Shark" gunships had departed at this time, he had received permission for the aero-scout team to commence reconnaissance in the area north of Route 521. After arriving in the area, Thompson noticed numerous wounded Vietnamese south of the hamlet and observed the woman killed earlier by the 3d Platoon south of Route 52q. Thompson testified that he marked the location of the with smoke and contacted his lower gunship to request ground elements provide medical aid to the wounded. The lower gunship had the only radio with which Thompson could communicate. His transmissions were then relayed by the low gunship to the high gunship which in turn passed the information on to TF Barker elements over the TF command net). while reconnoitering for additional wounded to the east of the hamlet, his crew chief spotted the ditch containing the bodies of Vietnamese killed earlier by the lst Platoon. Seeing that some of the Vietnamese were still alive, Thompson landed between the ditch and the lst Platoon's defensive perimeter at approximately 0915-0930 hours. While on the ground, he spoke to a fire team leader in the lst Squad and then with LT Calley. Thompson testified that the sergeant's response to his question about helping the wounded was to the effect that the only way he could help them was to kill them. Thompson states that he thought the sergeant was joking. (The substance of Thompson's conversation with LT Calley is unknown, inasmuch as Thompson did not recall LT Calley at the ditch and LT Calley elected to remain silent before this Inquiry. Several members of the lst Platoon, including the sergeant with whom W01 Thompson spoke, testified or made sworn statements that LT Calley and W01 Thompson did talk with each other during the incident at the ditch.) Thompson subsequently took off, and his crew chief observed a sergeant shooting into the ditch. Thompson did not personally observe the shooting.
Following W01 Thompson's departure, several members of the lst Squad of the lst Platoon were ordered to return to My Lai (4) to assist the 3d Platoon in searching the eastern portion of the hamlet.
In the subhamlet of Binh Tay, the killing and rapes of Vietnamese by the 2d Platoon were stopped when LT Brooks received an order from CPT Medina at approximately 0915-0930 hours telling him to "cease fire" or "stop the killing," to round up the remaining inhabitants and move them out of the area, and to burn the houses. (whether this same order was also received by the lst and 3d Platoons is not entirely clear inasmuch as additional killing, involving members of both the lst and 3d Platoons, apparently did occur after this time. The basis for CPT Medina's order is even less clear. Since Medina and the command group were apparently moving inside My Lai (4) at this time, what Medina observed inside the hamlet may have caused him to issue the 0915-0930 order. If that were the case, however, it would appear that the same order would also have been issued to the lst and 3d Platoons. The evidence indicates that killing by members of the company, except for those in the 2d Platoon, continued until at least 1015 hours.-) Testimony conclusively indicates that following receipt of the order from CPT Medina, the remaining inhabitants of Binh Tay (consisting of about 50-60 people) were rounded up by the 2d Platoon and instructed to move out of the area. They departed to the southwest without further harm being done to them.
6. 0945-1045 Hours: Continuing Actions Involving C Company and Aviation Elements Around My Lai (4) - Return of 2d Platoon From Binh Tay
Following W01 Thompson's departure from the ditch east of My Lai (4), several members of the lst Platoon returned to the hamlet to assist the 3d Platoon in clearing the eastern portion. They became intermingled with members of the 3d Platoon in the vicinity of the main north-south trail running through the center of the hamlet (see sketch 6-13). Various members of both platoons observed numerous dead Vietnamese along the north-south trail inside the hamlet and several drifted far enough to the south that they observed the group killed earlier in the rice paddies (see exhibit P-41). During the time that the two elements were together, additional killings also took place. In one incident, a group of 7-12 women and children were herded together, and members of the 3d Platoon attempted to rip the blouse off a Vietnamese girl. They halted their attempts after observing that the PIO photographer was near their location and had taken a picture of the scene (see exhibit P-40). The women and children were then killed.
At approximately 0930-0945, the 2d Platoon departed Binh Tay and headed southeast toward the northeastern corner of My Lai (4) (see sketch 6-14). As they approached My Lai (4) some Of the members of the platoon re-entered the northern edge of the hamlet. Other elements of the platoon apparently moved farther to the east toward a point where they were eventually to establish a part of the company's defensive perimeter. The Platoon arrived in the area at approximately 0945-1000 hours.
Following the ditch incident with the lst Platoon, W01 Thompson had returned to the area south of My Lai (4) where he had earlier marked the positions of wounded Vietnamese. He testified that he contacted his low gunship to request that ground elements be sent to assist the wounded. His intent was misunderstood by the gunships, for at approximately0945 hours the high gunship contacted LTC Barker and identified the wounded/killed to the south of My Lai (4) as "8-9 'dinks'. . . with web gear and everything." The gunship also suggested that ground elements pick up the web gear and equipment from the bodies. (The probability that Thompson's message was either garbled or misunderstood by the gunships is further substantiatiated by the fact that during the events which followed there is no evidence to indicate that either wounded or killed VC (or any enemy equipment) were discovered by the C Company command element.
After directing CPT Medina to recover the equipment from the bodies being marked by Thompson, LTC Barker proceeded to the B company area where he landed to pick up three soldiers 4nd,o,u DY a boobytrap. He had his command and control helicopter then drop him off at LZ Dottie at approximately 0950 hours, while the B Company wounded were flown to a medical facility at Chu Lai
The C Company coninand group had exited the southern edge of My Lai (4) at approximately 0930-0945 hours (see sketch 6-15). They moved farther south after CPT Medina received LTC Barker's call indicating that VC bodies and weapons were being marked by smoke in that area. CPT Medina testified that he decided to check the area out himself since the platoons were engaged elsewhere. He stated that en route to the smoke markers he observed three dead Vietnamese, consisting of a man, a woman and a child (see sketch 6-15). Both he and LT (now Mr.) Alaux, his artillery forward observer (FO), testified that the appearance of the bodies indicated they had been killed by artillery or gunships. LT Alaux also testified that as they were approa ing the smoke, he believes someone in the command group fired at and hit a fleeing Vietnamese who was subsequently determine to be a woman. (The details surrounding CPT Medina's subsequent killing of the woman are, of course, a matter of current criminal investigation. CPT -Medina admitted shooting the woman The truth concerning the circumstances which caused him to shoot her is outside the scope of this Inquiry). Following the shooting of the woman, CPT Medina and the command group searched the surrounding area for a short while, and then headed back toward My Lai (4)
LT LaCross, 3d Platoon Leader, reached the northern edge of the hamlet and tried unsuccessfully to contact CPT Medina by radio. He testified that he wanted Medina to pass on to LT Brooks that he (LaCross) had spotted 15-20 Vietnamese males running in the vicinity of Binh Tay. LT LaCross' platoon medic testified that LaCross had tried, unsuccessfully, to contact Medina in an effort to find out the reason for all the killingIn any event, LaCross decided to move south,to personally contact Medina who was then approaching the southern edge of the hamlet from the southwest. LaCross went south on the main north-south trail as he traveled to meet Medina.
After the command group returned to My Lai (4) (see sketch 6-16), CPT Medina spoke to LT LaCross for a few minutes and then directed him to return to the northern part of the hamlet to complete the sweep through the eastern edge of the hamlet., Evidence indicates that during the time frame in which Medina spoke to LaCross, various members of the command group strayed from Medina's location and were involved in random killing of wounded Vietnamese located in the vicinity of the intersection formed by the north-south trail and the east-west trail at the southern edge.of the hamlet. After LaCross left, Medina proceeded farther east, along the east-west trail, and observed the bodies of the villagers located to the south in the rice paddies. He testified that he observed 20-24 bodies. He did not examine the bodies to actually determine the cause of death, but testified that he considered them "innocent civilians." There is evidence that during the time he observed the bodies, a member of his command group also shot and killed a small child who was standing, crying, in the midst of the group of bodies.
Following the incident involving CPT Medina's shooting of the woman, W01 Thompson continued to reconnoiter the area east of My Lai (4). While so engaged, Thompson's crew chief spotted a bunker occupied by Vietnamese children (see sketch 6-17). Thompson observed US troops approaching the area and landed near the bunker. SP4 (now Mr.) Colburn, Thompson's door gunner, testified that Thompson told his crew that if the American troops fired on the Vietnamse, while he (Thompson) was trying to get them out of the bunker, the crew was to fire back at them. Thompson then got out of the aircraft. Thompson testified that he spoke with a lieutenant and told him there were women and children in the bunker, and asked if the lieutenant would help get them out. According to Thompson, "he [the lieutenant] said the only way to get them out was with a hand grenade." Thompson testified he then told the lieutenant to "just hold your men right where they are, and I'll get the kids out. (In June 1969, Thompson identified the lieutenant, from a personnel lineup, as having been LT Calley. While the evidence is clear that Thompson had spoken to LT Calley earlier at the ditch, there is evidence to indicate that it was probably the 2d Platoon leader, LT Brooks, who talked with Thompson at the bunker. ) Thompson then walked over to the bunker, motioned for the Vietnamese to come out, and discovered that there were approximately 12-16 people consisting of one or two old men, several women, and children. Thompson then went back to his aircraft and called the low gunship pilot, W01 (now CW2) Millians. He asked Millians to set down and assist in the evacuation. WO1 Millians. landed just north of the bunker. He subsequently made two or three trips to evacuate the Vietnarnese from the bunker to a safe area southwest of My Lai (4) along Route 521.
W01 Thompson, W01 Millians, and other "War Lords" crew members who were airborne over the area during this time, testified that several large groups of bodies were clearly visible from the air - one group was located along Route 521, another in the ditch, a further one south of the hamlet, and another north of the hamlet.
COL Henderson testified that after departing LZ Dottie (at approximately 1000 hours) he returned to and overflew the operational area for a period of time. He departed the area at approximately 1030 hours.
After observing the bodies of the villagers located in the rice paddies to his south, CPT Medina and the command group probably moved east from the intersection of the north-south trail and east-west trail (see sketch 6-18). As they were moving, CPT Medina received a report that a member of the lst Squad, lst Platoon, had been wounded inside the village. The soldier, PFC (now Mr.) Carter, shot himself through the foot while trying to clear his .45 caliber pistol. This pistol jammed while being used by a member of CPT Medina's command group. Several members of the squad testified that the pistol was used to finish off wounded Vietnamese, including one 4-5 year old child.
Carter's wound was initially treated inside the village where he had discharged the weapon (see exhibits P-6 and 7). He was then carried south on the north-south trail (see exhibit P-9) and was held near the north-south and east-west trail intersection until a medical evacuation helicopter could be provided (see exhibits P-8, 10, and 36.)
LTC Barker's command and control helicopter, which had just returned from taking the B Company wounded to Chu Lai, was dispatched to My Lai (4) to pick up Carter and return him to LZ Dottie. LTC Barker remained at Dottie during the medical evacuation.
LTC Barker's helicopter arrived in an area just southwest of the intersection of the two trails and Carter was brought out into the rice paddy for pickup (see exhibits P-11 and 12). The copilot of the helicopter testified that he observed the group of bodies on the north-south trail, while waiting for Carter to be put aboard. Carter was evacuated to LZ Dottie at 1025 hours.
Following Carter's medical evacuation, the command group remained in the general area of the intersection for approximately 15-20 minutes (see sketch 6-19). Several witnesses testified that during this period, a few remaining Vietnamse were rounded up and interrogated by CPT Medina and the attached military intelligence (MI) team, while most of the command group rested (see exhibits P-4, 3, 2, and 13). There is some evidence to indicate that one of the Vietnamese, an elderly male, may have been shot and killed by a Vietnamese interpreter, subsequent to interrogation.
During this same period, the attached PIO and MI teams requested and received a helicopter to take them from My Lai (4) to the B Company area (see Exhibit P-17).
At approximately 1030-1045, CPT Medina received an order from MAJ Calhoun, TF S3, to "stop the killing" or "stop the shooting." CPT Medina testified that he assumed the order was generated by the helicopter pilot (WO1 Thompson) having observed his shooting of the woman. MAJ Calhoun admits that he issued such an order, but was not clear as to the timing involved. His testimony is also inconclusive as to whether the order was based on an accumulation of indicators of unnecessary killing of civilians by TF elemnts or merely the report of the Medina/woman incident.) Following the issuance of the order to all of his platoon leaders, CPT Medina and the command group began to move to the northeast through the hamlet (see sketch 6-19). lLT Alaux, who was with CPT Medina throughout the operation, testified that during this time he observed 17-18 bodies along the north-south trail inside the hamlet and had observed a total of 60-70 throughout the area, excluding those probably killed in bunkers.
7. 1045-1330 Hours: Actions Involving C Company and Aviation Elements East of My Lai (4)
W01 Thompson testified that following the evacuation of the Vietnamese from the bunker, he again flew over the ditch to the east of the hamlet. Observing that some of the Vietnamese in the ditch were still alive, he stated that he landed his helicopter in approximately the same area as on his first trip. According to Thompson and his door gunner, the door gunner and crew chief went down into the ditch and found a small boy who was slightly wounded. The door gunner and crew chief told Thompson that others were still alive in the ditch at the time, but since the OH-23 had room for only one person (the boy was held on the crew chief's lap) the boy was evacuated to the Vietnamese hospital at Quang Ngai. Following this, Thompson and his crew returned to LZ Dottie, where Thompson contacted his company commander, MAJ Watke, and rendered what is now referred to as the "Thompson Report" (see chap 10).
After reaching the eastern edge of My Lai (4), CPT Medina stopped, ordered a lunch break, and called a meeting with his Platoon leaders. MAJ Calhoun arrived over the area in LTC Barker's helicopter at approximately 1145. During the time that he was over the area, he received from LTC Barker and relayed to CPT Medina an order to make sure there was no unnecessary killing/burning or words to that effect. Barker's order was apparently issued in response to information which he had received from MAJ Watke concerning the "Thompson Report" (see chap 10).
Approximately 1245 hours, W01 Thompson returned to Lai (4) area, and while in the process of conducting low-level reconnaissance of the area, his helicopter struck some tree limbs, suffered minor damage to its main rotor blade, and he had to land near C Company positions. An element from the company secured the helicopter for a short while until the rotor blade was checked and Thompson departed for LZ Dottie.
COL Henderson returned to the operational area at approximately 1330 hours. He testified that he overflew the area at least twice during the afternoon. LTC (now COL) Luper, who had flown with COL Henderson during the morning hours, testified that during the morning he had observed approximately 15-20 bodies south of My Lai (4). SGT (now Mr.) Adcock, COL Henderson's radio operator, testified that during their overflights of My Lai (4) during the morning hours, he had also observed 35-40 bodies from the air.
8. 1330 Hours: Summary of Results of C Company Actions In and Around My Lai (4)
Based exclusively on the testimony of US personnel who participated in or observed the actions in and around My Lai (4) on 16 March, it is evident that by the time C Company was prepared to depart the area, its members had killed no less than 175-200 Vietnamese men, women, and children. The company suffered only the one casualty previously discussed. From among the group of Vietnamese killed, the evidence indicates only three or four confirmd VC. There were quite possibly several unarmed VC (men and womn) among the group and many more who were active and passive supporters of and sympathizers with the VC forces. Three enemy weapons, and allegedly several sets of web gear and grenades were also captured. There is no substantive evidence to indicate that the company received any enemy fire or any other form of resistance during its movement through the area.
The Vietnamese casualty figures cited above are based on those incidents in and around My Lai (4) (including the subhamlet of Binh Tay) wherein clearly identifiable killings of Vietnamese (individuals and groups) were testified to and corroborated by US witnesses who were on the scene ' It is considered that the figures are conservative as many of the Vietnamese killed inside bunkers and houses were not observed by the witnesses. The figures do not include additional killings which may have taken place as C Company passed through the several subhamlets east of My Lai (4) en route to their night defensive position, nor do they include additional killings which did take place late on the afternoon of 16, March, after C Company had reached the night defensive position.
In a separate study (see exhibit M-124) the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) agency estimates that 347 Vietnamese residents of My Lai (4) were killed on 16 March. This figure, which is based on a population census of My Lai (4) (i.e. before and after the 16 March operation) does not include Vietnamese who lived in the several subhamlets around My Lai (4) (such as Binh Tay) nor does it include those who may have come to My Lai (4) from surrounding subhamlets on the morning of the operation.
Additional killings which apparently occurred in the B Company area are not included in the 175-200 figure cited above nor in the CID agency's estimate.
9. 1330-1530 Hours: Movement of C Company From My Lai (4) to Night Defensive Position
At approximately 1330 hours, C Company departed My Lai (4) and moved northeast toward the link-up position with B Company. C Company apparently brought no detainees from the My Lai (4) area. En route, however, the 2d Platoon which was moving on the northern flank of the company passed through the subhamlet of My Lai (5) (Binh Dong) and rounded up approximately 50-75 villagers. Eight to 10 military aged males were separated from the group and were taken with the company to the night defensive position. The remainder of the villagers were told by CPT Medina's interpreter to move out of the area and head southwest toward Quang Ngai City.
There was some testimony to the effect that additional killing and burning of houses occurred as C Company elements Passed through subhamlets east of My Lai (4). The preponderance of the testimony, however, does not support this contention.
10. 1530-1700 Hours: The Night Defensive Position
After reaching the night defensive position and linking up with B Company, the VC suspects who had been brought into the area by both C Company and B Company were interrogated by the Vietnamese National Police. The police had been brought into the area via helicopter by the S2. The S2 also participated in the interrogation. During the course of the interrogation, one of the suspects was tortured and maimed. He was subsequently shot and killed along with several (1-7) additional suspects. Both the torture and the killings were witnessed by "significant number of C Company soldiers and officers. (This matter is also currently under investigation by the CID.)
At 1555 hours, CPT Medina notified the TF headquarters that approximately 10-11 women and children had been killed (earlier) by gunships or artillery, but were not included in his previous report of enemy killed.
B. OPERATIONS ON 17 MARCH
C Company departed the night defensive position early on the morning of 17 March and moved toward the south (see sketch 6-20). As the lead elements of the company passed to the east of Hill 85, the lst Platoon, which was on the right (western) flank of the company, was ordered to establish an observation post on the high ground. CPT Medina testified the observational, post was set up to detect any efforts by the VC to flank or strike the rear of the company. In the process of establishing the outpost, the lst Platoon's point man detonated and was severely wounded by an enemy mine or boobytrap. He was evacuated by helicopter at 1000 hours. The platoon then rejoined the company.
As C Company moved south through the subhamlets of My Khe (3), (1), and (2) it burned the houses in those areas. CPT Medina testified that the subhamlets were deserted and that he had received permission to destroy the houses. As My Khe (2) was being burned, members of the lst Platoon detected and ap prehended four suspects consisting of three males, and one fe male who was brought to CPT Medina's location with her blouse off.
During interrogation of the suspects, CPT Medina testified that two of the males were identified as VC and the female as a VC nurse. He admitted hitting one of the male suspects sufficiently hard to cause profuse bleeding from a skin laceration. He also testified to the effect that after discussing this individual with SGT Phu (his Vietnamese interpreter) he decided to make the suspect "talk." CPT Medina placed the individual against a tree and testified to the effect that he personally induced the suspect to "talk" by firing an M-16 round into the tree approximately 8 inches over the man's head (from a distance of 10-15 meters). Failing a response from the individual, CPT Medina fired a second round from the same distance to a point 4-5 inches over the man's head. After indicating to the indiv idual that the third round would hit "right between the eyes," CPT Medina then moved away to fire a third round. Medina testified the man talked before the third round was fired and that he admitted being a "card carrying member in the Communist Party for 13 years." CPT Medina's recollection of firing over the man's head is essentially substantiated by the testimony of many other C Company witnesses. The testimony of several witnesses also indicates that the female suspect may have been mistreated during this sane period. The suspects were subsequently evac uated from the area by helicopter. A readout of official interrogation reports concerning the four suspects indicates that two of the males and the female were subsequently classified as civil defendants. The remaining male was classified as a VC.
Following interrogation of the VC suspects, C Company turned back to the north toward their night defensive position arriving at that location by late evening.
MY LAI COURTS-MARTIAL HOMEPAGE