My Lai Massacre

Primary Source Prep

Part I

Look over each of the primary sources below:

1. Watch the 4 videos (26 mins total)

2. Look at the PBS photographs (and read the captions)

3. Read the court marshal testimony of Lt. Calley

The only thing necessary in part I is to be familiar with the My Lai Massacre from the each of these perspectives. Take your own notes on what stood out to you in each of the sources.

First thing tomorrow, we will complete history memory bubbles just to refresh your knowledge.

Part II

Tomorrow in class, you will choose 2 of the sources to analyze in depth. You will complete a primary source analysis for each of them. Focus mostly on the individual's perspective of the sources and questions you have about the sources.

Part III

Tomorrow in class, after analyzing 2 sources in depth, you will get to engage in a Socratic Seminar Fishbowl. You can briefly look at the rules for the Fishbowl below. Be sure to use your analyses and questions to move the discussion along!

Primary Source Video - My Lai Survivors

Tiana Alexandra Revisits the My Lai Massacre

Primary Source Videos - U.S. Veterans


You will use the other 5 videos during class tomorrow. They are the individual interviews with the U.S. veterans at My Lai.

interviews with my lai veterans 001
interviews with my lai veterans 002
interviews with my lai veterans 003
Gary Crosley

Michael Burnhardt

Bernardo Simpson

James Burkough

Gary Garfallow


Primary Source - Lt. William Calley, Witness for the Defense

Direct examination by George Latimer

Q: Now, I will ask you if during these periods of instruction and training, you were instructed by anybody in connection with the Geneva Conference?

A: Yes, sir, I was.

Q: And what was it -- do you have a recollection, what was the extent and nature of that tutoring?

A: I know there were classes. I can't remember any of the classes. Nothing stands out in my mind what was covered in the classes, sir.

Q: Did you learn anything in those classes of what actually the Geneva Convention covered as far as rules and regulations of warfare are concerned?

A: No, sir. Laws and rules of warfare, sir.

Q: Did you receive any training in any of those places which had to do with obedience to orders?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: What were the nature of the -- what were you informed was the principles involved in that field?

A: That all orders were to be assumed legal, that the soldier's job was to carry out any order given him to the best of his ability.

Q: Did you tell your doctor or inform him anything about what might occur if you disobeyed an order by a senior officer?

A: You could be court-martialed for refusing an order and refusing an order in the face of the enemy, you could be sent to death, sir.

Q: Well, let me ask you this: what I am talking and asking is whether or not you were given any instructions on the necessity for -- or whether you were required in any way, shape or form to make a determination of the legality or illegality of an order?

A: No, sir. I was never told that I had the choice, sir.

Q: If you had a doubt about the order, what were you supposed to do?

A: If I had -- questioned an order, I was supposed to carry the order out and then come back and make my complaint. later

Q: Now, during the course of your movement through the village, had you seen any Vietnamese dead, or dead bodies?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: And how would you classify it as to whether it was a few, many, how would you -- what descriptive phrase would you use for your own impression?

A: Many.

Q: Now, did you see some live Vietnamese while you were going through the village?

A: I saw two, sir.

Q: All right. Now, tell us, was there an incident concerning those two?

A: Yes, sir. I shot and killed both of them.

Q: Under what circumstances?

A: There was a large concrete house and I kind of stepped up on the porch and looked in the window. There was about six to eight individuals laying on the floor, apparently dead. And one man was going for the window. I shot him. There was another man standing in a fireplace. He looked like he had just come out of the fireplace, or out of the chimney. And I shot him, sir. He was in a bright green uniform....

Q: All right. Now that you gave that incident, did you see any other live individuals who were in the village itself as you made through the sweep?

A: Well, when I got to the eastern edge of the village, I saw a group of Vietnamese just standing right outside the eastern edge of the village, sir, the southeastern edge.

Q: All right. Was there anybody there with that group of individuals that you saw at that time?

A: I recollect that there were GI's there with them....

A: I heard a considerable volume of firing to my north, and I moved along the edge of the ditch and around a hootch and I broke into the clearing, and my men had a number of Vietnamese in the ditch and were firing upon them.

Q: When you say your men, can you identify any of the men?

A: I spoke to Dursi and I spoke to Meadlo, sir.

Q: What did you do after you saw them shooting in the ditch?

A: Well, I fired into the ditch also sir. . .

Q: Now, did you have a chance to look and observe what was in the ditch?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: And what did you see?

A: Dead people, sir.

Q: Let me ask you, at any time that you were alone and near the ditch, did you push or help push people into the ditch?

A: Yes and no, sir.

Q: Give us the yes part first.

A: Well, when I came out of this hedgerow, I came right up -- came right up about the last man to go into the ditch. I didn't physically touch him, but if he would have stopped, I guess I would have.

Q: Well, did he -- was somebody there with him to order him in or push him in?

A: They had been ordered in -- to go to the ditch, sir.

Q: Do you know who gave them that information?

A: Well, indirectly, I did, sir.

Q: And indirectly, what do you mean by that, was it through somebody?

A: I had told Meadlo to get them on the other side of the ditch, sir....

Q: Let me ask you another -- your impressions of another incident. There has been some testimony in the record to the effect that there was a child running from the ditch, that you threw him back into the ditch and you shot him. Did you participate in any such event?

A: No, sir, I did not.

Q: Did you see a boy or a child running from the ditch?

A: Wait, let me backtrack. Now this child that I supposedly said I shot, now, was running away from the ditch, but it is not in the same location. It is east of the ditch, but he was running away from the ditch. Now, I don't--

Q: To the extent that you shot and it turned out ultimately to be a child, is that the only impression you have of any incident which involved a child?

A: Yes, sir, I do.

Q: There has been some information disclosed that you heard before the court that you stood there at the ditch for a considerable period of time; that you waited and had your troops organized, groups of Vietnamese thrown in the ditch and knocked them down in the ditch or pushed them in the ditch and that you fired there for approximately and hour and a half as those groups were marched up. Did you participate in any such shooting or any such event?

A: No, sir, I did not.

Q: Did you at any time direct anybody to push people in the ditch?

A: Like I said, I gave the order to take those people through the ditch and had also told Meadlo if he couldn't move them, to waste them, and I directly -- other than that, there was only that one incident. I never stood up there for any period of time. The main mission was to get my men on the other side of the ditch and get in that defensive position, and that is what I did, sir.

Q: Now, why did you give Meadlo a message or the order that if he couldn't get rid of the to waste them?

A: Because that was my order, sir. That as the order of the day, sir.

Q: Who gave you that order?

A: My commanding officer, sir.

Q: He was?

A: Captain Medina, sir.

Q: And stated in that posture, in substantially those words, how many times did you receive such an order from Captain Medina?

A: The night before in the company briefing, platoon leaders' briefing, the following morning before we lifted off and twice there in the village. . .

Q: Did you ever, in your walking through this area, see any large group of Vietnamese of various sexes and ages dead in large piles or large groups?

A: Where I shot two men, there was, I would say, a large group of people already dead in that building. It would have been five to six dead people there. Other than the ditch, no, sir. That was all, that was the only group of people I saw there, sir. Large I mean.

Q: All right. Did you see some isolated groups of what you would call a small, or numerically might be around five or six, along that area?

A: Five or six sounds pretty large to me. I would say there would be groups of two and three here and there, sir, up to five and six in groups. But the only one that stands out in my mind is the one inside the building. And just people, dead people spread all over the village. . .

Q: Did you form any impression as to whether or not there were children, women, or men, or what did you see in front of you as you were going on?

A: I never sat down to analyze it, men, women, and children. They were enemy and just people.

Q: Now, I will ask you this, Lieutenant Calley: Whatever you did at My Lai on that occasion, I will ask you whether in your opinion you were acting rightly and according to your understanding of your directions and orders?

A: I felt then and I still do that I acted as I was directed, and I carried out the orders that I was given, and I do not feel wrong in doing so, sir...


Cross examination by Daniel

Q: Did you receive any fire getting off the helicopter?

A: I have no way to know, sir. I was not hit, no, sir.

Q: Were you consciously aware of receiving any fire?

A: No, sir, I wasn't . . .

Q: Did you receive any fire during this period you were waiting?

A: No, sir....


Q: Did you give out any instructions to your men to gather up the people that were there?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: Who did you give those instructions to?

A: Sergeant Mitchell, sir.

Q: To have them gathered up?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: For what purpose?

A: Clearing the mine field, sir. I told him to hang onto some of the Vietnamese in case we encountered a mine field, sir....

Q: What were you firing at?

A: At the enemy, sir.

Q: At people?

A: At the enemy, sir.

Q: They weren't even human beings?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: Were they men?

A: I don't know sir. I would imagine they were, sir.

Q: Didn't you see?

A: Pardon, sir?

Q: Did you see them?

A: I wasn't discriminating.

Q: Did you see women?

A: I don't know, sir.

Q: What do you mean you weren't discriminating?

A: I didn't discriminate between individuals in the village, sir. They were all the enemy, they were all to be destroyed, sir....

Q: Did he pull up his pants?

A: I don't know, sir. I didn't stand there to see if he pulled up his pants.

Q: How do you know if he stopped?

A: Because he released the girl's hair.

Q: And then what did she do?

A: She fell back.

Q: And you just left and walked away?

A: He started on his way.

Q: When is the last time you saw him?

A: That is the last time I recall seeing him that day, sir.

Q: He disobeyed your order?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: This didn't upset you in combat, that a subordinate had disobeyed your order?

A: Not that order, no, sir. I felt that the man was trying to do the job the best way he could.

Q: So it depends on the type of order?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: What did you say to him, then, on that occasion?

A: If he couldn't move the people, to waste them, sir.

Q: What did he say?

A: He said, roger....