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Lt, William Calley And The My Lai Massacre

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Lieutenant William Calley and the My Lai Massacre

Very few things in our world bring about resentment, bewilderment, and anger as easily as the massacre of innocent civilians. It seems that the history of the Vietnam War includes some well known instances that involved the massacre of innocent people. This could be for many reasons, stress, anger, U.S. sentiments towards the war, and even plain hatred of the massacred people. The most infamous account of the slaughtering of civilians took place in a village called My Lai, this is the story of the man that ordered and took part in the massacre, Lieutenant William Calley. This paper will look at his early days before the war, his life as a soldier and the My Lai atrocities, plus, the aftermath of the events seen throughout the U.S.A.

The 1960's, as most people know, were a tumultuous time in American history. By the late 1960's opposition to the Vietnam War was at a boiling point, and one event truly helped in killing most remaining positive ideas about the war, the My Lai massacre. The one person most associated with the massacre and the only soldier convicted for the atrocities that took place was a Lieutenant named William Calley.

On the eighth of June, 1943 the most notorious person involved with the My Lai massacre was born (www.trail-ch.org). William "Rusty" Calley was born into a good home in Florida; before he committed the war crimes in My Lai he had no record of deviant behavior or criminal activity, he was a "typical American" (www.crimelibrary.com). It is of note to mention that many people thought and still think he was a scapegoat for the whole event. Although, with over 400 questioned witnesses and over 20,000 pages of reports and most everyone stating the same facts, that Lt. Calley ordered and participated in the killings, it could be difficult to prove the scapegoat theory (http://news.bbc.co.uk). But its not quite the scapegoat in that sense, during this time the morale of troops and U.S. sentiments for the war were at an all time low, people think that the government put the blame solely William Calley to put a face on the reason for low sentiments. This theory would also be hard to prove or disprove.

Before entering the Army in 1966, Calley had many jobs, none of which he excelled at. He flunked out of college and received a draft notice, he was to return to Florida and report for a physical exam, on the way his car broke down, so with life not looking so good, no job, no money, no car, no way to get to the exam, and no ideas of what to do, he went to the closest recruitment center and signed up for basic training, why not, his Father was a Navy veteran, he probably figured this would lead his life in a more positive direction as it did for his father (www.crimelibrary.com).

Once Calley graduated basic training he decided to go to O.C.S. training, rather than become an Army Clerk in Washington. Officer Candidate School would make him a Lieutenant and, in theory, able to lead thirty men, or even in extenuating circumstances a whole company of up to two hundred men (www.crimelibrary.com). From the different reports read on Lieutenant Calley and the My Lai massacre, this writer thinks that Calley had what some might call "Napoleon Complex", standing at five feet and three inches he might have needed to feel power and/or authority to substantiate his own existence, and he got this with the rank of second Lieutenant, one of his troops once stated that "Calley is just gung-ho and has no common sense...because he is small he must have been pushed around his whole life by bigger people" (www.crimelibrary.com). This is easily seen in his need to be out in the field instead of safe in an office somewhere as a clerk, he needed to feel the power of holding an M-16, and having say over the life (and death) of men, women, and children.

Calley graduated officer school, to the bewilderment of some of his troops; one is known to have said "I wonder how he got through Officer Candidate School. He couldn't read no damn map and a compass would confuse his ass" (www.crimelibrary.com). He was to be stationed in Hawaii, where he would work with and get to know his superiors and subordinates. This is where he became the joke amongst his company, loathed by his superiors and underlings alike. Soon after arriving in Hawaii for stationing, his whole company was sent to Vietnam, this is where the situation between Calley and his men really broke down. The men didn't trust him as a person or a leader, some thought he was a glory hound and would sacrifice his troops for his own personal gain. It is even been said that at one point in time there was a reward out for whoever among the company would kill "Lieutenant Sh**head", as he was called by his Captain who was known to belittle Calley in front of everyone (www.crimelibrary.com). What Calley had wanted so badly in civilian life, respect, and power was still unattainable in Vietnam even when he was a step up in the bureaucratic ladder of authority where respect usually comes with rank, among other things. While in Vietnam, William Calley would go on to influence the world in an everlasting way, in a not so good way, when American's think of the word "massacre" they don't want to think about U.S. troops doing the killings. Yet, some good also came out of it; we will never allow something like the My Lai massacre happen again, hopefully.

On the sixteenth morning of March, 1968, William Calley and his troops touched down off of helicopters into the village My Lai, which was thought to be a VC stronghold. They dropped into no enemy fire or presence, the Intel seemed to be wrong, the VC battalion they were looking for was not in the village, the village mostly consisted of women, children, and old men working the grounds (www.pbs.org). What happened next will live in infamy forever for being, as the BBC News network put it, "a watershed in the history of modern American combat, and a turning point in the public perception

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