Lt. Calley Apologizes for My Lai Massacre

Discussion in 'Vietnam War' started by Cobber, Aug 24, 2009.

  1. Cobber

    Cobber New Member

    Story taken from a News wire on

    Calley Finally Apologizes For Mai

    August 24, 2009
    Columbus Ledger-Enquirer

    COLUMBUS, Ga. -- William Calley, the former Army lieutenant convicted on 22 counts of murder in the infamous My Lai massacre in Vietnam, publicly apologized for the first time this week while speaking in Columbus.

    "There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in My Lai," Calley told members of the Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus on Wednesday. His voice started to break when he added, "I feel remorse for the Vietnamese who were killed, for their families, for the American soldiers involved and their families. I am very sorry."

    In March 1968, U.S. soldiers gunned down hundreds of civilians in the Vietnamese hamlet of My Lai. The Army at first denied, then downplayed the event, saying most of the dead were Vietcong. But in November 1969, journalist Seymour Hersh revealed what really happened and Calley was court-martialed and convicted of murder.

    Calley had long refused to grant interviews about what happened, but on Wednesday he spoke at a Columbus Kiwanis meeting. He made only a brief statement, but agreed to take questions from the audience.

    He did not deny what had happened that day, but did repeatedly make the point - which he has made before - that he was following orders.

    Calley explained he had been ordered to take out My Lai, adding that he had intelligence that the village was fortified and would be "hot" when he went in. He also said the area was submitted to an artillery barrage and helicopter fire before his troops went in. It turned out that it was not hot and there was no armed resistance. But he had been told, he said, that if he left anyone behind, his troops could be trapped and caught in a crossfire.

    Asked about American casualties, Calley said there were two injuries, but neither was the result of enemy fire, adding, "They didn't have time."

    One person asked about the story of a helicopter coming into My Lai during the massacre and its pilot threatening to open fire if the killing of civilians didn't stop.

    Calley said the pilot asked if he could take children out of the area and he relayed that request to his captain, who said the pilot could.

    As far as any threats to fire on American soldiers by the pilot, or any threats of firing on the chopper, he said he does not recall hearing about that. He did say the helicopter was making a lot of noise during his conversation with the pilot.

    Asked if the story about the threat to fire on troops killing civilians came from the pilot, Calley replied, "It certainly didn't come from me."

    When asked if obeying an unlawful order was not itself an unlawful act, he said, "I believe that is true. If you are asking why I did not stand up to them when I was given the orders, I will have to say that I was a second lieutenant getting orders from my commander and I followed them - foolishly, I guess." Calley then said that was not an excuse; it was just what happened.

    The officer Calley said gave those orders was Capt. Ernest Medina, who was also tried for what happened at My Lai. Represented by the renowned defense attorney F. Lee Bailey, Medina was acquitted of all charges in 1971.

    That same year, Calley didn't fare as well.

    After four months of testimony in a Fort Benning courtroom and almost two weeks of jury deliberation, he was convicted of premeditated murder. After the verdict was read, but before sentencing, Calley was allowed to address the court.

    "I'm not going to stand here and plead for my life or my freedom," Calley said. "If I have committed a crime, the only crime I have committed is in judgment of my values. Apparently I valued my troops' lives more than I did those of the enemy ..."

    Calley was sentenced to life in prison, which was later shortened considerably.

    Many at the time considered Calley a scapegoat, forced to take the fall for those above him. That sentiment had been very strong when the late federal Judge J. Robert Elliot released Calley from custody after a habeas corpus hearing. An appeals court reversed Elliot's ruling and Calley was returned to Army custody, but the Army soon paroled him.

    Calley then settled in Columbus, Ga., married a young woman named Penny Vick and worked in her father's jewelry store here for years. He now lives in Atlanta with his 28-year-old son, Laws, who is doing doctoral work in electrical engineering at Georgia Tech.

    Calley has been free now for years, but he remains stripped of some of his civil rights.

    "No, I still cannot vote," he said. "In fact, I'm not even supposed to go into the post office, I guess."

    Pham Thanh Cong, director of a museum at the site of the 1968 massacre, welcomed the apology, but said Calley's superiors should still be held responsible, according to a report by Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

    "Lieutenant William Calley's apology for his massacre comes too late, but I think it is better late than never," 52-year-old Pham Thanh Cong told the German news agency.

    Cong survived the massacre that claimed his parents and three sisters. He told the news service that he would welcome Calley to visit My Lai today and that he would be received "kindly and decently."

    But Cong said Calley's superior officers, including Medina, also should apologize
  2. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    I had always believed Calley to be a scapegoat until I read a disturbing article a few years ago ! - I've just found it ... ( at least I think it's it ... if not .... something similiar !! ) makes you stop and think !!

    Found: The monster of the My Lai massacre | Mail Online
  3. Adrian Roberts

    Adrian Roberts Active Member

    I'd take the Daily Mail with a pinch of salt, but if half of it is true then I don't see how Calley could claim to be protecting his troops.

    And feeling remorse is not the same as being truly sorry or apologising.
  4. ordhume boy

    ordhume boy New Member

    He was following orders. That is no excuse. A lot of Nazis followed orders.
  5. joshtheboss

    joshtheboss New Member

    I agree. No matter how many psychological studies are done on this, it doesn't change my opinion. If you follow orders, you are just as guilty. Break the chain folks!
  6. May102014

    May102014 New Member

    I remember watching a PBS documentary of the My Lai Massacre. He is guilty as sin and I don't think he is truly remorseful for what happened. I agree with one poster who stated if you follow orders and committed the murders as well, you are guilty. No apology is going to wash his soul of the sin and horror he committed in My Lai.
  7. thomas pendrake

    thomas pendrake Active Member

    I am all too familiar with both the mentality of following orders and blaming the little guy. I am sure that higher ups who had the distance that they should have been able to make unemotional decisions should have been held responsible, but no one listened to Eisenhower's warnings. Big business had to make big profits off another war.

    "What can wash away my sin?"........... I will not pretend to judge whether or not he has repented as that is not my job. I'll leave judgement to God.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 1, 2014

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