In his book My Lai: Vietnam, 1968, and the Descent into Darkness
(Oxford UP, 2017), Dr. Howard Jones describes how on March 16th, 1968, several units of American soldiers descended upon a collection of small villages in Central Vietnam, now collectively known as My Lai. In the space of a few short hours, they committed one of America’s most infamous war crimes. While failing to find the enemy troops that their intelligence insisted were there, the Americans forced dozens of unarmed elderly men, women, children, and babies out of their homes at gun point. An unknown number of women were raped as other soldiers set fire to their homes. In an act of barbarism that can correctly be compared to Nazi violence, several hundred Vietnamese civilians were forced into ditches and machine gunned. Only three brave Americans in a helicopter tried to stop the slaughter. Almost immediately, the Army covered up the massacre. Officers, including a young Colin Powell, swept the incident under the rug and fabricated an alternative narrative of the events. Thanks to a lone whistle blower and the tireless efforts of investigative journalists like Seymour Hersh the story was eventually uncovered.
is University research Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Alabama.
Michael G. Vann is a professor of world history at California State University, Sacramento. A specialist in imperialism and the Cold War in Southeast Asia, he is the author of The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt: Empires, Disease, and Modernity in French Colonial Vietnam
(Oxford University Press, 2018). When he’s not reading or talking about new books with smart people, Mike can be found surfing in Santa Cruz, California.