The Mai Lai Massacre was most likely the best-known act of violence of the war against communists of Vietnam.The Objective of the American military mission was clear:search and destro the Mai Lai hamlet of Son Mai village in Quang Ngai Province of South Vietnam.What was not clear was what to do with all the civillians who might be encountered at Mai Lai.
On March 16, 1968, Captian Ernest Medina ordered Cahlie Company into combat.The 150 soldiers, led by Lieutenant William Calley, stormed into the hamlet, and within four hours more than 500 civilians-unarmed woman, children, and old men-were dead.Charlie Company had not encountered a single enemy soldier, and only three weapons were confiscated. When the soldiers in Charlie Company pushed into the hamlet, they expected to be locked into fierce combat with a Viet Cong battalion believed to be at Mai Lai.
Charlie Company met no resistance-there were no Viet Cong soldiers at Mai Lai.Calley then ordered the slaughter of the civilians.People were rounded up into ditches and machine-gunned.They lay five feet deep in the ditches; any survivors trying to escape were immediately shot.When Calley saw a baby crawling away from a ditch, he grabbed it, threw it back into the ditch and opened fire.Some of the dead were mutilated by having “C Company” carved into their chests, adn some were disemboweled. An army helicopter piloted by Chief Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson arrived in the Mai Lai area, and noticed dead, dying civilians all over the village.He saw young boys and girls being shot repeatedly at point-blank range.
Thompson immediately reported the wanton killing to the brigade headquarters.Right after reporting the killing, Thompson kept seeing bodies in ditches, including people who were still alive. He quickly landed his helicopter and told Calley to hold his men there while he evacuated the civilians.He put himself between Calley’s men and the Vietnamese..