Let’s Talk Books (7/?)


Today, 16 March 2017, is the 49th anniversary of the My Lai Massacre. This is an event that received much publicity and raised vital, but difficult, questions. Violence against civilians came under scrutiny by the public as they struggled with the idea of American men committing such acts. Following is a list of books revolving around the event.

  • My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and Its Aftermath by Seymour M. Hersh – An investigative journalist, Hersh broke the story of My Lai in November 1969. My Lai 4 is that story in book form, following intensive work interviewing surviving members of Charlie Company. 
  • My Lai: A Brief History with Documents by James S. Olson and Randy Roberts – This is a great resource for studying the events of My Lai. Of the government documents provided in this book are included, “transcripts of testimony from some of the soldiers who did the killing; their superior officers (including the U.S. theater commander, General William Westmoreland); the South Vietnamese village chief; the South Vietnamese army investigator; Viet Cong witnesses; and the two Americans: G.I. Ron Ridenhour and warrant officer-helicopter pilot, Hugh Thompson, Jr., who uncovered the event…

    The book has sections on the official rules of warfare, briefings that Charlie Company received the day before the attack, the assault itself, the cover-up, the exposure and investigation, newspaper accounts, public reaction, and the determination of culpability, including the trial, conviction, sentencing, and later release of the officer in charge of the operation, Lieutenant William L. Calley.” (Source: William B. Pickett, Journal of Military History)

  • Four Hours in My Lai by Michael Bilton and Kevin Sim – Written 25 years after the fact, this book is another encompassing study of the massacre through use of interviews and documents. Through the benefit of years passed since the story first broke, the authors are able to examine the effect on the American public at large.
  • The Vietnam War on Trial: The My Lai Massacre and the Court-Martial of Lieutenant Calley by Michael R. Belknap – The first half of this volume serves as an overview of the Vietnam War to provide context for the case study contained in the second half. Belknap’s primary focus in the latter portion of his book is the legal aspect of Calley’s trial. This definitely differs from other standard histories and is worth a read.