It lasted just a few hours, but the events that transpired on March 18, 1968 have come to represent all that the American Public hated about the Vietnam War. A war that initially received much public support was quickly becoming unpopular; soldiers were no longer respected as war heroes – like their father and grandfathers had been -- but were viewed with disdain and hatred. Misconduct on the grand scale that occurred at My Lai on this fateful date in 1968 merely added to the outrage. But in the end only one man, Lieutenant Calley, was held accountable by the legal system for his role in the massacre. This unit will investigate several essential questions about the incident at My Lai, the government cover up that transpired, and the eventual reprimanding. At the end of the unit students will be prompted to connect the incident at My Lai to the present day war in Iraq and the conduct of soldiers at Hadithia and Abu Ghraib.
To approach this event in history with dignity it is essential that teachers try to be unbiased. This is difficult -- most would consider the incident a Massacre, and defending the actions of the soldiers becomes a difficult task. Laying blame or justifying the actions of the soldiers is not the aim of the unit -- the goal is to think critically about the soldier’s actions. The incident occurs in a particular time, in a particular place, with a particular set of circumstances. To evaluate the choices made on that day, the students will first have to examine the events leading up to March 16
-- the collective group experience of C Company. How does C Company come to be who they are? How does this influence the choices that are made in My Lai? Next a Case Study of the incidents will be examined. Students will be asked to think critically about the events of that day, and the subsequent choices made by the soldiers and the commanding officers. The last part of the unit will ask students to apply the ideas and lessons of the My Lai Massacre to the modern day conduct of soldiers.