During the summer of 1971, in the midst of protests and demonstrations in the United States against the Vietnam War, it became public for the first time that something horrific had happened in the remote South Vietnamese hamlet of My Lai. Three years previously, in March 1968, a unit of American soldiers engaged in seemingly indiscriminate violence against unarmed civilians, killing over 500 people, including women and children. News filtered slowly through the system, but was initially suppressed, dismissed, or downplayed by military authorities. By late 1969, however, journalists had pursued the rumors, and when New York Times reporter Seymour Hirsch published an exposť on the massacre, the story became a national outrage.
In his book, Howard Jones places the events of My Lai and its aftermath in a wider historical context. Jones' compelling narrative details the events in Vietnam, as well as the mixed public response to the court martial that followed, which charged Lieutenant William Calley's and thirty other officers with war crimes. Jones shows how pivotal the My Lai massacre was in galvanizing opposition to the Vietnam War, playing a part nearly as significant as that of the Tet Offensive and the Cambodian bombing.
A trenchant and sober reassessment, My Lai delves into questions raised by the massacre that have never been properly answered: questions about America's leaders in the field and in Washington; the seeming breakdown of the U.S. army in Vietnam; the cover-up and ultimate public exposure; and the trial itself, which drew comparisons to Nuremberg. Based on extensive archival research, this is the best account to date of one of the defining moments of the Vietnam War.