During the course of the Vietnam War, many infamous events occurred, including the disastrous My Lai Massacre. On the morning of March 16, 1968 the Charlie Company, led by Lieutenant William Calley, marched into the small village of My Lai in Vietnam prepared to fight the enemy; the whole operation took less than an hour to complete. In the end, more than five hundred people-mostly women, young children and infants, and the elderly-were killed (Trueman “My Lai Massacre”). A frantic cover-up by the American army followed in an attempt to hide it from the public eye. One year later, it was publicized and reluctantly investigated by the government; however, the soldiers involved were not entirely open to discussion about the massacre and did not want to reveal their role in it (Kohls “The My Lai Massacre Revisited”). Although not much is known about this event, extensive research has led to the narrowing down of the reasons behind it. The My Lai Massacre was mainly caused by a lack of proper training for the soldiers in the Charlie Company, multiple misunderstandings between the Charlie Company soldiers and their commanding officers, stress and tension, and numerous racial barriers that separated the Vietnamese from the Americans.
The soldiers of the Charlie Company who were involved in the My Lai Massacre did not receive adequate training prior to the massacre. Before being let out onto the field, the Charlie Company only received a few weeks of training to prepare them for war, which was a reason why the My Lai Massacre’s aftermath was so extreme: Part of the problem was rooted in the lackadaisical manner in which this training was handled. Several of the men testified that they were given the United States’ Military Assistance Command, Vietnam’s ‘Nine Rules’ and other pocket cards, but since there had been no accompanying instructions they had put the cards in their pockets unread and never had any idea of their contents (Peers 230).
Due to the lack of training, the soldiers were not equipped with enough self control and determination to deal with the violent realities of war. Furthermore, the platoon leaders were inexperienced in warfare and leadership, so they could not train their soldiers for war the proper way: Like almost all other platoon leaders in South Vietnam, they were young and inexperienced in the art of war and leading. The evidence indicated that they wanted to be ‘nice guys’ or ‘buddies’ with their men and did not want to take any positive action to correct any wrongdoings that were committed since it might hurt their relationships with each other (Peers 233). This lack of authority created disciplinary problems because the soldiers did not have to follow strict rules or receive any punishment for misconduct. These lax rules let the men run almost free without any fear of consequence.
Around the time before the My Lai Massacre, the soldiers of the Charlie Company felt frustration and stress because of the amount of pressure that was placed on them during the war. Since the soldiers were not used to fighting in Vietnam, they felt disconcerted because they did not like the change in battle tactics and terrain. The Viet Cong used guerilla warfare and fought mostly in the jungle, which was something that the soldiers were inexperienced with. They also used women and children as spies and sometimes as soldiers to fight against the United States’ armed forces during the course of the war (Goldstein, Marshall, and Schwartz 61). This new experience was not a welcome one because it caused constant anxiety and pressure for the soldiers and required them to always be on their guard. In addition to that, many soldiers felt no strong obligation to be cautious during the Vietnam War. Most of the soldiers had been drafted and were forced to fight in the Vietnam War against their will (Nelson 32). Since they had been pulled into this without their consent, they felt as though the war was a nuisance that they would...
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