March 16, 2018

Unidentified Vietnamese Women and Children in My Lai Before Being Killed in the Massacre, 16 March 1968

On March 16, 1968, American soldiers of Charlie Company, were sent on what they were told was a mission to confront a crack outfit of their Vietcong enemies. They met no resistance, but over three to four hours killed between 347 and 504 unarmed Vietnamese civilians. Victims included men, women, children, and infants. Some of the women were gang-raped and their bodies mutilated. The massacre, which was later called "the most shocking episode of the Vietnam War", took place in two hamlets of Sơn My village in Quang Ngai Province. These hamlets were marked on the U.S. Army topographic maps as My Lai and My Khe.

Vietnamese women and children in My Lai before being killed in the massacre, 16 March 1968. According to court testimony, they were killed seconds after the photo was taken. The woman on the right is adjusting her blouse buttons following a sexual assault that happened before the massacre. (Ronald L. Haeberle/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

Ron Haeberle was a combat photographer in Vietnam when he and the Army unit he was riding with — Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment — landed near the hamlet of My Lai on the morning of March 16, 1968. Villagers weren't alarmed; American GIs had visited the region near the central Vietnamese coast before, without incident. But within minutes, the troops opened fire. Over the course of the next few hours, they killed old men, women, and children. They raped and tortured.

When the photographs of the My Lai massacre were first published, many could not believe what they depicted. One reason was this: They did not show American soldiers in the act of killing.

For a long time, the man who shot the pictures, Ron Haeberle, said no such images existed. In 2009, Haeberle admitted that he destroyed a number of photographs he took during the My Lai massacre. Unlike the photographs of the dead bodies, the destroyed photographs depicted Americans in the actual process of murdering Vietnamese civilians.

Photos published by The Plain Dealer 50 years ago, and those Haeberle gave to the Army as part of its criminal inquiry, showed terrified victims in the moments before they were killed and their bodies after death. But there were no photos of soldiers actually shooting them.

In 1969, Haeberle told The Plain Dealer that he had made no effort to photograph actual killings. He evaded the issue during interviews with Army investigators.

But according to Cleveland.com, in 2009, in one of his only interviews with the U.S. media since the photos were published in 1969, he said something distinctly different. “I shot pictures of the shooting. But those photographs were destroyed.”

By the Army?

“By me.”

Haeberle was using two cameras that day, an Army camera and his own. “What happened was, I shot on a 36-exposure roll of film,” with his own camera. “I just went ahead and processed everything. I had actual photos of actual guys who were doing the shooting and stuff like that. I never showed those.”

When the Army questioned him about the photographs he had taken and what they showed, he says, “I answered them honestly. But I never said the words, ‘I destroyed them.’ ”

Over the years, occasionally people have asked him why he didn't try to stop the killing or if he was afraid he would be shot.

“I had no fear of that,” Haeberle said.

And he's been asked if he wishes he had done anything differently in My Lai.

“It's hard to say in the aftermath,” he said. “People say, ‘If I was there, I'd have done this.’ You don't know. Until you're in that reality. You never know.”

(Ronald L. Haeberle/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

(Ronald L. Haeberle/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

(Ronald L. Haeberle/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

(Ronald L. Haeberle/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

(Ronald L. Haeberle/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

(Ronald L. Haeberle/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

(Ronald L. Haeberle/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

(Ronald L. Haeberle/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

(Ronald L. Haeberle/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

(Ronald L. Haeberle/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

For more images, visit FOTO.





0 comments:

Post a Comment


FOLLOW US
FacebookTumblrPinterestInstagramFlipboardRSS

Browse by Decades

Popular Posts