#1 My Lai 1999

From: William J. Kelly, Jr. #6A: Khach San Nguyen Thanh: 19b Bui Thi Xuan: District I, HCMC, VN: Tel:84-8-832-3095: E-Mail: bilikelly@hotmail.com

To: Letters to the Editor

Nguyen Tien Le; Deputy-Editor-In-Chief; Viet Nam News; 120 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai; HCMC, Viet Nam


To the Editor:

I am writing this letter from HCMC, Viet Nam. In recent days, I have found myself focusing more and more on the anniversary that will occur next week, the 16th of March. It will have been 31 years since a group of American soldiers, 'led' by a Lt. William Calley, participated in the massacre of some 500 Vietnamese civilians in the hamlets we know as My Lai. For me this one event stands out above all the other horrors of that era. The dark events of that day took place over a time-span of some four hours. The length is important because it eliminates the extenuating circumstance of a 'momentary madness'. The acts must have been performed in 'cold blood'.

I, too, was an American soldier of that period and I served in the same area, the province of Quang Ngai, as did those troops of Calley's. We were infantrymen or 'grunts' and it has always been the lot of the foot soldier to bear the brunt of war and witness at first hand the gore and brutality that need be a necessary part of combat. But because of this intimate exposure to the terrible realities of battle, I believe that infantrymen can, do, and must live by a personal code of honor. It is only in this manner that some connection with humanity can be maintained.

There was little honor or humanity exhibited on 16 March 1968 at My Lai. I am repulsed by those evil events, not as an American, but as a human being and as a soldier. The nations of the world take great pride in celebrating the events and individuals that illustrate the lofty moments of their cultures and traditions. I sometimes wonder if we should not also remember those events and individuals that expose our darker side. I plan to be at My Lai on the 16th. I hope this gesture can assure the souls of those victims that they have not been and will not be forgotten.


William J. Kelly Jr.