#3 My Lai 2000

16 March 2000

Da Nang, Viet Nam

The Viet Nam News; William J. Kelly Jr.; "My Kieu"

My Lai 2000

I have just returned from Quang Ngai province where I visited the site of the massacre which took place on this date 32 years ago. It was the third year consecutive year that I had traveled to the site to pay my respects to the innocent victims. Actually, it was my fourth time there, for as an American infantryman, I patrolled in those hamlets in 1969. A year after the deed and some months before the story became known to the public. I think of My Lai often and I am still bewildered by the horrible actions performed by that group of American soldiers. Five hundred and four lives. For nothing.

Or so it seems. Most commentators and historians dealing with the American War consider the Tet Offensive of early 1968 as the turning point. They point to this because of the effect it had on the American resolve to continue prosecuting a war that seemed to be, at best, stalemated . And Tet most assuredly played an important role in America's disengagement. The 'light at the end of the tunnel' was something powerful moving forward. However, I believe that My Lai was the true catalyst for the American withdrawal. It opened the eyes of all to the harsh reality of our involvement in Viet Nam. Thus I like to think that those 504 lives were not taken in vain. Their seemingly pointless sacrifice could very well be viewed as one that shortened the conflict and so by helped to save the lives of so many others.

I left some flowers at the graves and this note.

"Today I have brought you some flowers and I my wish is that they will represent for you all the flowers that you would have received had your lives not been stolen from you. For those of you who were older in age, please accept them as a token of all the flowers you would have received from your children and grandchildren. And for you who were so very young, I would like you to think of them as coming from your first boy-friend or girl-friend. I hope you will smile and be happy today."

With Love,

Billy Kelly