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The My Lai Letters
( pronounced em li )

Hu - 5/10/01 9:51 AM
Billy Kelly  [
RE: My Lai

Hello Larry,

I read your note with great interest. Particularly that concerning My Lai. I don't think a day goes by when it doesn't somehow cross my mind. It is still unfathomable to me. The latest news concerning (Senator) Kerrey and Thanh Phong only heightens my interest - 'obsession'. 

I feel sorry for Kerrey in that his 'name' has brought him to the forefront. There are probably thousands of such stories. Committed by both sides and, in truth, committed by soldiers from time immemorial. Reality in any war can be a gruesome thing. But, for me, anytime Viet Nam is brought before America's eyes, it is a good thing.

That 26 year old amnesia needs to be penetrated. As a brief aside, I had just returned from Ben Tre province where I was visiting the family of a friend. We were not more than 10K's from the spot. Then last week, I was in Nha Trang. I just read that Kerrey received a MOH for actions on islands off the coast of that city. We had rented a boat and I toured all of them. They range from 2 to 10 K's from shoreline. At that time, early 1969, Nha Trang was as 'armed a fortress' as you would find. Naturally protected by a mountain chain completely encircling it, heavy, heavy air and naval power based there and, I think, it was the HQ's of the Special Forces. Hard to believe they would not clean up and man islands to their rear. Citation is very sketchy. Unusual for a MOH. No name of the island, ( They all were/are named ), times, results, etc. Even his name is incorrect. I was never much impressed by 'heroism'. I think it in great part came from being in the wrong place, at the wrong time, etc. And when performed it was an instinctual act, or one out of extreme fear. True heroism for me was that displayed daily by the infantryman who just had to put one foot in front of the other, day after day and minute after minute in a 100% hostile environment.

I , as mentioned, have been following story at length and I am writing some things about my feelings concerning these new events. I will also paste on some writing I had done in past concerning My Lai and a few other items. Hope I don't burden you. Save for a rainy day or discard.

Best, Billy Kelly

PS: Most of these thoughts and letters have been printed. They in no way mean to denigrate the GI. I have nothing but the highest respect for a 'grunt'. Some will prove redundant and some a bit sappy and sentimental. One Vietnamese called me a 'romantic'?. I guess I am. Each year I bring 504 bright red roses to the graves.  

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.Billy Kelly's My Lai Letters

Response to Economist Article
Subject: LEXINGTON: The man
who healed the Vietnam wound
From: William J. Kelly Jr.
Date: Sat, 07 Apr 2001 00:23:56


To The Editor: New York Times
Subject: "McCain Eases The Stigma
Of Vietnam", Haberman,
29 Feb 2000,NYTimes
Response to NY Times Op-Ed piece
From: William J. Kelly Jr.
Date: Sat, 07 Apr 2001 00:26:10


To The Editor: (re: No Gun Ri; 
March 7, 2000)
From: William J. Kelly Jr.
Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2000 
04:14:17 PST


To The Editor (re: My Lai 2001)
My Lai, Quang Ngai, Viet Nam
From: William J. Kelly Jr.
16 March 2001


To: The Viet Nam News 
(re: My Lai)
From: William J. Kelly Jr.; 
"My Kieu"
March 16,  2000 
Da Nang, Viet Nam


23 March 1999 (re: My Lai)
Ho Chi Minh City, V.N.


To: Letters to the Editor 
( 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



Related Topics

The My Lai Incident
For those who may want to know more about March 16, 1968. . . 

Confronting My Lai
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Here is a chance to do something beautiful in that same place."
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Veterans Vietnam Restoration Project
The VVRP is a small  non-governmental organization. Our primary mission is to provide American veterans and others with opportunities to return to Viet Nam for humanitarian service. We operate under the premise that returning to Viet Nam, working directly on community projects and returning to places where they served helps veterans heal the legacy of our war. 

Famous American Trials:
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Account of the trial includes transcript excerpts, profiles of the principal figures and a chronology of events. Includes a photo gallery 

The American Experience:
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Echoes Of My Lai 
Thirty years after a brutal Vietnam War massacre, the survivors, and their children, still ask: Why? 

My Lai Today
The village of My Lai is nestled amidst other small hamlets on the central coast of Viet Nam. I had wanted to visit it since my arrival to the country. The "American War," as the Vietnamese put it, was still fresh in my mind. And, I came to both Viet Nam and this small village to put faces and lives to the images I grew up with. It was still logistically challenging to get around Viet Nam, but finally the planning for my arrival to this small rural outpost paid off


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