My Lai and story of individual photo

This is the second time Ron (photographer) returned to My Lai. He came here first in 2000, quietly, like a normal tourist walking through the evidences. He was afraid, afraid to face the people here, afraid to look at the remaining painful vestiges, and fear of people not forgive people like him.

Many years later, many journalists posed the question: Photos of Ron seems to have mainly taken the dead, dying or going to die and usually each photograph is noted : right after this picture was taken, those in the photo was shot. There was no one photo shows American soldiers shooting at scenes or doing such actions.

Ron keeps silence.

Eventually, 40 years later, 11/2009, Ron Haeberle officially admitted that ed, he himself handy destroyed a lot of photographs, including scenes of American soldiers shooting people. “I’m there. I’m one of them. We all have sinned,” Ron said.

In 2000, he cycled from Hoi An to My Son.

He also cycled to Son My this time with Robert Hoard, a biking fellow in US . After the end of Son My trip this time, two men will ride to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, then back to cycling around the Mekong delta before returning to the United States.

Abnormal, insane, and savage

We will  hear the story as it repeated many times, however,it comes from a witness as photographer directly.

In the time of the My Lai massacre happened, I was going to end my military mission prepared to return to US. From LZ Dottie base (a U.S. military base stationed in Quang Ngai province, 20km south of Chu Lai) we went to My Lai in a helicopter.

Aircraft parked down on rice field outside the village of My Lai. Upon arrival, I saw around a lot of gunfire, all around. I am with the men jumped out of helicopters. I thought I had fallen in the middle of a battle, but I soon realized that something unusual here. There seem not a war at all, only U.S. soldiers are firing madly into the moving targets, no gunfire from the ‘other side’. I wonder what was going on?

The first two helicopters landing. Two groups of soldiers marched into the village and started shooting. They fired all of the moving objects no matter of  it was men, women, children or the animals. But absolutely no signs of the Vietnamese Communist man.

As we come closer, I saw a woman trying to stand up from the pile of corpses, she looked hurt, but she could not stand. I did not know she was Vietnamese Communists or civilian, just know she is one of the moving target and a soldier who was soon to kill her with a gunshot to the head.

While other American soldiers who went around looking for traces of the Vietnamese Communist or weapons.

Just then I saw an old man took two children going to me. It was the first Vietnamese I saw at a close distance. Soon he and his two children were shot dead. I was really shocked, he did not look what likely as Vietnamese Communist guerrillas and much less for two children. Looking at that picture had only one child, but in fact another one missing was lying nearby.

On the road, I walked into the village. I looked to the left, the fields are American soldiers shooting, burning homes. Gunshots and the voice crying everywhere. I started taking pictures. Context at that very turbulent.

In another photograph, the picture is ‘brother covers shot for younger one’ is controversial. on the foreground is seen a hand. That was exactly a hand of American soldier. In addition to arms, you can see his military cap. Then he stood right behind me. At that time I did not know how we react. My work is photography, his work is still shooting. Few soldiers tell each other: be careful there, someone brought a camera. That’s it.

U.S. troops tried to friendly villagers, but …

I myself was a volunteer soldier. Right in time in the army I can not put these pictures out. There are many war correspondent with operations everywhere that time. If I put the photos out, reporters immediately would be prevented from working.

In an interview, I once said that my scariest memory that haunted me several years not scene of rape, murder, burning … but the sight of American soldiers jumped on the back of the buffalo and stabbed them with military knife. What happened to make Americans so crazy? That was really extraordinary actions. I can not explain well what had happened. Before that there were few American soldiers were killed near My Lai area, the remaining soldiers suffered extremely heavy pressure, stress. Maybe that happened for psychologically clearance of their stress!

One village – witness the My Lai survivors recounted that ordinary Americans are still regularly came in the village and tended to prove to be friendly with people. They gave kids candy … The villagers did not expect that fateful morning 16/3/1968 was occurred such things. They said that if U.S. troops aggressive then they had escaped away from them.

Everyday Americans were still trying to create the friendliness with villagers. But a few days before of this day, U.S. soldiers were killed by mine that made soldiers angry. They blamed the villagers indirectly caused the deaths of their comrades, and they made revenge.

William Calley

The former Army lieutenant convicted on 22 counts of murder in the infamous My Lai Massacre in Vietnam, publicly apologized for the first time while speaking in Columbus on 21 of August 2009

“There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in My Lai,” Calley told audiences. His voice started to break when he added, “I feel remorse for the Vietnamese who were killed, for their families, for the American soldiers involved and their families. I am very sorry.”

Thanks for your reading

Hong Duc


About Insiderjourneyguidehelpdesk

Local guide manager-Vietnam
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