US officer whose troops carried out My Lai massacre dies at 81

By AFP   May 14, 2018 | 05:23 pm PT
US officer whose troops carried out My Lai massacre dies at 81
People pay tribute at the war memorial for victims of the My Lai massacre in Son My village, Quang Ngai province. Photo by AFP/Nhac Nguyen
The mass killings of hundreds Vietnamese in My Lai is known as one of the darkest chapters of US military history.

Ernest Medina, a U.S. Army captain accused but acquitted of responsibility in the infamous My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War, has died in Wisconsin at the age of 81.

The 1968 mass killings of hundreds of unarmed civilians - many of them women, children and elderly - in the Vietnamese village of My Lai is known as one of the darkest chapters of U.S. military history.

Medina, who was in charge of the army infantry company that carried out the massacre, was tried by military court-martial but acquitted of responsibility. He had claimed he was unaware of the massacre while it was taking place.

The cause of the 81-year-old's death last Tuesday was not revealed in a family obituary. His funeral was scheduled for Monday near his longtime home in the small Wisconsin city of Marinette, where he had worked alongside his wife as a real estate agent.

The My Lai massacre occurred on March 16, 1968, when the Charlie Company of the 11th Infantry Brigade, commanded by Medina, entered My Lai based on faulty intelligence that enemy Viet Cong soldiers were disguised among the civilians there.

Medina took a supervisory position outside the village. Lieutenant William Calley entered the village with a platoon of soldiers.

Hundreds killed

Even though they found no evidence of enemy combatants, Calley ordered soldiers to kill villagers.

The U.S. Army, which initially covered up the massacre, later revealed that 347 people were killed. The Vietnamese put the total at more than 500 - including 173 children.

Calley was convicted of murder by a military court-martial and spent more than three years confined to a military barracks or under house arrest.

He apologized in 2009, according to the Ledger-Enquirer newspaper of Columbus, Georgia.

"There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in My Lai," Calley was quoted by the newspaper as saying in a speech to a local club.

Calley claimed he had been following Medina's orders.

Medina was acquitted by a military jury. He said he had instructed his soldiers not to shoot women or children.

Twelve other military officers were charged with crimes related to the massacre, including the cover-up. All were acquitted of criminal charges.

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