Vietnam to build $15 million park in memory of My Lai massacre

By Pham Linh   March 6, 2018 | 08:09 pm PT
Vietnam to build $15 million park in memory of My Lai massacre
Women and children are gathered on March 16, 1968, before the My Lai massacre in Quang Ngai Province, as shown in a photo that Vietnam War photographer Ronald Haeberle provided to VnExpress.
504 unnamed civilians were slaughtered by U.S. troops on that fateful day in 1968.

Vietnam's central province of Quang Ngai has announced plans to build a park near the site where hundreds of civilians were killed during a Vietnam War massacre that shocked the world 50 years ago.

The My Lai Peace Park will cost an estimated VND348 billion ($15.3 million), and will be funded by sponsors in Vietnam and from overseas, officials said on Tuesday.

The park will cover 41 hectares (101 acres) near the Son My Relic Site where the mass killing took place on the morning of March 16, 1968.

Construction is expected to take three to five years and the local government has pledged to help with site clearance and relocation.

Dang Ngoc Dung, the province’s vice chairman, said the park will be a place for young people who want to learn about the country’s pains and losses during wartime.

“It will serve as an icon for Quang Ngai and a global destination for peace seekers and anti-war activists,” Dung said.

An artist impression shows the peace park to be built near the My Lai massacre site in Quang Ngai Province.

An artist's impression shows the park near the My Lai massacre site in Quang Ngai Province.

Truong Ngoc Thuy, chairwoman of the My Lai Peace Foundation which will collect sponsorship for the park, said that it is inspired by similar parks in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which were hit by American atomic bombs during World War II.

“The park will connect with all peace parks around the world,” Thuy said.

Her foundation also works to support residents in the war-torn province.

The My Lai Massacre, described by historians as “the most shocking episode of the Vietnam War,” was named after a village in Quang Ngai’s Son Tinh District where 504 unnamed people, including women and children, were killed in the space of four hours by U.S. soldiers.

There were 26 American soldiers charged with criminal offenses in the mass murder, but Lieutenant William Calley Jr., a platoon leader, was the only one convicted.

Calley was found guilty of killing 22 villagers and was originally given a life sentence, but served only three and a half years under house arrest after President Richard Nixon commuted his sentence.

He made a public apology while speaking to a small group near a military base in Georgia in 2009.

“There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in My Lai,” he said as cited by the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. “I feel remorse for the Vietnamese who were killed, for their families, for the American soldiers involved and their families. I am very sorry.”

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the slayings, which had ignited protests and anti-war movements in the U.S. and across the world, Quang Ngai is also making a bronze bell of more than one metric ton and two meters tall which will toll at a ceremony on March 16 this year.

The bell will replace a smaller one at the Son My Relic Site.

Remembering the war, Vietnam and the U.S. however have been making efforts to put their hard feelings aside. A U.S. aircraft carrier docked in Vietnam this week for the first time since the end of the war for a landmark diplomatic visit, signaling the countries’ willingness to strengthen ties.

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