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Sy Hersh and My Lai

Lawrence Bush
November 12, 2017

Investigative journalist Seymour M. Hersh broke the story of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam on this date in 1969. In that massacre, in March, 1968, between two and five hundred South Vietnamese civilians were murdered by U.S. combat forces during a sweep of a cluster of villages. Hersh published two books on the subject and received a 1970 Pulitzer Prize, the first of four that he has earned in his decades of exposing the inner workings of power. His more recent scoops included the torture and humiliation of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Lieutenant William Calley, the only soldier convicted for the My Lai massacre (twenty-six were initially charged), defended himself during his courtmartial for acting “as I was directed, and I carried out the order that I was given and I do not feel wrong in doing so.”

“We intend to tell who it was that gave us those orders; that created that policy; that set that standard of war bordering on full and final genocide. We intend to demonstrate that My Lai was no unusual occurrence, other than, perhaps the number of victims killed all in one place, all at one time, all by one platoon of us.” —Lieut. William Candell, Vietnam Veterans against the War

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.