March 16, 1968, will forever be remembered as “the most shocking episode of the Vietnam War.” On that day, a battalion of the United States Army deliberately engaged in the mass murder of unarmed civilians. This event became known as the My Lai Massacre.
The official purpose of this operation was to kill Viet Cong soldiers who were supposedly hiding in the area. Following on the orders of Captain Ernest Medina, soldiers entered the village of Sơn Mỹ and started shooting men, women, and children. Animals were also killed and the village’s wells were polluted. People were even killed while praying inside the local temple. It’s estimated that more than 500 Vietnamese civilians were killed during the tragedy.
Knowledge of the massacre wasn’t made public until well over a year later and opened more eyes to the horrors of the war. The majority of those involved in the event were either never judged, acquitted, or received light sentences.
Captain Ernest Medina was acquitted after being court-martialed for war crimes and ended up living a peaceful life until his death in 2018. The memorial was built 10 years later in the village of Tịnh Khê in 1978.
Know Before You Go
The memorial is located in the town of Tịnh Khê, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) south of the city of Da Nang.