On the morning of March 16, 1968, American soldiers from "C" Company came into the village of My Lai and massacred as many as 500 unarmed civilians - including women, children, babies, and elderly Vietnamese. Charlie Company, which had run into a booby trap a few days before and lost a popular sergeant, had revenge on its mind when it was ordered to clear the village of Viet Cong. While there were few if any VC to be found upon the arrival of American GIs, there were hundreds of civilians that were systematically rounded up and executed. Some GIs were able to rescue some civilians, but soldiers who participated in the murders argued that they were following the orders of Lt. William Caley. The military sought to cover-up the massacre, but efforts on the part of an ex-GI who had heard witness accounts of the killings forced the story into the open. Only a few officers were charged and tried, and only Calley was eventually convicted (and later paroled by Nixon under pressure from public opinion polls). What the My Lai massacre shows us is the tremendous stress that soldiers were under that could lead to such a horrible tragedy. (For a more detailed description of the My Lai Massacre and prosecution, see Famous American Trials.)
Questions to Consider
Direct examination by Aubrey Daniels:
A: As I came up, he [Calley] said round up the people.
Q: What did you do?
A: So I did, rounded up the people. There were five or six, mostly women and children. They were unarmed and huddled together.
Q: "What did you do with them?
A: I brought them back to Calley on the trail. There were others there. Thirty or forty. All women and children. I remember one old man. They were in their sixties to infants.
Q: What were they doing?
A: Just standing there.
Q: Who was with them?
A: The only GI I remember was Meadlo.
Q: What happened then?
A: Calley told me and Meadlo to take the people off and push them in a rice paddy. We took them out there, pushed them off the trail and made them squat down and bunch up so they couldn't get up and run. We stayed there and guarded them. At this time, I see a young child running from a hootch toward us. He seen us and he took off. I dropped my gear and checked out a hootch with a woman and a child in it. There was an old woman in a under. I took her out and put her on the ground. Then I saw a man running away. I took the other woman and child to the group. The old woman wouldn't go, so I left her there.
Q: What was Meadlo doing at this time?
A: He was guarding the people?
Q: Where was he?
A: He was standing on the village side of the people.
Q: Then what happened?
A: Lieutenant Calley came out and said take care of these people. So we said,
okay, so we stood there and watched them. He went away, then he came back and
said, "I thought I told you to take care of these people. We said, "We
are." He said, "I mean, kill them." I was a little stunned
and I didn't know what to do. He said, "Come around this side. We'll get on
line and we'll fire into them." I said, "No, I've got a grenade
launcher. I'll watch the tree line." I stood behind them and they
stood side by side. So they -- Calley and Meadlo -- got on line and fired
directly into the people. There were bursts and single shots for two minutes. It
was automatic. The people screamed and yelled and fell. I guess they tried to
get up, too. They couldn't. That was it. These people were pretty well messed
up. Lots of heads was shot off, pieces of heads and pieces of flesh flew off the
sides and arms. They were all messed up. Meadlo fired a little bit and broke
down. He was crying. He said he couldn't do any more. He couldn't kill anymore
people. He couldn't fire into the people any more. He gave me his weapon into my
hands. I said I wouldn't. "If they're going to be killed, I'm not going to
do it. Let Lieutenant Calley do it," I told him. So I gave Meadlo back his
weapon. At that time there was only a few kids still alive. Lieutenant
Calley killed them one-by-one. Then I saw a group of five women and six kids --
eleven in all -- going to a tree line. "Get 'em! Get 'em! Kill 'em!"
Calley told me. I waited until they got to the line and fired off four or five
grenades. I don't know what happened....
Cross examination by Richard Kay:
Q: Did you see any dead bodies at My Lai? --- How many?
A: Quite a few
Q: Were they sleeping or did they appear to be dead?
A: Well, they had holes in 'em so I assumed they were dead...
Q: Were you under medical treatment that day?
Q: Isn't it a fact that you were taking penicillin for venereal disease?
A: No. . . . Oh, yeah you're right. I was getting shots.
Q: Isn't it a fact that the medic was carrying penicillin to give you that day on the mission?
A: Yeah, I guess you're right.
Q: And weren't you under the influence of marijuana on March 16, 1968?
Q: Didn't you smoke it the night before?
Q: Didn't you smoke it before getting into the helicopters that morning?
Q: Weren't you a constant marijuana smoker?
Q: Did you ever open your pants in front of a woman in the village of My Lai?
Q: Isn't it a fact that you were going through My Lai that day looking for women?
Q: Didn't you carry a woman half-nude on your shoulders and throw her down and say that she was too dirty to rape? You did do that, didn't you?
A: Oh yeah, but it wasn't at My Lai....
Q: Didn't you cuss Lieutenant Calley out because he stopped you from performing a perverse, unnatural sex act at My Lai?
Q: Do you remember you went into a hootch and started to rape a woman and Lieutenant Calley told you to get out? Do you deny that occurred?
Q: Didn't you go around and tell members of your platoon about the number of times you'd raped Vietnamese women?
Q: You didn't like Lieutenant Calley, did you, Mr. Conti?
A: I didn't dislike him; I didn't like him. He was just there.
Q: As a matter of fact, you hated him didn't you?
Q: Do you remember one night, you were on guard duty and had a M-79 and you shot all your ammunition so when it came time to go on patrol, you didn't have any ammunition left? You remember that night?
A: That's right I didn't have any ammunition left.
Q: Weren't you mad at Lieutenant Calley for reporting you?
A: I don't think so.
Q: You deny that?
A: Yes, I do.
Q: Mr. Conti, isn't it a fact that you'd like to see Lieutenant Calley hanged?