I’ve been reading My Lai materials for about four weeks now. I haven’t said much about the incident on my blog. The more I learn about it, the worse the whole event seems. It is pretty awful stuff. Just reading the documents sometimes gives me a headache. I am amazed that the Americal Division’s entire chain of command didn’t wind up doing hard time at the disciplinary barracks at Fort Leavenworth. From what I have read, they should have. I mean, this battalion had a platoon with a reputation for being into raping Vietnamese villagers while on patrol-including the platoon leader. (Btw, it wasn’t Calley’s platoon.) If I were re-doing my list of the worst generals in American history, I’d add to it the Americal’s commander, Maj. Gen. Samuel Koster, who brought more disgrace to the uniform than any general since Benedict Arnold. He should have done time.
The two bright lights in the situation are Gen. Peers and, to my surprise, Gen. William Westmoreland, who was Army chief of staff and who shielded Peers from White House pressure to curtail the investigation. Though of course it was a lot of Westmoreland’s lousy decisions on personnel policy in 1964-1968 that helped hollow out the Army and so create the rotten chain of command that presided over My Lai.
I’m not really surprised that the whole division chain-of-command didn’t end up in detention… Nevertheless, a good resource.