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Friday, September 28, 2007

Oliver Stone tackles the My Lai massacre

Richard Hyatt writes in today's Columbus Ledger-Enquirer that Oliver Stone, the controversial director who has tackled the JFK assassination, the attack on the World Trade Center and Richard Nixon, will return his focus next year to the Vietnam War with Pinkville, which will delve into the infamous My Lai massacre.

The only soldier convicted in the massacre of 504 Vietnamese civilians in 1968, most of them women and children, was Lt. William Calley from Columbus. Calley — who said he was only following orders — served just over four months in an Army prison and then returned to Columbus. Hyatt reports that today, Calley, now 64, lives with his son in Atlanta.

Calley, who led the 1st Platoon, lined up 60 to 80 villagers in a ditch. They were executed by Calley and the soldiers whom he ordered to shoot.

The film will be right up Stone's alley. Although there was an initial Army cover-up of My Lai, it didn't last long, primarily because an Army photographer named Ronald L. Haeberle was there to document it. The travesty was eventually revealed to the public by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh.

my_lai_massacre.jpg

A 1998 BBC report on My Lai described the scene:

Soldiers went berserk, gunning down unarmed men, women, children and babies. Families which huddled together for safety in huts or bunkers were shown no mercy. Those who emerged with hands held high were murdered. ... Elsewhere in the village, other atrocities were in progress. Women were gang raped; Vietnamese who had bowed to greet the Americans were beaten with fists and tortured, clubbed with rifle butts and stabbed with bayonets. Some victims were mutilated with the signature "C Company" carved into the chest. By late morning word had got back to higher authorities and a cease-fire was ordered. My Lai was in a state of carnage. Bodies were strewn through the village.

The massacre galvanized the anti-war movement in the United States. Pinkville will star Bruce Willis as the general who investigated My Lai.

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