Seymour Hersh and the Vietnam Massacre Part 1

About the journalist Seymour Hersh who won the Pulitzer Prize of his story of the American officer and the Vietnam Massacare.



Dateline: Washington, D.C., Nov. 13, 1969.

By-line: Seymour M. Hersh. Disillusioned as an AP reporter covering the Pentagon (1966-1967), Hersh turned to free-lancing and briefly served as press secretary to Sen. Eugene McCarthy during the early presidential primaries in 1968. He was 32 when he broke this story, which earned him the 1970 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting.

The Big Beat: On Oct. 22, 1969, Hersh received a phone tip that the army was about to court-martial someone for the mass murder of Vietnamese civilians. From this slim lead, Hersh poked and probed his way through the mesh of official secrecy to break the story which would intrude into the living rooms of America and spoil dinner for thousands.

After a number of phone calls, Hersh learned that the man the army was getting ready to dump on was a 26-year-old 1st lieutenant named William Calley, who was being held at Fort Benning, Ga. Hersh flew there to get Calley's side of the story, only to get the runaround from army brass. No one, it seemed, was authorized to discuss Calley, and all efforts to locate him failed until Hersh coaxed a disgruntled mail clerk to steal Calley's personnel file. The Columbus, Ga., address inside turned out to an old Calley residence, but further snooping finally brought the reporter face to face with the man the army had accused of slaying 109 Vietnamese civilians. The two men sat down and talked of what happened half a world away on Mar. 16, 1968: Near the South Vietnamese village of Song My--at a site referred to by Calley as "Pinkville" for its color on army maps and later discovered to be the hamlet of My Lai 4--Company C led by Lieutenant Calley slaughtered over 100 unarmed civilians, mostly old men, women, and children. Huts were set afire to flush the villagers into a waiting hail of machine gun fire. Many victims were herded into a ditch, where they were similarly executed in what one eyewitness, Pvt. Michael Terry, later characterized as "a Nazi-type thing." For his part, Calley claimed that he was merely carrying out the orders of his superiors, who had dispatched Charlie Company to destroy the village.

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