Seymour Hersh and the Vietnam Massacre Part 2

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



So Hersh had his story at last and wrote it up on the plane back to Washington. Failing to sell the piece to Life and Look magazines, Hersh filed it with the fledgling Dispatch News Service, which peddled it to 36 major newspapers at $100 each. Although the expose sent a few ripples across the land, it was not until the Cleveland Plain Dealer ran pictures of the slaughter taken by army photographer Ronald L. Haeberle that My Lai began to dominate American thought. Forced by the publicity to expand its investigation, the army sprinkled a few more indictments around, but Calley remained the focal point. In a protracted trial marked by conflicting testimony and with the ghost of the Nuremberg trials haunting every cross-examination and rebuttal, Lieutenant Calley in 1971 was found guilty of the premeditated murder of 102 Asians and sentenced to life imprisonment. Later the term was reduced to 10 years, and Calley, after serving one third of his sentence, walked out a free man in 1974 at the order of a civil court. What did Hersh think about Calley's conviction? "My immediate reaction is guilt," the reporter said at the time. "If I hadn't written the story, Calley might not be where he is today. . . . . I think he's as much a victim as the people he shot."

In Print: "Lieutenant William L. Calley, Jr., twenty-six, is a mild-mannered, boyish-looking Vietnam combat veteran with the nickname of 'Rusty.' The Army says he deliberately murdered at least 109 Vietnamese civilians during a search-and-destroy mission in March, 1968, in a Viet Cong stronghold known as 'Pinkville.'" (Seymour M. Hersh. My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and its Aftermath. Vintage Books, Random House, 1970, p. 134. This first Hersh piece ran in 36 papers including the Washington Post, Boston Globe, and San Francisco Chronicle.)

"'The whole thing was so deliberate. It was point-blank murder and I was standing there watching it,' said Sergeant Michael Bernhardt. . . .

"Another soldier said that he recalled seeing a small boy, about three or four years old, standing by the trail with a gunshot wound in one arm. 'The boy was clutching his wounded arm with his other hand, while blood trickled between his fingers. He was staring around himself in shock and disbelief at what he saw.

"'He just stood there with big eyes staring around, like he didn't understand; he didn't believe what was happening. Then the captain's radio operator put a burst of 16 [M16 fire] into him.'" (The Times, London, Nov. 20, 1969. Copyright Dispatch News Service and Times Newspapers Ltd., 1969)

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