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Americas

More than 40 years on, US soldier apologises for My Lai massacre

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-08-22

Former US lieutenant William Calley on Wednesday publicly apologised for his role in the massacre of hundreds of unarmed women, children and old men in the Vietnamese village of My Lai in 1968. Calley was the only soldier convicted for the killings.

AFP - A survivor of mass killings by American troops in the Vietnamese village of My Lai in 1968 said Saturday he welcomed the public apology made by a former officer convicted for his role the atrocity.

"It's a question of the past and we accept his apologies, although they come too late," Pham Thanh Cong, director of a small museum at My Lai, told AFP by telephone.

"However, I prefer that he send his apologies to me in writing or by email."

The exact toll of the massacre remains in dispute but US estimates suggest that between 347 and 504 unarmed citizens were massacred on March 16, 1968.

"There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in My Lai," former lieutenant William Calley told members of the Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus, Georgia, last Wednesday.

"I feel remorse for the Vietnamese who were killed, for their families, for the American soldiers involved and their families. I am very sorry."

Although a commission of inquiry recommended charges should be brought against 28 officers and two non-commissioned officers, Calley was the only US soldier convicted over the killings at My Lai.

"I want him to come back... and see things here. Maybe he has now repented for his crimes and his mistakes committed more than 40 years ago," said Cong, who saw his mother and brothers killed in the massacre.

Old men, women and children -- all unarmed -- were killed in the slaughter, which other US soldiers tried to stop.

The massacre helped turn US public opinion against the war and Calley was sentenced to life in prison. His sentence was later reduced to house arrest.

Vietnam and the US normalised diplomatic ties in 1995 and the communist country is now a key economic partner of the US.
 

Date created : 2009-08-22