Son My Memorial Vietnam


One of the most sombre places that I have visited is the Son My Memorial in Qang Ngai Province, Vietnam.

The Son My Memorial may not mean much to most people, but if you were alive when the Vietnamese War was taking place, then you would have heard about the My Lai Massacre which was carried out there on 16 March, 1968.

On that day, U.S. soldiers killed 347 villagers. They gang raped many of the women. The elderly and infants were not spared, and irrigation ditches were filled with bodies.

Son My was a village that contained My Lai and three other hamlets. The memorial is about a two hour drive south of Hoi An on Vietnam’s central coast.

Most of the village was destroyed on that dark day in 1968.  The Memorial, which was opened in 1978, and the village has been preserved mostly as it was left, except that they have re-built one house to give visitors an idea of what life was like there.

Upon arrival you drive through the gates into a shady courtyard at the back of which is an imposing building, which is the museum.

To the left of this museum are the remains of Son My.  What was once a thriving village is now a relic of silent ruins.  An irrigation ditch forms the borders of the village, and it was into this ditch that many bodies were thrown.

Each house belonged to a family in which several generations lived. The names of each family, and the individuals who were killed that day are commemorated by plaques.

At one of the ruins is a deep well.  Here, the Americans through the 90 year-old patriarch head first down the well before shooting him. It is very easy to re-create the horror of that day as you wander around the site.

The images, exhibits and stories on display in the museum are quite shocking.  Babies were taken away from mothers and bayoneted in front of them. The carnage was barbaric.

Of the many soldiers originally charged, only five were court-martialed, and one, Lt. Calley, convicted. On Mar. 29, 1971, he was found guilty of the premeditated murder of at least twenty-two Vietnamese civilians and sentenced to life imprisonment. His sentence was later reduced to 10 years, and in Sept., 1974, a federal district court overturned the conviction and Calley was released.

So much for justice.

The Son My Memorial is well worth visiting.  It is not a pleasant experience, but one which will certainly change your perspective on the futility of war.

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