Son My Vestige Site
Theme: Armed conflict
Tu Cung, Tinh Khe
Theme: Armed conflict
Purpose of Memory
Remembering the My Lai massacre committed by US troops on March 16, 1968.
Son My Vestige Site
Date of creation / identification / declaration
UNESCO produced the film Nhung Buc Thu Tu Son My (2010), Letters from Son My.
Son My Vestige Site is located in the place where US troops murdered 504 inhabitants of Son My on March 16, 1968. The main monument of this memorial park is a white stone commemorative statute which represents the victims of the massacre. In the surrounding land, the foundations of what once were their houses, shelters and sheds may be appreciated. The original paths in the village were turned into concrete catwalks which show the prints of both the victims and perpetrators of the massacre.
The museum of the site exhibits a giant plate with the names of the 504 victims, as well as an extensive photo and document gallery which includes extracts of military investigations, news articles and interviews to soldiers and survivors.
The Vietnam War (1955–1975) was an armed conflict which the communist government of North Vietnam and its allies in the southern part of the country faced against the government of South Vietnam and its main ally, the USA. The war was directly preceded by the First Indochina War (1946-1954) where the French colonial power fought against the independence movement Viet Minh lead by Hồ Chí Minh. In addition, the Vietnam War was one of the most important demonstrations of the Cold War between the western block lead by the United States of America and the eastern block lead by the Soviet Union. North Vietnam, which had defeated the French colonial administration in 1954, intended to unify all the country under a unique communist regime inspired in the Soviet Union and China. On the other hand, the government of South Vietnam wished to keep Vietnam aligned with the West. The help from the US Army, which was permanent throughout the 1950s, increased from 1961 and, in 1965, included the presence of active combat units in Vietnam.
My Lai is the name of one of the villages which are part of Son My, in the central coast of South Vietnam. Pinkville was the name this region received in the military maps of the US Army. On March 16, 1968, within the framework of the operations against the 48th Battalion of the Viet Cong, a unit of the US Army lead by William L. Calley invaded the village. During the attack, hundreds of unarmed civilians, including children, women and old people, were murdered.
Under the order “burn everything, kill everything” the houses, cattle and crops belonging to the inhabitants were also destroyed. Within the course of four hours, the unit known as the Charlie Company executed 504 persons: 182 women, 172 children and 60 seniors; 247 houses were destroyed. Numerous cases of sexual abuse and torture were also recorded.
The massacre remained unknown until the end of 1969, when a series of letters of former soldier Ronald Ridenhour to officers of the US government forced the army to take action. Several soldiers and veterans were accusedof murder and concealment. The investigations of the army and the Congress concluded that, in fact, a massacre had occurred.
Out of the many originally accused soldiers, only five were subjected to a martial court and one, Lieutenant Calley, was convicted. He was found guilty (1971) of the premeditated murders of at least twenty-two Vietnamese civilians and was sentenced to life imprisonment. In 1974, his sentence was annulled.
The US Army published an official report about its investigation in 1974.
After the reunification of Vietnam in 1975, the epicenter of the public memory of the war was a tribute to fallen soldiers. Except for the memorial of My Lai and of the museum located in the city of Ho Chi Minh (currently War Remnants Museum), the civilian casualties did not appear in the construction of heroic models prepared by the Vietnamese power.
The first monument in My Lai was erected in 1976, a year after the fall of Saigon. With time, the site, officially known as Son My Vestige Site, grew until it included a museum, gardens and commemorative statutes. It was recognized as a national monument by the Vietnamese Department of Culture on April 29, 1979.
Every March 16, a commemorative ceremony is held in front of the main monument. The event includes an offering of incense, group prayers and tributes by local and international speakers. These interventions frequently highlight the importance of converting hatred into peace.
In the year 2002, the space gained a new state recognition and the following year, the Vietnamese government allotted funds to update the project and restore the museum and its surroundings.
In 2008, the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Massacre driven by the Popular Committee of Quang Ngai (administrative body of the province) gathered more than 2,000 participants among authorities, survivors, villagers and foreign visitors. In this ceremony, survivors of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki participated, as did one of the the US Army’s artillery men who intervened to stop the killing in 1968.
The victims’ and survivors’ relatives currently act as guides in the site and offer their testimony to visitors.
The site’s authorities state that the purpose of the space is to prevent the memory of the massacre from fading away and to promote peace in order to prevent the world from witnessing another event like the My Lai Massacre.
In 2018, the Peace Fund of My Lai announced the start of the building of a memorial park in memory of the victims.
Organization in Charge - Main Referent
Executive Board of the Son My Vestige Site.