45 years ago on March 16, 1968, Charlie Company of the Americal Division’s 11th Infantry Brigade received word that Viet Cong (VC) guerrillas had taken control of the Son My village. Led by Lieutenant William L. Calley, the unit was sent to the village on a search-and-destroy mission. The My Lai hamlet was part of the village of Son My, located in Quang Ngai province, which was believed to be a stronghold of the VC and was a frequent target of U.S. and South Vietnamese bombing attacks.
Army commanders had advised the soldiers of Charlie Company that all who were found in Son My could be considered VC or active VC sympathizers, and ordered them to destroy the village. When they arrived, the soldiers found no Viet Cong, but rounded up and murdered hundreds of civilians -mostly women, children and old men- in an extremely brutal fashion, including rape and torture.