After the visit to the My Lai Massacre Museum, the visit to the Heroic Mother Statue was a more uplifting exposure to the Vietnamese experience of the war. The statue and accompanying museum opened in 2015 to mark the 40th anniversary of the end of the war. It honors Nguyen Thi Thu, whose 11 children and grandchildren all died fighting against the U.S., as well as the other “heroic mothers” of the war who fought in the war or otherwise contributed to the Vietnamese effort.
Note: Some of the photographs below are disturbing.
Leaving Tam Quan, we biked a few miles to what was in some respects the most significant stop on our tour: Son My, the district that was the site of the My Lai massacre. (Click on this link for a detailed Wikipedia history.) On March 16, 1968, soldiers from two U.S. Army battalions attacked a number of hamlets in pursuit of Viet Cong (VC) guerrillas with orders. Colonel Oran Henderson of the 11th Brigade told his officers to “go in there aggressively, close with the enemy and wipe them out for good.” The orders, as transmitted downward, resulted in the command to consider anyone in the villages as VC members or sympathizers. Over the course of the next few hours, soldiers destroyed everything in the villages—homes, livestock, food supplies; killed somewhere between 347 and 504 civilians, including women, children and the elderly; and conducted an unknown number of sexual assaults.
The following are photographs from the memorial museum and the surrounding area.
The museum’s heroes:
Ronald Ridenhour, who reported the incident to Congressional members; Lawrence Colburn and Hugh Thompson, Jr. who rescued civilians by helicopter; Herbert Carter, who shot himself in the foot, allegedly to avoid taking part in the attack.
The museum’s villains:
Colonel Oran Henderson, Captain Ernest Medina, Lt. Colonel Frank Barker and Lieutenant William Calley, the chain of command for the attacks; to the right is Sergeant Ronald Haeberle, who took the photographs of the attacks. Also the American and South Vietnamese politicians responsible for the war, and South Korean “mercenaries.”
Some actions, some victims, and some survivors:
Outside the museum and in nearby fields, there are mass graves, as well as the foundations some of the houses that the soldiers destroyed.