My Lai

  • by Howard Jones
  • Narrated by James Patrick Cronin
  • 17 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

On the early morning of March 16, 1968, American soldiers from three platoons of Charlie Company entered a group of hamlets located in the Son Tinh district of South Vietnam, located near the Demilitarized Zone and known as "Pinkville" because of the high level of Vietcong infiltration. The soldiers, many still teenagers who had been in the country for three months, were on a "search and destroy" mission. Three hours after the GIs entered the hamlets, more than 500 unarmed villagers lay dead, killed in cold blood. The atrocity took its name from one of the hamlets, known by the Americans as My Lai Four.
Military authorities attempted to suppress the news of My Lai until some who had been there, in particular a helicopter pilot named Hugh Thompson and a door gunner named Lawrence Colburn, spoke up about what they had seen. The official line was that the villagers had been killed by artillery and gunship fire rather than by small arms. That line soon began to fray. Lieutenant William Calley, one of the platoon leaders, admitted to shooting the villagers but insisted that he had acted upon orders. An exposé of the massacre and cover-up by journalist Seymour Hersh incited international outrage, and Congressional and US Army inquiries began.

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What the Critics Say

"Jones succeeds on all counts in a book that, due to its subject matter, is not pleasant to read but is powerful and important." (Kirkus Reviews)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Outstanding audiobook

An outstanding retelling & analysis of the My Lai incident that also includes discussion of how it came to happen and its cover-up aftermath. Now that nearly 50 years have passed it is proper subject for a historian. I remember when it happened myself or rather when it was publicly exposed a year later ... When I myself was within a year or two of draft eligibility. In that time we understood it was an atrocity & that "someone ought to pay." But at that time I was sympathetic with the common view that Calley & Medina were scapegoats. I am less sure of that now. They both (& others) should have served long jail terms. And their superiors made to pay more than just discharge from the service. The ultra patriot class of that day - they should be ashamed of defending a unit that massacred over 500 civilians in cold blood. This was emphatically not the common experience of the 2-3 million American soldiers who served in Vietnam. Their service, including the 50,000 who died, should be honored without tainting it with the guilt of political leaders who put us there. But those who commit big or little atrocities surely should not be celebrated or apologized for by our society. Powerful & compelling writing & narration.
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- D. Littman

The more things change,the more they stay the same

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, absolutely. It's a painful period of American history which needs to be remembered.

But perhaps more importantly, not remembered as being unique in the history of military actions, American and otherwise. I remember, years ago, a family member of an older generation stating that we know about My Lai because America acknowledges its mistakes. I demurred at the time out of respect for my elders. But, no. No we don't.


What did you like best about this story?

One hundred and four years earlier, one can imagine it being Cheyenne and Arapaho massacred at Sand Creek. Twenty-five years later, the government conspires to change narratives of atrocities and high profile deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over four decades later, we still have unhinged leaders shrieking about fake news. It's a universal, eternal story, in the worst possible way.


What does James Patrick Cronin bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

It was a solid performance. Just enough measured emotion in the voice to convey the gravity of the situation, without slipping into the mawkish. A few questionable pronunciations, but nothing major.


Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Depression, anger, sadness at the incompetence/indifference of the military and civilian authorities, even today, at what constitutes honor, duty and just merely decent behavior.

While I can appreciate the author steering away from the over-arching question of why Americans were in Vietnam in the first place (outside of short passages in the court martial section and epilogue), it hung over the book like a dark cloud. The standard defense that women, children and the elderly were necessarily regarded as combatants (mostly debunked in this instance), still leaves the question of why they (the women, children and elderly) would do it. Might Americans defend their country in the same way if they felt invaded by a foreign army? Rationalizing a threat and dehumanizing the victims seemsto have made killing easy.


Any additional comments?

The story reinforces the notion that a uniform does not confer honor upon the person, but the person brings honor to the uniform. These men, (save for Thompson, Andreotta, and Colburn), did not.

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- Buretto

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-11-2017
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio