cover image Four Hours in My Lai

Four Hours in My Lai

Kevin Sim. Viking Books, $25 (448pp) ISBN 978-0-670-84296-4

This is a gut-wrenching inquiry into the tragedy at My Lai on March 16, 1968 when U.S. Army troops slaughtered some 500 Vietnamese villages--killings, described here in hideous detail, accompanied by widespread rapes, torture and mutilations. Based on interviews with members of Charlie Company, 11th Brigade, Americal Division and Vietnamese witnesses, as well as examination of the site and the voluminous documentation, the authors reveal how the soldiers of Charlie Company came to believe it was their task to wipe out an entire village. The book traces the course of the two main investigations, the first by Army counterintelligence into the physical crimes, the second by the Peers Commission into the attempted cover-up and charges of negligence and dereliction of duty. The authors also analyze the courts-martial including that of Lt. William Calley, the only member of Charlie Company to be convicted. This is a profound, deeply disturbing account of one of the most traumatic incidents in American history, one that ended the national myth of American moral superiority. Bilton coproduced the television documentary Four Hours to My Lai ; Sim is a British TV producer. Photos. (Mar.)