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AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: My Lai

Airs Monday, April 26, 2010 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: A soldier burning down a hut in My Lai village. Ron Haberle’s photos of My Lai were published in The Cleveland Plain Dealer more than a year after the events of March 16, 1968.

Marine on a search-and-destroy mission in Vietnam.
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Above: Marine on a search-and-destroy mission in Vietnam.

What drove a company of American soldiers — ordinary young men deployed to liberate a small foreign nation from an oppressive neighbor — to murder more than 300 unarmed Vietnamese civilians? Were they “just following orders,” as some later declared? Or, as others argued, did they break under the pressure of a misguided military strategy that measured victory by body count?

Today, as the United States once again finds itself questioning the morality of actions taken in the name of war, Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Barak Goodman (“The Lobotomist,” “Scottsboro: An American Tragedy”) focuses his lens on the 1968 My Lai massacre, its subsequent cover-up and the heroic efforts of the soldiers who broke rank to halt the atrocities.

“My Lai” draws upon eyewitness accounts of Vietnamese survivors and men of the Charlie Company 11th Infantry Brigade and recently discovered audio recordings from the Peers Inquiry to recount one of the darkest chapters of the Vietnam War.

Photo Gallery: Photographic Evidence of the Massacre at My Lai

This photo gallery showcases a selection of Ron Haeberle's images from the My Lai Massacre as they were used in the Peers investigation. Many of the images are violent and graphic in nature.

Video

Preview: American Experience: My Lai

Above: What drove a company of American soldiers -- ordinary young men from around the country -- to commit the worst atrocity in American military history? Were they just following orders as some later declared? Or, did they break under the pressure of a vicious war in which the line between enemy soldier and civilian had been intentionally blurred? Watch "MY LAI," Monday, April 26, 2010 on KPBS.