174th Assault
Helicopter Company

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Documents Relating to the My Lai Massacre

Col. Henderson's Report to MG Koster
April 24, 1968

Comments: Because of the charges of a civilian slaughter made by WO Hugh Thompson and other pilots from the Aeroscout Co of the 123rd Aviation Bn, Brig. Gen. George Young (Americal Division's Deputy Commander) flew out to LZ Dottie the evening of the My Lai Massacre. However, instead of turning these charges over to an investigating body, or visiting the site himself, Young asked Col. Henderson (Commanding the 11th LIB, parent organization of the troops involved) to report on the allegations. Henderson had only assumed command of the 11th Brigade the day before the events in My Lai 4.

What follows below is a copy of Col. Henderson's investigation report sent to Maj. Gen. Koster. It may well be the most amazing document written about My Lai. The * footnote appears in the Peers Commission report, but obviously not in the original document. It is either an exercise in totally unrealistic wishful thinking, or an outright cover-up.

For further reading on this issue, see Lt. Gen. W. R. Peers. The My Lai Inquiry. New York: W.W. Norton, 1979; Michael Bilton and Kevin Sim. Four Hours in My Lai. New York: Viking, 1992.

- John Tegtmeier


Headquarters, 11th Infantry Brigade, Americal Division
APO San Francisco 96217

24 April 1968


SUBJECT: Report of Investigation

Commanding General
Americal Division
APO SF 96374

1. (U) An investigation has been conducted of the allegations cited in Inclosure 1. The following are the results of this investigation.

2. (C) On the day in question, 16 March 1968, Co C 1st Bn 20th Inf and Co B 4th Bn 3d Inf as part of Task Force Barker, 11th Inf Bde, conducted a combat air assault in the vicinity of My Lai Hamlet (Son My Village) in eastern Son Tinh District. This area has long been an enemy strong hold, and Task Force Barker had met heavy enemy opposition in this area on 12 and 23 February 1968. All persons living in this area are considered to be VC or VC sympathizers by the District Chief. Artillery and gunship preparatory fires were placed on the landing zones used by the two companies. Upon landing and during their advance on the enemy positions, the attacking forces were supported by gunships from the 174th Avn Co and Co B, 23d Avn Bn. By 1500 hours all enemy resistance had ceased and the remaining enemy forces had withdrawn. The result of this operation were 128 VC soldiers KIA. During the preparatory fires and the ground action by attacking companies 20 noncombatants caught in the battle area were killed. US Forces suffered 2 KIA and 10 WIA by booby traps and 1 man slightly wounded in the foot by small arms fire. No US soldier was killed by sniper fire as was the alleged reason for killing civilians. Interviews with LTC Frank A. Barker, TF Commander; MAJ Charles C. Calhoun, TF S3; CPT Ernest L. Medina, CO Co C, 1-20; and CPT Earl Michles, CO Co B, 4-3 revealed that at no time were civilians gathered together and killed by US soldiers. The civilian inhabitants in the area began withdrawing to the southwest as soon as the operation began and within the first hour and a half all visible civilians had cleared the area of operations. *

3. (C) The Son Tinh District Chief does not give the allegations any importance and he points out and he points out that the two hamlets were the incident is alleged to have happened are in an area controlled by the VC since 1964. COL Toan, Cmdr 2d ARVN Div reported that the making of such an allegation against US Forces is a common technique of the VC propaganda machine. Inclosure 2 is a translation of an actual VC propaganda message targeted at the ARVN soldier and urging him to shoot Americans. This message was given to this headquarters by CO, 2d ARVN Div o/a 17 April 1968 as a matter of information. It makes the same allegations as made by the Son My Village Chief in addition to other claims of atrocities by American soldiers.

4. (C) It is concluded that 20 noncombatants were inadvertently killed when caught in the preparatory fires and in the cross fires of the US and VC forces on 16 March 1968. It is further concluded that no civilians were gathered together and shot by US soldiers. The allegation that US forces shot and killed 400-500 civilians is obviously a Viet Cong propaganda move to discredit the United States in the eyes of the Vietnamese people in general and the ARVN soldier in particular.

5. (C) It is recommended that a counter-propaganda campaign be waged against the VC in eastern Son Tinh District.

COL, Infantry

2 incl a/s


Peers Commission footnote:
* It will be noted that there is no reference in this paragraph to any
member of the 123d Aviation Bn or to WO1 Thompson's complaint.

Source: W. R. Peers. Report of the Department of the Army Review of the Preliminary Investigations into the My Lai Incident, Vol 1, the report of the investigation. Reprinted in Joseph Goldstein, Burke Marshall and Jack Schwartz. The My Lai Massacre and Its Cover-up: Beyond the Reach of the Law. The Peers Report with a Supplement and Introductory Essay on the Limits of Law. New York: The Free Press, 1976. P285-86.