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The Moral Courage Paradox: The Peers Report and My Lai

Col. (Retired) Paul E. Berg and Lt. Col. (Retired) Robert J. Rielly


This is a reprint of Chapter 6 from Maintaining the High Ground: The Profession and Ethic in Large-Scale Combat Operations, part of The Large-Scale Combat Operations Series.


The Army Profession is unique because of its responsibilities related to the ethical application of violence on a large scale on behalf of the Nation.1

According to Army Doctrine Publication (ADP) 6-22, Army Leadership and the Profession, all members of the Army "aspire to achieve the Army Values professionally and personally . . . This is an enormous responsibility and the people of the United States require the Army to adhere to its values and represent their interests across the range of military operations."2 These values are embedded in the US Army's oath of enlistment and oath of office for all soldiers who volunteer to support and defend the constitution of the United States of America. In today's Army, leaders must study and reflect on inappropriate past actions in order to uphold their moral responsibility and be proactive to prevent atrocities and immoral violence against both the enemy and civilians.

War crimes are combat actions that violate international humanitarian laws (like the Geneva Convention) or known treaties - incurring individual criminal responsibility for actions against soldiers, detainees, or civilians. While commanders believe their organization could never be involved in a war crime, they would be wise to study the findings of one inquiry conducted more than fifty years ago into a regrettable and tragic event in American military history: The My Lai Massacre.3 The results of the Peers Report inquiry into My Lai are critically important to understand both combat today and in the future. The report offers commanders and leaders suggestions on how to monitor and assess units to identify potential for a future war crime. 4 During World War II, the American public was aware that Japanese soldiers committed atrocities, as did German and Russian soldiers. US soldiers certainly have the potential to commit war crimes in future wars if preemptive measures are not taken to prevent such actions.5

My Lai Massacre Overview

On 16 March 1968, an American infantry platoon murdered more than 500 unarmed women, children, and old men.6 The Americal Division covered up the massacre and might have been successful hiding it from the American people had it not been for Chief Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson, who first witnessed the actions while flying over My Lai, and Specialist Ron Ridenhour, who heard details from friends who participated in the event.

The 16 March 1968 My Lai Massacre represents a professional and leadership failure. Fifty years later, this scar on the US Army's profession still requires examination. While multiple factors contributed to this mass murder, the most important factors were shortcomings in values, leadership, and unit cohesion. Most Army professional military education courses wrongly conclude that the fault belongs with the poor performance of a rogue platoon and, ultimately, the platoon leader, Lt. William Calley. That interpretation misses critical factors concerning the organization, its leadership, and the war - factors that require further review.

Thompson, the pilot of an OH-23 Raven helicopter that flew over My Lai, was the first officer to file a formal report on the day of the massacre. Thompson made several attempts to save unarmed villagers by landing his helicopter between the US soldiers and their captives.7 He coordinated several cargo helicopters to ferry villagers to safety. His report and the internal investigation results, however, never made it to the division commander or out of Vietnam; they did not come to light until two years after the event.8

Specialist Ridenhour, a helicopter crewman assigned to the brigade during My Lai, reported the events in letters to President Richard Nixon, US senators and representatives, and senior Pentagon officials - a year after the massacre and following his discharge from the Army.9 Though Ridenhour's letters prompted a short investigation almost a year after the massacre, there was little movement until Life and Time magazines published graphic color photographs in December 1969 - catapulting the massacre to national attention.10

My Lai and C/1-20th Infantry

Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry, was by all accounts a normal unit before the March 1968 My Lai incident. Formed in 1966 in Hawaii, the battalion trained for nine months before deploying to Vietnam. The soldiers had conducted jungle search and destroy combat operations against the Viet Cong's guerrilla warfare for three months prior to My Lai.11 In January 1967, Charlie Company was selected as one of the best companies in the brigade and became part of an ad hoc battalion called Task Force Barker.12 After their training in Hawaii and three months of successful combat missions, Charlie Company had become a cohesive unit.13


The company commander, Capt. Ernest Medina, was perceived as a strong, effective leader who took care of his men.14 A disciplinarian, he was respected by his men and built his company into a disciplined, combat-effective, well-trained unit with the will to fight and withstand the stress of combat.15 Over their three months of jungle combat search and destroy missions before My Lai, the company's soldiers had become highly stressed and frustrated due to mounting casualties and an elusive enemy.

On 15 March, the day before My Lai, the company held a memorial service for a sergeant recently killed in action. Captain Medina provided a motivating pep talk to his troops regarding their mission the next day, telling the company they would have the chance to fight the enemy and avenge their lost friends. Intelligence reported a high concentration of enemy in the village, and the local area was heavily populated with Viet Cong.16 The battalion commander, Lt. Col. Frank Barker, ordered the company to attack My Lai; after a fifteen-minute artillery barrage, helicopters dropped Company C northwest of the village. The landing zone was "cold" and quiet, with no enemy fire. The village was filled with local villagers; no enemy was present.

Shortly after they arrived, the soldiers started shooting any villagers who fled then grouping others together. The first platoon leader, Lt. William Calley, gave an order for his men to shoot all the villagers; if they refused, Calley did it for them.17 The soldiers threw grenades into bunkers where villagers were hiding, set fire to huts, shot villagers as they tried to flee, killed any animals, and even raped women before killing them. Specialist Vernado Simpson reported: "From shooting them, to cutting their throats, to scalping them, to cutting off their hands and cutting out their tongues."18 The American public was horrified by the reported atrocities.


Sgt. Ron Haeberle, an Army reporter assigned to cover the My Lai operation for the division, used two cameras to document the deaths, a military-issued black and white camera and his personal camera to shoot color photos.19 Then a week before his tour ended, Haeberle turned in the Army-issued camera with all the film but did not divulge to his supervisors that he had taken photos with his personal camera. The black and white photos were never published, but his personal photographs were the ones featured in Life and Time magazines.

In the end, four US Army officers and nine enlisted men were charged for their participation in the My Lai massacre and twelve additional officers for covering up what happened. Of the twenty-five charged, only five were tried, and four were acquitted.20 On 29 March 1971, Calley was convicted of the premeditated murder of twenty-two Vietnamese civilians and sentenced to life imprisonment. President Nixon later changed the sentence from prison to house arrest; then in 1974, the Secretary of the Army pardoned Calley after he had served three-and-a-half years.21


The Peers Inquiry and the Legal Investigation

After the first photos hit the mainstream news, the Secretary of the Army launched a formal inquiry into the events of 16 March 1968. In addition to a criminal investigation, the Army investigated additional areas associated with the operations that day.22 In November 1969, Army Chief of Staff General William C. Westmoreland selected Lt. Gen. William Peers to conduct an inquiry into My Lai to determine: 1) what had gone wrong with the reporting system, 2) why the commander of US forces in Vietnam had not been fully informed when the events occurred, and 3) whether the operation had been investigated.23 General Westmoreland selected Peers because he was the chief of the Office of Reserve Components, had a reputation for objectivity and fairness, and had served in Vietnam as the 4th Infantry Division commander and the I Field Force commander. Additionally, Peers did not graduate from West Point; Westmoreland recognized that no one could accuse Peers of loyalty or favoritism to fellow West Point graduates.24


In what became known as the Peers Inquiry, the Army was essentially investigating itself, its leadership, and how it conducted the war. Army leaders were opening themselves up to severe criticism from the public if the investigation was not handled properly. Peers initially explained to the members of the inquiry board:

No matter what any of us might feel, it [is] our job only to ascertain and report the facts, to let the chips fall where they may. It [is] not our job to determine innocence or guilt of individuals, nor be concerned about what effects the inquiry might have on the Army's image, or about the press or public's reaction to our proceedings.25

Their investigation was under an abbreviated timeline from the start; the team had to finish within four months because many of the military offenses had a two-year statute of limitations.26 Under Peers's leadership, the inquiry board completed its investigation in just under fourteen weeks - interviewing more than 400 witnesses, many of whom had separated from the service.27

In the final report, the team compiled a "list of thirty people who had known of the killing of noncombatants and other serious offenses committed during the My Lai operation but had not made official reports, had suppressed relevant information, had failed to order an investigation, or had not followed up on the investigations that were made."28 They also determined that only three Viet Cong were killed by helicopter gunners as they fled the village early in the operation, the Americans were never fired on, and the only US casualty was a soldier who shot himself in the foot so he would be evacuated because he could not stand the killing.29

As the report was being finalized and the conclusions became evident, Peers asked inquiry board members to draw some conclusions as to why My Lai occurred.30 Peers believed it was critically important to include findings explaining why and how the combat operation developed into a massacre. Peers believed this assessment was needed "to not only highlight the deficiencies in the My Lai operation but also to indicate some of the differences between this operation and those of other units in South Vietnam."31 Peers also wanted to "point out problems of command and control that existed within the Army's Americal Division, problems that would require vigorous corrective action by the Army in order to prevent repetition of such an incident in the future."32

In the recommendations chapter of its March 1970 report, the inquiry board identified thirteen factors that contributed to My Lai. This list provides today's Army with a tool to help commanders assess their organizations and determine if soldiers or small units in their command might be inclined to commit war crimes. Peers subsequently narrowed the list to nine factors in his 1979 book, The My Lai Inquiry: 1) lack of proper training, 2) attitude toward the Vietnamese, 3) permissive attitude, 4) psychological factors, 5) organizational problems, 6) nature of the enemy, 7) plans and orders, 8) attitude of government officials and leaders, and 9) leadership.33 These nine elements are explained in detail here.

Regarding Factor #1, lack of proper training, the Peers inquiry determined that "neither units nor individual members of Task Force Barker and the 11th Brigade received the proper training in the Law of War, the safeguarding of noncombatants, or the rules of engagement."34 The team determined the lack of training was due to an accelerated movement schedule, large turnover of personnel prior to deployment, and the continual arrival of soldiers who were new to the unit.35 According to the report, training was conducted in a "lackadaisical" manner; while higher headquarters passed out pocket cards and memoranda, they never explained or reinforced the information.36 Peers stated: "Some panel members thought the MACV (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam) policy of requiring soldiers to carry a variety of cards was nothing short of ludicrous. They might have served as reminders, but they were no substitute for instruction."37 Personal classroom instructions regarding the rules of warfare and conduct in combat were noticeably absent.

The inquiry report also concluded the unit did not complete ethics and morality training; training that was done was not as frequent as it should have been. Senior Army officers indicated that most training time was devoted to "hands-on training, such as vehicles, communications, and weapons, and advised that little time remained to teach morality and ethics, so they were pieced in. . . . Peers advised that ethics and morality training be given a higher priority."38 Army leaders cannot assume that soldiers in small units will develop appropriate values, beliefs, attitudes, and norms without specific ethical and values training. While training time is similarly limited in today's Army, commanders must consistently conduct, integrate, and reinforce values and ethics training; keeping such key lessons current for soldiers requires constant regeneration.39

On Factor #2, attitude toward the Vietnamese, the Peers report indicated soldiers had a poor attitude toward the local population. During operations, commanders should take notice if soldiers make racial or derogatory comments toward the local population and seem to treat the locals and enemy combatants as lower human beings.40 To prevent this type of behavior, commanders must assess their organization's beliefs, attitudes, and operating norms toward the enemy and the local population and prevent junior leaders from condoning a negative attitude toward the local population.41

Regarding Factor #3, permissive attitude, the Peers report included this comment: "The Americal Division and the 11th Brigade had strong, well-designed policies covering the handling of prisoners, the treatment of Vietnamese civilians, and the protection of their property. However, it was clear that there had been breakdowns in communicating and enforcing those policies."42 The inquiry concluded that mishandling and rough treatment of prisoners did not start at My Lai but were present for months prior to the operation. In addition, commanders either allowed the unlawful treatment of prisoners and local populace or failed to discover it was occurring in their units; therefore, they tacitly approved the actions by not stopping them. The result was that such behavior quickly became part of the way the units operated, like a standard operating procedure.43 Commanders at all levels must role model and, most importantly, set the proper climate for the organization by constantly assessing how their units are treating detainees, prisoners, and unarmed innocent civilians. In addition, commanders and leaders at all levels must clearly articulate acceptable behavior and continually reinforce that guidance to subordinates on a daily basis.

In addressing Factor #4, psychological factors, the report indicated Charlie Company soldiers frequently used the words "fear," "apprehension," and "keyed up" to describe their emotions during the massacre.44 In addition, they were frustrated by the number of deaths and injuries from mines and booby traps, as well as their inability to establish any contact with the enemy. Because of this mounting frustration, commanders pressured units to "be more aggressive and close rapidly with the enemy."45 In an attempt to vindicate the high number of casualties, they enabled aggressive action toward the populace that was against the code of warfare or American ethics. Leaders must set a command climate that promotes open communication and monitors soldier attitudes to identify unhealthy levels of pressure and frustration.

The Peers inquiry also identified Factor #5, organizational problems, "at every level, from company through task force and brigade up to the Americal Division headquarters;" these problems could be found in every major unit in Vietnam.46 Task Force Barker was an ad hoc battalion organization consisting of one company from each of the battalions assigned to the brigade; however, none of the companies had ever trained together or with the commander. The task force commander was actually the 11th Brigade operations officer (S3), who took his staff "out of hide" by pulling a minimum number of personnel out of the brigade. Peers opined that although organizational problems contributed, they could not be "cited as the principal cause."47 To alleviate potential problems associated with an ad hoc organizational unit structure, commanders should assess the climate and culture of any newly assigned organization and inculcate them into the new climate and culture.48

In the Vietnam War, it was always difficult to distinguish combatants from noncombatants, contributing to Factor #6, nature of the enemy. Peers stated: "It could be fairly well assumed that every male of military age was a VC [Viet Cong] of some form or another."49 In future combat, commanders must consider the nature of the enemy when assessing their unit's combat actions; some enemies will not respect the Law of Land Warfare and will not conduct combat operations within "the rules." They will constantly test and push a unit's morality commitment to the limits, to where it becomes tempting for stressed troops to respond in kind. Commanders must acknowledge, assess, and appreciate the effect that enemy tactics are having on the organizations and continuously evaluate the strategic and tactical impact on a unit's organizational climate and small-unit operating norms.50

Regarding Factor #7, plans and orders, Peers discovered that "as Barker's orders were passed down the chain of command, they were amplified and expanded upon, with the result that a large number of soldiers gained the impression that only the enemy would be left in My Lai and that everyone encountered was to be killed."51 The command climate in Charlie Company exacerbated the problem because subordinates were afraid to question orders or to ask for clarification.52 To combat this, commanders should establish a command climate in which subordinates and others attached to their organization feel comfortable approaching supervisors with any kind of issues or questions. In ambiguous, confusing, and fluid combat situations, leaders must issue clear and concise orders that units at all levels will understand.

Factor #8 in the My Lai assault was the attitude of government officials. Peers noted that local Vietnamese officials believed anyone living in the My Lai area was either Viet Cong or a Viet Cong sympathizer and viewed the area as a free-fire zone, automatically approving any request to fire in the area.53 The attitude of these South Vietnamese officials rubbed off on some American soldiers, who soon began to view the population as expendable. Leaders in future combat operations could encounter local governments that do not value the lives of citizens. In such cases, US forces cannot fall into the trap of becoming nonchalant and careless about avoiding noncombatant casualties.54

The Peers inquiry concluded that, above all, a lack of leadership was the main cause of the massacre - Factor #9.55 The report cited that leaders failed to follow policies, did not enforce policies, failed to control the situation, failed to check, failed to conduct an investigation, and did not follow up. In addition, the panel members determined that although Lieutenant Colonel Barker used mission-type orders, he failed to check to determine if his subordinates carried out his orders properly and legally without violating any policy for preventing civilian deaths. In addition, the organization's command climate did not foster open communication.56 Lieutenant Colonel Barker did not have "a close working relationship with his subordinates;" therefore, no one believed they could question his orders.57 It was much the same situation with the Charlie Company commander, Captain Medina. The inquiry concluded, "Nobody questioned his authority or his judgment."58 Finally, the Americal Division commander, Maj. Gen. Samuel Koster, had created a command climate in which primary staff members were afraid to approach him with any sort of bad news or a problem with the division.59 Thus, when damaging information began to surface about the possible events during My Lai, not one division staff officer had the courage to relay details to the commanding general. Subsequently, the staff and entire chain of command made every effort to ignore the information.60

The inquiry further concluded that Charlie Company platoon leaders identified more with their men than their commanders; the lieutenants wanted to fit in with the men of their platoons and be one of the boys. Also, because they were young and inexperienced, they did not take action to immediately correct wrongdoings.61

In terms of leadership, one major cause of My Lai was that according to the unit's values and norms, it was acceptable to commit war crimes. The members of Charlie Company were loyal to their fellow soldiers and the unit rather than to the Army and its chain of command; by failing to act, leaders condoned a climate that supported these actions and forced silence. In the case of My Lai, only individuals outside of Charlie Company and Task Force Barker had the moral courage to fully report what happened; absolutely no one in the unit would or did.62

Peers Inquiry Conclusions

In his later book, Peers acknowledged that atrocities like My Lai could happen again.63 He commented: "Lack of leadership at platoon and squad levels cannot be accepted as an excuse. Every other US Forces unit in South Vietnam had to make do with inexperienced junior officers and NCOs [noncommissioned officers], yet they did not engage in manifestly illegal operations."64 Peers eluded that the leadership problems were much higher than platoon and company levels.

The inquiry concluded that although Captain Medina was a strong leader, his platoon leaders were not. As noted earlier, Medina failed to take immediate and corrective action against wrongdoings.65 The result was a climate where subordinates couldn't address problems and Medina and his subordinate leaders did not recognize how the platoon's values were changing. One Charlie Company soldier commented:

When you are in an infantry company, in an isolated environment like this, the rules of that company are foremost. They are the things that really count. The laws back home do not make any difference. What people think of you does not matter. What matters is what people here and now think about what you are doing. What matters is how the people around you are going to see you. Killing a bunch of civilians in this way, babies, women, old men, people who were unarmed, helpless was wrong. Every American would know that. And yet this company, sitting out here isolated in this one place, did not see it that way. I am sure they did not. This group of people was all that mattered. It was the whole world. What they thought was right was right. And what they thought was wrong was wrong. The definitions for things were turned around. Courage was seen as stupidity. Cowardice was cunning and wariness, and cruelty and brutality were seen sometimes as heroic. That is what it eventually turned into.66

Building cohesive units is one of the most important things junior leaders do. Charlie Company exhibited a negative side of cohesion because the company developed beliefs, values, attitudes, and operating norms that were contrary to and conflicted with the ethical standards of other units and American society.67 This explains how good, honest, and moral men can commit or condone war crimes without recognizing that their actions were wrong; in their minds, the Charlie Company soldiers were defending their unit and protecting their fellow soldiers.

Building a Values-Based Military

New Army recruits come with individual values and morals developed over time through personal experiences, as well as individual preferences or judgments.68 Values form the moral groundwork for the individual's belief system and determine attitudes and behaviors toward another person, group, or thing.69 A unit's behavioral norms are based on attitudes and beliefs that are rooted in the developed group values, and each platoon could possibly develop its own specific behavioral norms based on its specific group beliefs, attitudes, and values.70 A commander's assumption and hope is that soldiers will fully embrace Army values so they can conform to the military ethos and act morally and ethically in combat operations.

While commanders understand that effective unit cohesion is the glue that strengthens the unit bond, they also must realize that certain cohesive traits can lead to negative and immoral unit actions. Unit cohesion is difficult to measure and assess - especially as companies and platoons become effective and strong in combat operations, developing norms for future combat behavior.71 Commanders and leaders should never assume that subordinate officers and soldiers will share Army values, attitudes, beliefs, and norms to the degree desired and expected under the Army ethos. Developing appropriate values requires continuous, recurring, and specific training. The company, platoon, or squad is that young soldier's family in combat and offers essential life-saving responsibilities, including unit security and personal survival. Soldiers fight for their buddies on their left and right who are fighting to keep them alive also. When faced with a moral or ethical choice, soldiers are more likely to remain loyal to their company, platoon, or squad above everything else.72

Commanders and leaders have a critical responsibility to ensure that company or platoon norms and moral values are aligned with those of the Army, especially during combat operations.73 If commanders fail to provide necessary guidance and set an appropriate example, the company or platoon will develop its own values and norms based on what it thinks will best align with higher headquarters values and norms.74 For commanders to create a cohesive, combat-capable small unit that will perform in accordance with Army values, leaders must inculcate the desirable values and develop norms so soldiers adopt these values as their own. Commanders and leaders should never ignore or take this responsibility lightly; as military ethicist James Toner warned: "Good ethics must be taught by good leaders."75 Leaders at My Lai failed because they did not provide a role model for Army values. Commanders and leaders failed to ensure that every soldier in their unit, from the lowest private to the highest commander, understood regulations, policies, and expectations.76 Every commander must ensure this is part of their command climate.

Setting a Positive Example

Chief Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson was one of the few American soldiers involved with the My Lai incident who acted with morality and compassion. Flying a reconnaissance helicopter over the village, he and his door gunners Specialists Glenn Andreotta and Lawrence Colburn saw the piles of dead bodies and soldiers killing unarmed villagers; they decided to do something about it. Thompson landed his helicopter between the villagers and Lieutenant Calley's soldiers. Thompson asked Calley if he could help the villagers and Lieutenant Calley answered "with a grenade;" taking action, Thompson ordered Colburn to point his machine gun at the American soldiers.77 Thompson then helped the villagers out of a bunker then ordered a larger helicopter to ferry the villagers to safety.


Immediately after the events of My Lai, Thompson reported the massacre to his aviation battalion chain of command who did assist in stopping the hostilities in My Lai.78 The Task Force Barker chain of command and the Americal Division immediately tried to cover up the events. To keep Thompson quiet, they awarded him the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroism; he threw away the award because it was a complete lie.79 In late 1969, Thompson was called to Washington, DC, to appear before a closed hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.80 Many congressmen were anxious to play down the massacre by American troops, including committee chairman Mendel Rivers (D-SC), who tried unsuccessfully to get Thompson court-martialed.81 Thompson testified about the My Lai events:

It was probably one of the saddest days of my life. I just could not believe that people could totally lose control and I've heard people say this happened all the time. I don't believe it. I'm not naÔve to understand that innocent civilians did get killed in Vietnam. I truly pray to God that My Lai was not an everyday occurrence. I don't know anybody could keep their sanity if something like that happened all the time. I can see where four or five people get killed, something like that. But that was nothing like that, it was no accident whatsoever. Pure premeditated murder. And we are trained better than that and it's not something you would like to do.82

After his testimony, Thompson received hate mail, death threats, and mutilated animals on his doorstep. Following Vietnam, Thompson was assigned to Fort Rucker, Alabama, as an instructor pilot. He eventually finished his Army career at the rank of major and retired in 1983.

In 1998, almost thirty years after the massacre, Thompson, Andreotta, and Colburn were awarded the Soldier's Medal (Andreotta posthumously), which is the highest award for bravery not involving direct contact with the enemy. Major General Ackerman said in the presentation ceremony, "It was the ability to do the right thing even at the risk of their personal safety that guided these soldiers to do what they did."83 Whenever Thompson lectured at service academies, his message was always clear: "Common people can act with uncommon courage when necessary, and doing so can make a difference in the lives of many."84 A memorial erected at My Lai lists 504 total victims, including 182 women, of whom 17 were pregnant; 173 children, of whom 56 were infants; and 60 men who were more than 60 years old.85 The total would have been even higher without the intervention by Thompson, Andreotta, and Colburn.


Implications for the Future

Commanders and leaders need to assess their organizations and build a command climate which supports open communication and where subordinates feel they can question ambiguous or unclear instructions and take bad news to higher headquarters. Most importantly, commanders must assess their company and platoon climates to recognize if values change due to significant combat or emotional events. They will also need to assess small unit cohesiveness to determine underlying values. Commanders should never assume that their units will forever retain good organizational values; even in combat, values need constant reinforcement to assure they meet the standards of their institution.86 The nine factors of the Peers Inquiry offer indicators for commanders to use in this assessment.

The most significant lesson from My Lai is that war crimes can still happen - even in a professional, disciplined military. Commanders must remain vigilant. Lt. Gen. William Peers and his commission did the nation and the Army a great service by identifying areas that military commanders should monitor and assess.87 Army values are critically important, and every soldier should adhere to the ethos framework. Army leaders must deliberately build a command climate by serving as role models, teaching values, and enforcing them so every soldier will succeed and preserve honor.88 To prevent another My Lai massacre, lessons of the past must be taught and inculcated into every soldier. My Lai should serve as a warning for all future Army leaders.89



84; and Lester and Pury, "What Leaders Should Know about Courage," 22.

  1. Department of the Army, Army Doctrine Publication (ADP) 6-22, Army Leadership and the Profession (Washington, DC: 2019), 1-2.
  2. Department of the Army, 2-1.
  3. Robert Rielly, "The Inclination for War Crimes," Military Review (May- June 2009): 17.
  4. Rielly, 17.
  5. Grace Sevy, ed., The American Experience in Vietnam: a Reader (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1989), 129.
  6. Michael R. Belknap, The Vietnam War on Trial: The My Lai Massacre and the Court-Martial of Lieutenant Calley (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2002); Seymour M. Hersch, My-Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and its Aftermath (New York: Random House, 1970); James S. Olsen and Randy Roberts, My Lai: A Brief History with Documents (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1998); William R. Peers, The My Lai Inquiry (New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1979); and Sevy.
  7. Claude Cookman, "An American Atrocity: The My Lai Massacre Concretized in a Victim's Face," The Journal of American History (June 2007): 154.
  8. Cookman, 154.
  9. Cookman, 154.
  10. Cookman, 154.
  11. Michael Bilton and Kevin Sim, Four Hours in My Lai (New York: Penguin Books, 1992), 3.
  12. Bilton and Sim, 65.
  13. Bilton and Sim, 83.
  14. Peers, The My Lai Inquiry, 253; and Bilton and Sim, 52.
  15. Robert Rielly, "The Darker Side of the Force," Military Review (March- April 2001): 58-59.
  16. Cookman, "An American Atrocity," 156.
  17. Cookman, 156.
  18. "Remember My Lai," Frontline, PBS, 23 May 1989, http://www.pbs. org/wgbh/pages/frontline/programs/transcripts/714.html.
  19. Cookman, "An American Atrocity," 157.
  20. Sevy, The American Experience in Vietnam, 129.
  21. Richard Nixon, RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon (New York: 1978), 449-50; and "A Newsweek Poll on Calley's Fate," Newsweek (12 April 1971): 28.
  22. Rielly, "The Inclination for War Crimes," 18-19.
  23. Rielly, 18-19.
  24. Rielly, 19-20.
  25. Rielly, 19-20.
  26. Rielly, 19-20.
  27. Rielly, 20.
  28. Rielly, 20.
  29. Cookman, "An American Atrocity," 162.
  30. Rielly, "The Inclination for War Crimes," 20.
  31. Rielly, 20.
  32. Rielly, 20.
  33. Peers, 252.
  34. Bilton and Sim, Four Hours in My Lai, 83.
  35. Bilton and Sim, 65.
  36. Bilton and Sim, 19.
  37. Peers, The My Lai Inquiry, 230.
  38. Peers, 251.
  39. John W. Gardner, On Leadership (New York: The Free Press, 1990), 13.
  40. Peers, The My Lai Inquiry, 230-31.
  41. Rielly, "The Darker Side of the Force," 59.
  42. Peers, The My Lai Inquiry, 234.
  43. Rielly, "The Inclination for War Crimes," 20.
  44. Peers, The My Lai Inquiry, 234.
  45. Peers, 234.
  46. Peers, 235.
  47. Peers, 235.
  48. Rielly, "The Inclination for War Crimes," 21.
  49. Peers, The My Lai Inquiry, 236.
  50. Rielly, "The Inclination for War Crimes," 22.
  51. Peers, The My Lai Inquiry, 236.
  52. David L. Anderson, Facing My Lai: Moving Beyond the Massacre (Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press, 1998), 126.
  53. Rielly, "The Inclination for War Crimes," 22.
  54. Peers, The My Lai Inquiry, 237.
  55. Peers, 232.
  56. Peers, 233.
  57. Peers, 233.
  58. Peers, 233.
  59. Anderson, Facing My Lai, 126.
  60. Rielly, "The Inclination for War Crimes," 22.
  61. Peers, The My Lai Inquiry, 233.
  62. Rielly, "The Inclination for War Crimes," 22.
  63. Peers, The My Lai Inquiry, 252.
  64. Rielly, "The Inclination for War Crimes," 23.
  65. Peers, The My Lai Inquiry, 233.
  66. Bilton and Sim, Four Hours in My Lai, 19.
  67. Rielly, "The Darker Side," 58.
  68. Rielly, 60.
  69. Milton Rokeach, The Nature of Human Values (New York: The Free Press, 1973), 18.
  70. Joe Kelly, Organizational Behavior (Homewood, IL: Richard D. Irwin and the Dorsey Press, 1969), 621.
  71. Rielly, "The Darker Side," 60.
  72. Rielly, 61.
  73. Anthony Kellet, Combat Motivation: The Behavior of Soldiers in Battle (Boston, London, and The Hague: Kluwer-Nijhoff Publishing, 1982), 102.
  74. Rielly, "The Darker Side," 62.
  75. James Toner, "Leadership, Community, and Virtue," Joint Forces Quarterly (Spring 1996): 103; and Rielly, 63.
  76. Rielly, "The Darker Side," 63.
  77. Seymour Hersh, "Lieutenant Accused of Murdering 109 Civilians," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 13 November 1969, 64.
  78. Paul B. Lester and Cynthia Pury, "What Leaders Should Know about Courage," in Leadership in Dangerous Situations: A Handbook for the Armed Forces, Emergency Services, and First Responders, ed. Patrick J. Sweeney, Michael D. Matthews, and Paul B. Lester (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2011), 21.
  79. Peers, The My Lai Inquiry, 236.
  80. Lester and Pury, "What Leaders Should Know about Courage," 22.
  81. Lester and Pury, 22.
  82. "Lieutenant Calley Court Martial Excerpts: Hugh Thompson, Witness for the Prosecution," 1970, Myl_hero.html.
  83. "My Lai Pilot Hugh Thompson," National Public Radio, 6 January 2006,
  84. Peers, The My Lai Inquiry, 234.
  85. Rielly, "The Inclination for War Crimes," 22.
  86. Rielly, 22.
  87. Rielly, "The Darker Side of the Force," 62.
  88. Jeffrey F. Addicott and William A. Hudson Jr., "The Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of My Lai: A Time to Inculcate the Lessons," Military Law Review 139 (1992): 153.


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