Laying Bare the War: Responses to the My Lai Massacre and the Trial of Lt. William Calley in American Public Opinion
This paper investigates the responses to the 1968 My Lai Massacre, and the subsequent trial of the atrocity’s chief perpetrator, Lieutenant (Lt.) William Caley. The focus of this inquiry will be centered on the reactions to the massacre and trial within contemporary American public discourse. To this end, the paper relies predominantly on the ways in which the responses to the massacre and trial were represented within the national press. These responses will be shown to highlight the divisions within American society that characterized the final years of the Vietnam War. Utilizing these sources, a substantial segment of this paper’s analysis will be dedicated to revealing the ways in which a divided American public responded to the details of the massacre after they became widely known. Finally, this paper will address the Calley trial and argue that it was the unique political and cultural realities of the time that allowed the majority of the American public to serve as apologists for the disgraced Lieutenant – regardless of whether they condemned or defended the conflict in South East Asia.
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