William Calley

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William Calley (born June 8, 1943) was a U.S. Army officer involved in the March 1968 My Lai Massacre. He graduated from high school in Miami, Florida, and went to Palm Beach Jr. College in Lake Worth, Florida. He later became a conductor for the Florida East Coast Railroad before becoming a United States Army lieutenant in the Vietnam War.

Calley was charged on September 5, 1969 with six specifications of premeditated murder for the death of 109 Vietnamese civilians near the village of My Lai, at a hamlet called Song My, more commonly called My Lai in the U.S. press. In this well documented incident, 500 villagers, mostly women, children, infants and elderly, were assembled and then shot by soldiers of Charlie Company, Americal Division.

Calley's trial started on November 17, 1969 and resulted in a conviction on March 29, 1971 of premeditated murder of 22 civilians for his role in the massacre. On March 31, 1971 he was sentenced to life in prison.

Testimony revealed that Calley had ordered the men of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, American Division to shoot everyone in the village. Calley claimed that he was following the orders of his immediate superior, Captain Ernest Medina. Whether or not this order was actually given is disputed; Medina was later acquitted of all charges relating to the incident at a separate trial. Of the 26 officers and soldiers initially charged for their participation in the My Lai massacre or the subsequent cover-up, only Calley was convicted.

Calley was seen by some as a scapegoat used by the U.S. Army instead of accepting responsibility for the failure to instill morale and discipline in its troops and commanders. Others, with lack of knowledge about his education or background, sought to excuse his actions because of his allegedly low intelligence and cultural background.

On April 1, only a day after Calley was sentenced, President Richard Nixon ordered him released from prison; in August 1971 his term was reduced to 20 years. Ultimately, Calley only served 3½ years of house arrest in his quarters at Fort Benning, Georgia and was released in 1974 by a federal judge. He is now a jeweler in Columbus, Georgia.

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