April 24, 1968
"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." - Col. Henderson's Report to MG Koster
According to US military propagandists, it was simply a case of collateral damage—inadvertent civilian deaths amid the fog of war.
To investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, there was more to My Lai. Working off a tip and a small grant of $250 from the newly founded Fund for Investigative Journalism, Hersh dug up that GIs were implicated in intentional shootings of Vietnamese villagers. A further $2000 from the foundation allowed him to complete his investigation of the massacre. That small grant paid off in spades.
What Hersh found was a US military conspiracy to bury facts around the execution of hundreds of civilians by its soldiers.
Hersh’s pursuit of the truth—which earned him a Pulitzer Prize—led to a new investigation. He also set up his own syndication process to get published and allow newspapers to insert a degree of separation.
In the end Hersh was right, but only one of the 30 soldiers involved served time. Public opinion of the Vietnam War and the US’s role in it, however, was irreversibly tarnished.
Watch Seymour Hersh discuss how he first broke the My Mai Massacre
Independent journalists like Seymour Hersh rely on funding to spend more time on their investigations, travel, and interview the key sources for their stories. In this video Jeremy Scahill, John Carlos Frey and Nick Turse discuss how funding supports their investigations.