Ha Thi Qui’s recollection as told to Martha Hess and documented in Hess’ book, Then the Americans Came
“IN THE EARLY MORNING, just after we got up, the helicopters came and started shelling, and soldiers poured out onto the fields. I was eating breakfast. We thought it might be like the other times the Americans came into the village. They gave the children candy. Or like the second time, when Americans came to take water from the well to fill their canteens, and then left, and they didn’t do any harm to the people. But the third time, March 16, 1968, when they came to the hamlet they rounded up all the people. Some they took to the roadside and shot right away. The people on the guard tower were all killed. And some they brought over to this ditch, here. First they shot Mr. Cau. He was a monk. He lived in the pagoda. Then they forced everyone into the ditch and shot them. I was wounded in the backside. At first I felt very, very hot, and later on very cold. And they killed-you see, they fired a first time into the ditch, and many men, children and women were killed. They cried, “Mother.” They were screaming. The soldiers fired three more times and finished the cries of the people. The first time there were still people screaming. They fired a second time, and the third time it was finished, all the people were killed.
Afterwards, I got up to go back to my house, and I saw nothing. All the houses had been burned. They had cut down our village tree by the pond. They had cut all the trees down in the orchards. They had killed everyone. There were dead bodies all over the village. I took a little dead baby back to the house from the roadside. It was my daughter’s child.
I went to the next hamlet and found my younger sister-in-law killed, lying on the floor. And I found her daughter’s body, a fifteen-year-old girl, all her clothing torn off and her legs were spread open-raped by Americans.
They had no mercy, the Americans. You see, they had come here many times and we got along with them. Then they came and killed all the people. They showed no mercy for the people. We had done nothing to them. If they had killed people at the beginning, one or two, we would have known to run, but we didn’t know.
I went back to my house and there was nothing, not even a pair of trousers to wear, because everything had been burned. The houses kept on burning, and I couldn’t find anyone. I went to another hamlet, untouched by the Americans, to get food and clothing, and told them what had happened at Son My, and they came and carried the dead people away. There was a terrible smell.
My oldest daughter was killed. You bear a child and bring her up, and then she gets killed. My husband had gone to work in the fields very early, so he escaped. Twice before, the Americans had come here and done nothing. We don’t understand why the third time they killed the people.
After 1968 we were rounded up and moved to a camp about three, four kilometers from here. The Americans surrounded the camp and we lived inside.
The Americans had lived alongside the Vietnamese people, and we did nothing to them. We worked, spent all our lives in the fields. How could they come and kill us that way? So we are very sad about the massacre, full of sorrow, the village people and the farmers, very sad about it.”
- That morning what type of interaction did Ha Thi Qui believe would occur between the villagers and the American soldiers?
- How many times had the Americans visited the village of My Lai before the rampage?
- Does reading this survivor’s testimony affect your view of or feelings toward the My Lai massacre?
- After living through this event, do you think Ms. Qui’s sentiment toward Americans has changed?
- Imagine you had been in Ms. Qui’s position on March 16, 1968. How would you have responded to this invasion by American soldiers?