Ron Ridenhour letter

Excerpt from Ron Ridenhour’s letter to the Senate

“…When “Butch” told me this I didn’t quite believe that what he was telling me was true, but he assured me that it was and went on to describe what had happened.  The other two companies that made up the task force cordoned off the village so that “Charlie” Company could move through to destroy the structures and kill the inhabitants.  Any villagers who ran from Charlie Company were stopped by the encircling companies.  I asked “Butch” several times if all the people were killed.  He said that he thought they were men, women and children.  He recalled seeing a small boy, about three or four years old, standing by the trail with a gunshot wound in one arm.  The boy was clutching his wounded arm with his other hand, while blood trickled between his fingers.  He was staring around himself in shock and disbelief at what he saw.  “He just stood there with big eyes staring around like he didn’t understand; he didn’t believe what was happening.  Then the captain’s RTO (radio operator) put a burst of 16 (M-16 rifle) fire into him.”  It was so bad, Gruver said, that one of the men in his squad shot himself in the foot in order to be medivaced out of the area so that he would not have to participate in the slaughter.  Although he had not seen it, Gruver had been told by people he considered trustworthy that one of the company’s officers, 2nd Lieutenant Kally (this spelling may be incorrect) had rounded up several groups of villagers (each group consisting of a minimum of 20 persons of both sexes and all ages).  According to the story, Kally then machine-gunned each group.  Gruver estimated that the population of the village had been 300 to 400 people and that very few, if any, escaped.

After hearing this account I couldn’t quite accept it.  Somehow I just couldn’t believe that not only had so many young American men participated in such an act of barbarism, but that their officers had ordered it.  There were other men in the unit I was soon to be assigned to, “E” Company, 51st Infantry (LRP), who had been in Charlie Company at the time that Gruver alleged the incident at “Pinkville” had occurred.  I became determined to ask them about “Pinkville” so that I might compare their accounts with PFC Gruver’s….

…Exactly what did, in fact, occur in the village of “Pinkville” in March, 1968 I do not know for certain, but I am convinced that it was something very black indeed.  I remain irrevocably persuaded that if you and I do truly believe in the principles, of justice and the equality of every man, however humble, before the law, that form the very backbone that this country is founded on, then we must press forward a widespread and public investigation of this matter with all our combined efforts.  I think that it was Winston Churchill who, once said “A country without a conscience is a country without a soul, and a country without a soul is a country that cannot survive.” I feel that I must take some positive action on this matter.  I hope that you will launch an investigation immediately and keep me informed of your progress.  If you cannot, then I don’t know what other course of action to take….”



  1. What is the subject of this letter?
  2. After reading this excerpt, what are your reactions to the carnage described?
  3. Does the information in this letter influence your opinion of the Charlie Company in any way? Explain your answer.
  4. What actions does Mr. Ridenhour propose be taken?
  5. If you were Mr. Ridenhour, what actions would you propose be taken? Be sure to justify your answers.