Graphic content could be disturbing to some readers.
Ron Haeberle was a combat photographer in Vietnam when he and the Army unit he was riding with — Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment — landed near the hamlet of My Lai on the morning of March 16, 1968. Villagers weren’t alarmed; American GIs had visited the region near the central Vietnamese coast before, without incident. But within minutes, an official Army report would later find, the troops opened fire. In the hours that followed, American forces killed hundreds of old men, women and children. They raped and tortured. They razed the village. When Haeberle’s shocking photographs of their atrocities were published — more than a year later — the pictures laid bare an appalling truth: American “boys” were as capable of unbridled savagery as any soldiers, anywhere.
I first met Ron Haeberle in 2009 when I was a reporter at the Cleveland Plain Dealer — the newspaper that, in November 1969, first published his My Lai photos. That story on the 40th anniversary of that landmark exposé was his first major interview since the story broke four decades earlier. Recently, FOTO asked me to approach Haeberle and ask if he would revisit the story for the 50th anniversary of the massacre. He agreed, and he and I returned to one of the darkest chapters in American history, and his role in bringing it to light.