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Monday, 16 March, 1998, 11:45 GMT
My Lai victims remembered
My Lai ceremony
The My Lai commemoration ceremony drew victims, families and rescuers together
Ceremonies commemorating the 30th anniversary of one of the most notorious incidents of the Vietnam War - the massacre of My Lai - have been taking place in Vietnam.

Around 500 unarmed civilians, the majority women and children, were shot, bayonetted and sexually assaulted by American soldiers on March 16th 1968.

The US infantrymen were conducting what the army termed a "combat assault operation" through Son My - a group of hamlets known to be a stronghold of the communist Viet Cong.

For two years after it happened, the US army tried to conceal the atrocities perpetrated by the three platoons of Charlie Company.

Exactly 30 years on, the massacre was marked by a ceremony which re-united some of the survivors with two middle-aged former American soldiers who, instead of joining in the slaughter, tried to stop it.

Hugh Thompson and Lawrence Colburn' s helicopter crew landed their helicopter between advancing US troops and a group of fleeing Vietnamese, helping prevent even more killings.

They held troops at gunpoint until a second helicopter could lift the survivors to safety.

The actions of the two Americans were belatedly recognised just 10 days ago when they were awarded the Soldiers Medal in Washington.

A crowd of about 1,000 people watched an Honour Guard lay wreaths at a statue commemorating the victims of My Lai.

As well as the ceremony in the village, a new peace park has been inaugurated nearby.

Vietnam veteran, Mike Bome, who was amongst speakers at the ceremony said: "We cannot forget the past, but we cannot live with anger and hatred either."

See also:

13 Mar 98 | Asia-Pacific
My Lai: the cover-up
13 Mar 98 | Asia-Pacific
My Lai: the whitewash
13 Mar 98 | Asia-Pacific
Heroes of My Lai honoured
20 Jul 98 | Asia-Pacific
Murder in the name of war - My Lai
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