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FACING MY LAI by David L. Anderson

FACING MY LAI

Moving Beyond the Massacre

By David L. Anderson

Pub Date: Jan. 15th, 1998
ISBN: 0-7006-0864-8
Publisher: Univ. Press of Kansas

 An all-encompassing, multidimensional examination of the 1968 My Lai massacre by a distinguished group of historians, military men, journalists, poets, and novelists. Most compilations of academic conference papers are dry affairs filled with essays written in yawn-Inducing academese. Facing My Lai, on the other hand, is made up primarily of reader-friendly transcripts of remarks made at roundtable discussions that were held at a three-day Tulane University conference in December 1994, 25 years after the infamous massacre. Anderson (History and Political Science/Univ. of Indianapolis) has edited judiciously and chosen wisely from the words of the accomplished conferees. The participants included journalists David Halberstam and Seymour Hersh, poets John Balaban and W.D. Ehrhart, historians George Herring and Stephen Ambrose, military strategy analyst Col. Harry Summers, and psychiatrist Robert J. Lifton. Also on hand were two Vietnam veterans who acted honorably and courageously in connection with My Lai: Hugh Thompson Jr., a former helicopter pilot who rescued Vietnamese civilians during the massacre, and Ron Ridenhour, a former infantryman who learned of the massacre and did not rest until the story was made public. The book's highlights include Thompson's emotionally wrenching firsthand testimony; Herring's illuminating essay on the reasons why the Vietnam War was different from other American wars; Summers's thoughtful comments on leadership in the military; Patience Mason's adroit mix of personal and professional reflections on post-traumatic stress disorder; and conference co-organizer Randy Fertel's summarizing essay on the conference's goals and accomplishments. One theme was the debate over whether My Lai was an aberration. Most conferees argued that the massacre was not, as Herring put it, ``typical in any sense.'' But others disagreed, seeing My Lai as symptomatic of how the war was prosecuted by the US. Thoughtful and thought-provoking ideas on a still- controversial topic.