Shortly before 8 a.m. on 16 March 1968, C-Company, First Battalion, Twentieth Infantry, Eleventh Brigade, Americal Division, on a search-and-destroy mission in Quang Ngai Province, South Vietnam, entered the small hamlet of My Lai. By noon every living being the troops could find was dead--about 500 women, children and old men had been systematically murdered.
To this day, the My Lai massacre has remained the most shocking episode of the Vietnam War. Yet it is now becoming clear that this infamous incident was not an exception or aberration. Based on extensive research and unprecedented access to U.S. Army archives, War Without Fronts reveals the true extent of war crimes committed by American troops in Vietnam. In a series of case studies, Greiner looks at the killing work of U.S. Army death squads from 1967 to 1971.
Rather than pointing the finger at the “grunts” fighting a dirty war on the ground, Greiner argues that the responsibility for these atrocities extends all the way up to the White House and the Pentagon. The escalation of violence on the ground can be attributed to several factors: a U.S. political leadership afraid for the United States to lose its credibility and unable, against better advice, to stop the war; a military that devised a strategy of attrition based on “body counts” as the only way to defeat an enemy skilled in unconventional warfare; officers who were badly trained, lacking in motivation and interested only in furthering their careers; soldiers who realized they were utterly disposable and sought to empower themselves through random killing. The result was the torture, rape, maiming, and murder of countless Vietnamese civilians.