Voice of America wants to help William Calley bring his recent apology for the Vietnam War atrocities at My Lai directly to the people of Vietnam.
VOA, a multi-media broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government, wants the former Army lieutenant to participate in an interview that would be broadcast in Vietnam.
“We believe our listeners in Vietnam would be keenly interested in hearing what Mr. Calley has to say, especially if it is different from what they have heard or been told by their own media,” said Judy Nguyen, senior editor of VOA’s Vietnamese service.
Calley issued his first public apology since the 1968 incident last week at a Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus meeting.
In March 1968, U.S. soldiers gunned down hundreds of civilians in the Vietnamese hamlet of My Lai. Calley was convicted of 22 counts of murder in a court martial in 1971 at Fort Benning. He was sentenced to life in prison, but his sentence was commuted by President Richard Nixon.
“If ever Mr. Calley wanted to say anything that would be heard by the people of Vietnam, the Voice of America would be the appropriate channel,” Nguyen said, adding that VOA has more listeners in Vietnam than any other international broadcaster, including the BBC.
She said the interview could be for radio or television — his choice. VOA would interview him over the phone or travel to Columbus or Atlanta.
Efforts by intermediaries to get Calley and the broadcasting service in touch with each other have been unsuccessful so far.
Calley’s apology last week was reported internationally and was accepted, with conditions, by one My Lai survivor who saw his mother and brothers killed during the massacre.
According to the Canadian Web site “Media with Conscience,” the director of a small memorial museum in My Lai said he welcomed the public apology.
“It’s a question of the past and we accept his apologies, although they come too late,” Pham Thanh Cong said. “However, I prefer that he send his apologies to me in writing or by e-mail.”
“I want him to come back...and see things here,” he added. “Maybe he has now repented for his crimes and his mistakes committed more than 40 years ago.”
Calley would not be the first soldier to return to My Lai. Two crew members of the helicopter that landed there during the massacre returned to My Lai more than once.
The late Hugh Thompson, the pilot, and Lawrence Colburn, a helicopter gunner, were honored by the people of My Lai for taking children out of My Lai, and reportedly threatening to fire on American troops if they interfered with their rescue operation.
Colburn recently said on National Public Radio that Calley should return to My Lai for his own sake and for the people of Vietnam. He said he and Thompson were forgiven and that there is a good chance Calley would be, too.