Nixon My Lai Massacre: Documents Indicate Nixon Tried to Sabotage Court-martial Trials

March 25, 2014 Updated: July 18, 2015

Richard Nixon may have tried to cover up the My Lai massacre which left 504 unarmed Vietnamese civilians dead in 1968, killed by U.S. troops.

Newly published documents include mostly hand-written notes from Nixon’s meetings with his chief of staff and lead some historians to conclude that Nixon was behind the attempt to sabotage the My Lai court-martial trials and cover up what was becoming a public-relations disaster for his administration, reported CBS.

One document, scribbled by the chief of staff Bob Haldeman during a December 1, 1969 meeting, includes the headline “Task force – My Lai” and includes the notes “dirty tricks” and “discredit one witness.”

“Haldeman’s note is an important piece of evidence that Nixon interfered with a war-crime prosecution,” said Ken Hughes, a researcher at the University of Virginia. 

Nixon’s targets were pilot Hugh Thompson and gunner Larry Colburn, according to author Trent Angers.

The pair were the two surviving members of a U.S. helicopter crew that was surveying the area when it saw the massacre in progress.

THey were so horrified by what they saw that they tried to stop it, even saving a wounded boy from a ditch full of corpses and delivering him to a hospital. 

One of the “dirty tricks” may have been the sealing of Thompson’s testimony. 

I would not characterize [the “dirty tricks” note] as a smoking gun, but it’s pretty strong,” said James Rife, senior historian at History Associates Inc. “I don’t think we’ll ever find an actual document that can make the absolute final link between Nixon and Hugh Thompson.”



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