On 16 March 1968 the angry and frustrated men of Charlie Company, 11th Brigade, and American Division entered the village of My Lai. Shortly after the killing spree began, My Lai in the South Vietnamese district of Son My, a heavily mined area of Vietcong entrenchment, where numerous members of Charlie Company had been killed or maimed in the area during the preceding weeks. The agitated troops, under the command of Lt. William Calley, entered the village poised for engagement with Vietcong. This massacre killed over 500 apparently unarmed civilians including women, children, and the elderly. Calley ordered his troops to enter the village firing, though there had been no report of opposing fire . The massacre in My Lai remains one of the most shameful examples in U.S. history of over obedience to authority. .
Charlie Company came to Vietnam in December 1967. Its mission was to pressure the Vietcong in an area of the province known as Pinkville. Charlie Company's commanding officer was Captain Ernest Medina, a thirty-three year old Mexican-American from New Mexico who was popular with his soldiers. One of his platoon leaders was twenty-four year old William Calley. .
Calley did not command nearly so much respect from his subordinates or superiors in the military. Very few of the people that worked with him on a regular basis liked him. Captain Medina would often address him as "Lieutenant Shithead- in front of his men. The opinion of him in his platoon was universally hostile. One GI described him as a "glory-hungry person the kind of person who would have sacrificed all of us for his own personal advancement."" Others called him "nervous, excitable type who yelled a lot- and "incompetent."" Another GI said, "There was something about him that rubbed people the wrong way."" It was even said that Calley was so disliked by members of the unit that they put a bounty on his head. None of the men had any respect for him as a military leader .