Cross examination of Captain Medina (1970)

Captain Ernest Medina was the commander of Charlie Company at the time of the My Lai massacre. Captain Medina was charged and gave the following testimony under cross examination at his 1970 court martial:

Q: Let me ask you, were there any questions asked of you at that briefing?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: Do you recall what they were?
A: Yes, sir. One of the questions that was asked of me at the briefing was, “Do we kill women and children?”

Q: What was your reply?
A: My reply to that question was: No, you do no kill women and children. You must use common sense. If they have a weapon and are trying to engage you, when you can shoot back, but you must use common sense.

Q: Were any provisions made by you for the treatment of any wounded Vietnamese?
A: No, sir.

Q: Was there any provision made for the capture and collection of the Vietnamese in that Village?
A: There were no instructions given as far as capture or collection of any noncombatants in the village of My Lai Four. It was standard procedure in operations that we had conducted that the sweep elements, when they moved through the village, they would move through as rapidly as possible, pushing any of the inhabitants to the far side of the village, segregating them in an open area…

Q: Did you say your purpose in being in the area was to look for weapons?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: And you thought this woman had a weapon?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: Now, why didn’t you look for one?
A: Well, I was a little concerned about having shot the woman. She was the first person I had ever killed. I was a little scared, I didn’t see any weapon and I was upset about having shot her…

Q: Now, did you at any time on the fifteenth of March or at any time on the sixteenth of March order or direct Lieutenant Calley to kill or waste any Vietnamese people?
A: No, sir.

Q: After you left the village and you were some distance from the village, did you, at any time, ever receive a radio message to return to the village of My Lai Four?
A: Yes, sir… between 15300 [and] 1630 hours on March 16th … I had received a radio communication from Major Calhoun and he instructed me to return back to the village of My Lai Four and to determine how many non-combatants had been killed. I told Major Calhoun that I felt because of the distance involved of my having to return back to the village from my night defensive position, we would have to clear the area that we had just crossed from My Lai Four to our night position. We would have to clear it again for mines and booby traps. I felt that it would be best not to return…

Q: Did you ever radio any of your platoon leaders words in substance, “The party is over, the show is over, that is enough for today?”
A: No, sir… I did place a cease-fire order to the platoon leaders to make sure that there were no innocent civilians or non-combatants being killed indiscriminately. This was done as I moved up to the area where the individual that had been wounded in the foot and after I had seen the twenty to twenty-eight people on the trail after we had evacuated the individual that had been wounded. I had received a transmission from Major Calhoun. I again relayed to the platoon leaders to cease fire, to make sure that no noncombatants were being indiscriminately killed, and there was another time that I called forward to the first platoon, and I said, “Damn it, what is going on up there? I wanted all this firing stopped.”

Q: With regard to the body count, what was the total body count that you reported as being a result of this operation?
A: The total body count that was reported for the operation was one hundred twenty-eight. this was a combined body count for Bravo and C Company. Bravo Company had, I think, forty to forty-five.

Q: What was your report as total body count?
A: The body count that I reported to the task force was between eighty and eighty-five

Q: Did you ever report to the task force headquarters anything about any prisoners that had been taken by C Company?
A: I reported to the task force that we had detained approximately twenty to thirty VC suspects.

Q: Was that true?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: And who detained those, where did you get that information?
A: The detainees that we picked up were in the second platoon, sir. It was on the northern portion of the village.

Q: Do you know what happened to those persons who were detained, in your own knowledge?
A: Once we began moving toward the east from the village, we came upon a group of civilians that had been rounded up. I estimate the number somewhere between eighty to ninety, I guess, that had been gathered. There were men, women, and children. I had my interpreter talk to them. We selected the ones that appeared to be Viet Cong suspects of military age. The women and children and the old Vietnamese males, I instructed Sergeant Phu to tell them to proceed from this area and go directly to the refugee centre either at Son Thanh or Quang Ngai and report in to the ARVN adviser there and they would be taken care of.

Q: Was it generally know to you after – immediately after March 16th or after you left the village of My Lai Four – that many unarmed people had been killed in the village?
A: On the evening of March 16th, at the night defensive position, I became aware of the magnitude of the number of people … that there had been a large number of noncombatants that had been killed at the village of My Lai four. I was not to hear until sometime later how many or, you know, the great number of civilians that had been killed…

Q: Did you ever give an order in My Lai four, on sixteen March, over the radio or in person, to anyone that they should move the civilians out of the way, or get rid of them, or anything in substance like that?
A: No, sir.

Q: Did you ever give an order in substance to save enough civilians so that they could be utilised to clear the mine fields for the rest of the Pinkville operation?
A: No, sir.

Q: Now, immediately following the date March 16th, did you ever make a statement to anyone, in substance, “I will go to jail for this?”
A: Yes, sir.