Traveling Memorial to Victims of War Crimes

Traveling Memorial to Victims of War Crimes
Women and children crouch in a muddy canal as they take cover from intense Viet Cong fire on Jan. 1, 1966. © Horst Faas/AP PhotoCommunity

By Joshua Shurley

On March 24, Fresno will host the My Lai Memorial Exhibit, a traveling interactive display created by the Chicago chapter of Veterans for Peace. It commemorates the My Lai Massacre, which occurred 50 years ago and remains one of the most infamous events of the Vietnam War. The exhibit ( is intended to educate, provide a powerful anti-war experience, and promote dialogue and healing. It invites participants to make a commitment to working to reduce violence and militarism both at home and abroad.

As we approach the 50th anniversary of the height of the Vietnam War, there is a renewed push to highlight the history of U.S. actions in Southeast Asia. The recent release of Ken Burns’ Vietnam War series on PBS also has contributed to spurring much discussion on the subject.

Learning from past wars helps us understand war and its consequences. During the Vietnam War, an incident occurred that almost went—like many similar incidents—unacknowledged and unpublicized. It took place at a small hamlet called My Lai (pronounced “mee-lie”), where American troops slaughtered more than 500 unarmed civilians, mostly women and children. Those who carried out the killing were largely exonerated for “just following orders,” and no senior leaders were ever held accountable.

Currently, the Pentagon is spending tens of millions of dollars to glorify America’s military actions in Vietnam and in our continuing wars (under the guise of “honoring” the sacrifices of our troops and their families). What is lost in these activities are the larger questions of why the United States was ever involved in the Vietnam War and whose interests were ultimately served? More important, our conceited focus on how the war affected our people completely ignores the impact of the war on the Vietnamese people who bore the brunt of its unimaginable horrors.


Joshua Shurley, Ph.D., teaches political science at Clovis Community College, is a board member of the Fresno Center for Nonviolence, and is an army veteran and organizer of Fresno’s chapter of Veterans for Peace.

Planning Meeting for

My Lai Memorial Exhibit

Jan. 22, 6:30 p.m.

Fresno Center for Nonviolence

1584 N. Van Ness Ave.


This will be the initial Fresno planning meeting of the host committee. Please join if you are willing to support this project.


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