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Son Thang massacre

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Son Thang massacre
Son Thang massacre (Vietnam)
LocationSơn Thắng, Quế Sơn District, Quang Nam Province, South Vietnam
Date19 February 1970
TargetSơn Thắng hamlet
Attack type
Deaths16 women and children
PerpetratorsCompany B, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines

The Sơn Thắng massacre /sənˈtæŋ/, [ʂəːŋ˧˧ tʰaŋ˦˧˥]) was a massacre conducted by the United States Marine Corps during Operation Imperial Lake on 19 February 1970, in which five women and 11 children were killed. The Marines reported the civilians killed as being Viet Cong (VC) killed in a firefight.[1] These incidents were reported by civilians and charges were brought up against the Marines. Four Marines were court-martialled and one was sentenced to 5 years in prison and the other to life, but Major General Charles F. Widdecke reduced each sentence to less than year.[1]


On 12 February, a VC ambush had killed 9 Marines from Company B, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines.[2]:345

A five-man Marine "hunter-killer" patrol led by Lance Corporal Randell D. Herrod, who had been in the country for 7 months, alongside Private Thomas R. Boyd Jr., PFC Samuel G. Green, PFC Michael A. Schwartz and Lance Corporal Michael S. Krichten had been in Vietnam for only a month, was sent out from Firebase Ross. The Company commander 1Lt Ambort had ordered the team to avenge the company's casualties and "get some gooks tonight."[2]:345

The Sơn Thắng hamlet located 2 miles (3.2 km) southwest of Firebase Ross had previously been asked to move to a "safe-zone" in the region but had declined.[2][3]


Upon arriving at Sơn Thắng, the team had encountered three small huts in the area. They had ordered the inhabitants, all women and young children out. Herrod had then ordered the team to fire upon the group. The team then proceeded to a second hut, and killed all of its inhabitants, including five young children and a woman. Following this, the team had came upon a third hut and proceeded to kill four children and a woman for a total of 5 women and 11 children killed.[1][2]:345

Upon returning to the base, the team "reported a fire-fight with 15-20 Viet Cong" and had a body count of 6 enemy killed.[2]:345

The following morning, after advice from Vietnamese civilians, another Marine patrol entered Sơn Thắng and found the dead. Marines Battalion headquarters challenged 1Lt Ambort's after action report and he eventually admitted to having falsified it. On 20 February 1st Marine Division commander MG Edwin B. Wheeler reported to III Marine Amphibious Force that a "possible serious incident" had occurred at Sơn Thắng.[2]:345


On 23 February 1Lt Ambort was removed from command and the next day a pre-trial investigation commenced which charged the 5 Marines on the patrol with murder. 1LT Ambort received a letter of reprimand and fine for making a false report. On 15 May 4 members of the patrol were court-martialled, while the other member, LCPL Krichten agreed to assist the prosecution. The trial began in June. Schwartz was found guilty of 12 counts of premeditated murder and sentenced to life in prison. Green was found guilty of 12 counts of unpremeditated murder and sentenced to 5 years in prison. Herrod and Boyd were both acquitted. Extremely favorable testimony as character witness was given by Herrod's friend Oliver North [1], whose life was saved by the lance corporal a few months earlier.[4][5] On 15 December 1970 Major General Charles F. Widdecke reduced each of Schwartz and Green's sentences to one year.[2]:347[1]

The massacre and its legal implications were written about by Professor Gary D. Solis, a Marine Corps veteran and law professor at Georgetown University in the book Son Thang: An American War Crime.


  1. ^ a b c d Tucker, Spencer C. (20 May 2011). The Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War: A Political, Social, and Military History, 2nd Edition [4 volumes]: A Political, Social, and Military History. ABC-CLIO. p. 1054. ISBN 9781851099610.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Cosmas, Graham (1986). US Marines in Vietnam Vietnamization and Redeployment 1970-1971. History and Museums Division Headquarters United States Marine Corps. ISBN 9781494287498. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  3. ^ Turse, Nick (15 January 2013). Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam. Henry Holt and Company. pp. 47–48. ISBN 9780805095470.
  4. ^
  5. ^

This page was last edited on 20 January 2020, at 10:20
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