Son Thang

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Overview

In this engrossing true courtroom drama, Gary D. Solis, a former Marine combat officer who teaches law at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, draws on his considerable experience to describe the Marine Corps' worst known war crime in Vietnam. Although overshadowed by the infamous My Lai massacre, the murder of sixteen women and children by five Marines at Son Thang-4 raised serious questions for the Corps and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Were the five Marines of the self-styled killer team sent to ...
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Overview

In this engrossing true courtroom drama, Gary D. Solis, a former Marine combat officer who teaches law at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, draws on his considerable experience to describe the Marine Corps' worst known war crime in Vietnam. Although overshadowed by the infamous My Lai massacre, the murder of sixteen women and children by five Marines at Son Thang-4 raised serious questions for the Corps and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Were the five Marines of the self-styled killer team sent to Son Thang-4 on 19 February 1970 carrying out orders to punish the hamlet or reacting to snipers when they opened fire on noncombatant civilians at point-blank range? Were their actions simply a consequence of weeks of unrelenting combat in which fellow Marines were killed by the invisible Viet Cong and their boobytraps? Using trial records and extensive interviews, Solis brings to life the host of military and civilian attorneys, judges, and juries who wrestled with these and other thorny questions in the midst of a combat zone. Here for the first time is the full story of what happened at Son Thang-4, including the controversial deliberations and verdicts--a study as pertinent today as it was more than twenty-five years ago.
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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A detailed recounting and insightful analysis of one of the worst war crimes of the Vietnam War.

On the night of February 19, 1970, a five-man patrol from Company B, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines entered the hamlet of Son Thang, about 20 miles south of Danang. The patrol was known as a "killer team," sent to hunt down and kill the enemy in an area heavily infiltrated by Viet Cong guerillas. In the previous week nine men from B Company were killed in the vicinity; that morning one Marine had died after he set off a booby-trap. The patrol found no enemy soldiers in the hamlet. Not a shot was fired at them. Nevertheless, they roused 16 women and children from three of the hamlet's huts and shot them. The next day the incident was discovered and, to the Marine Corps's credit, an investigation was immediately begun. Four of the Marines were charged with premeditated murder (one, who claimed he did not participate, cooperated with the investigation). Four months later the general courts-martial began. Two of the men were convicted; two were acquitted. Solis is the ideal chronicler of the incident: A retired Marine lieutenant colonel, he commanded troops in Vietnam and holds three law degrees. In a blunt narrative style he provides in-depth looks at the crime, the events that led up to it, and the complex legal wranglings that followed. His solid account includes on-target appraisals of the actions of all the participants. He characterizes the trials as "a failure" because of significant "deficiencies" in the military justice system, the main one being that some of the Marine Corps prosecutors tapped for the trial were relatively inexperienced, and were consistently outmaneuvered by high-powered civilian defense lawyers. Nevertheless, Solis says, the Marines received "fair trials."

A first-class job of reporting on a little-known atrocity of the war.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553579772
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/1/1998
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 390
  • Product dimensions: 4.23 (w) x 7.14 (h) x 0.95 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2005

    Good but not great!

    The story is extremely interesting but...It was long winded. Very long winded. It is a shame I had to skim through most of the book, just to get to the meat and potatoes. He (the author) gets too involved with the semantics of semantics. It's the only book out there that deals with the Son Thang incident, so finding an alternate read was fruitless.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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