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Why did American soldiers shoot at My Lai?

My LaiThis fascinating enquiry gives your students an opportunity to tackle the big question of why US soldiers participated in the 1968 massacre at My Lai.

What makes civilised men behave in such a barbaric and uncivilised manner?

Starting with Paul Hardcastle’s 1985 hit, your students work out what the song suggests the Vietnam War was like for American soldiers. Hardcastle paints them as victims.

Next they are introduced the events of the  My Lai massacre of 1968.

After finding out what happened in this tiny village, your students are asked: What possible explanations could there be? Why did the soldiers behave in this way?

Having established three theories your students go on to look at eyewitness accounts from different soldiers who were involved in the massacre. What reasons do they give? You use  a venn diagram to show the inter-connectedness between the theories.

This enquiry answers important questions about history and about human nature.

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  • Lesson presentation: PowerPoint
  • Lesson write-up: PDF
  • Resource 1-3: PDF
  • Worksheet 1: PDF

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