Captain Ernest Medina was born on 27 August 1936. In 1956, Medina followed his lifetime dream of joining the army, starting only a notch above a recruit. In December, 1966, Medina was made commanding officer of Charlie Company.
On 16 March 1968, near eight o’clock in the morning, Charlie Company, one of the three units of Task Force Barker of the American Army, entered the village of My Lai in Quang Ngai Province in the south of Vietnam. This Company was under the leadership of Captain Ernest Medina. In just over three hours, members of this Company executed close to 500 civilians including children, women and elderly people.
The exact role of Captain Medina during these events is still today subject to controversy. According to the Defence Department, which held its own enquiry (See the Peers Report), his responsibility was implied on several grounds: on the eve of the attack, he told his soldiers that anyone present in the village was to be considered as an enemy combatant, thereby implicitly authorizing the execution of these persons. It is considered likely that he himself executed three non-combatants during this operation; he is said to have abused a prisoner by beating him over the head and by firing his revolver close to his head; he reportedly attempted on several occasions to cover up these events.
In March 1969, Ronald Ridenhour, a former GI., on being made aware of what had taken place at My Lai, decided to inform the American authorities. The case was then handed over to the Inspector General of the Army to open up an enquiry. It was subsequently committed to the army’s Criminal Investigation Division.
Captain Medina was court-martialed in 1971.