By the time Tiger Force soldiers stopped firing their weapons, six people were dead, including two children. They weren't carrying weapons, or dressed in enemy uniforms, but it didn't matter: They were living in a free-fire zone.
Thirty-six years after their tours in Tiger Force, former platoon members still could be prosecuted for what happened in Vietnam, although legal experts say it's unlikely to happen. The military could recall and sanction those who retired from the
Seven years after leaving Vietnam, James Barnett broke down. Haunted by the killing of civilians, the former Tiger Force sergeant invited Army investigators to his home to offer a surprise confession.
After watching Tiger Force soldiers execute an unarmed villager, Sgt. Gerald Bruner did the unthinkable. He raised his rifle with his own threat: He would kill anyone who tried to shoot any more civilians. The soldiers backed down.
After 41/2 years of investigating Tiger Force, the only soldier disciplined in the case was the one who brought it to the Army's attention. To Sgt. Gary Coy, it was an ironic end to an investigation that began when he first talked to Army officials
The two elderly Vietnamese women were walking toward the soldiers when Tiger Force platoon Lt. James Hawkins ordered his men to shoot. Quickly, another lieutenant, Donald Wood (left), told the men not to fire.
QUANG NGAI, Vietnam - For the 10 elderly farmers in the rice paddy, there was nowhere to hide. The river stretched along one side, mountains on the other. Approaching quickly in between were the soldiers - an elite U.S. Army unit known as Tiger Force.
MY LAI, Vietnam - Just before dawn, the ritual begins. People gather around stone statues, some whispering prayers, others crying. Every year, hundreds of Vietnamese travel to the memorial that marks the day the soldiers swept into the tiny village before sunrise expecting to meet enemy soldiers.
Sam Ybarra sat in the darkness of his mother's Arizona home, sobbing. Once a feared member of Tiger Force who boasted of shooting civilians, he was now a broken figure - haunted by images of the war.
The Blade's investigation began after the newspaper obtained 22 pages of classified Army records detailing atrocities by Tiger Force. The records of the Army's Criminal Investigation Command were just the start.