Former lieutenant William Calley said: "There is not a day that goes by
that I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in My Lai.
"I feel remorse for the Vietnamese who were killed, for their families,
for the American soldiers involved and their families. I am very sorry."
Mr Calley was addressing members of the Kiwanuis Club in Greater Columbus,
Georgia, in remarks delivered on Wednesday but which have only now emerged.
The killings that occurred on March 16, 1968 in the South Vietnamese hamlet of
My Lai prompted widespread outrage around the world. They are also credited
with advancing the end of the Vietnam War because they significantly
undercut US public support for the war effort.
The massacre began when men of Charlie Company, under the command of Calley,
opened fire on civilians during a "search and destroy" mission in
My Lai and neighboring villages.
The targets of the killings were mainly old men, women and children - all
unarmed - as most younger members of the community were working in the
The exact toll of the massacre still remain in dispute. But US estimates
suggest that between 347 and 504 unarmed citizens were massacred that day.
Although a commission of inquiry recommended charges should be brought against
28 officers and two non-commissioned officers, Calley was the only US
soldier convicted over the killings at My Lai. He was sentenced to life in
prison, later reduced to house arrest.
A survivor of the killings said he welcomed Calley's public apology for his
role the atrocity.
"It's a question of the past and we accept his apologies, although they
come too late," Pham Thanh Cong, director of a small museum at My Lai,
told AFP by telephone.
"However, I prefer that he send his apologies to me in writing or by
Mr Cong, who saw his mother and brothers killed in the massacrem, said: "I
want him to come back... and see things here. Maybe he has now repented for
his crimes and his mistakes committed more than 40 years ago."