Ernest Medina

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Ernest Medina
Birth name Ernest Lou Medina
Born (1936-08-27) August 27, 1936 (age 80)
Springer, New Mexico
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Rank Captain
Unit 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry, 11th Infantry Brigade, Americal Division
Commands held Company C, 1/20 Americal
Battles/wars Vietnam War

Ernest Lou Medina (born August 27, 1936) is a former captain of infantry in the United States Army. He served during the Vietnam War and was acquitted in a court-martial of war crimes charges in 1971. He was the commanding officer of Company C, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry of the 11th Brigade, Americal Division, the unit responsible for the My Lai Massacre of 16 March 1968. He was court martialed in 1971 for his role in the My Lai Massacre, but acquitted the same year.


Ernest Medina was born into a Mexican-American family in Springer, New Mexico. After a variety of post-high school odd jobs, Medina joined the Army in 1956.[1]


According to the 1970 investigation by General William R. Peers, Medina:[2]

  • "Planned, ordered, and supervised the execution by his company of an unlawful operation against inhabited hamlets in Son My village which included the destruction of houses by burning, killing of livestock, and the destruction of crops and other foodstuffs, and the closing of wells; and impliedly directed the killing of any persons found there."
  • "Possibly killed as many as three noncombatants in My Lai."

Medina was court-martialed in 1971 for willingly allowing his men to murder non-combatants.[3] Medina denied all the charges and claimed that he never gave any orders to kill Vietnamese non-combatants.

Medina's defense team, led by F. Lee Bailey and a support staff that included Gary Myers, alleged that his men killed Vietnamese noncombatants under their own volition and not under Medina's orders. Medina also testified that he did not become aware that his troops were out of control at My Lai until it was too late.

Medina also strongly denied killing any Vietnamese non-combatant at My Lai, with the exception of a young woman whom two soldiers testified that they found hiding in a ditch. When she emerged with her hands up, Medina shot her because, he claimed, he thought she had a grenade. In fact, she was unarmed. The defense lawyers brought up many incidents during the Vietnam War of Viet Cong suspects and sympathizers faking surrender to use hidden pistols or grenades to harm or kill American military personnel.

In August 1971, Medina was ultimately found not guilty of all charges.[4] His jury deliberations lasted approximately 60 minutes. Nevertheless, despite his acquittal, Medina's military career was finished which resulted in him resigning from the Army shortly thereafter.


After resigning from the Army, Medina went to work at an Enstrom Helicopter Corporation plant owned by F. Lee Bailey in Menominee, Michigan.[5] He now lives in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, at Rennes East Nursing Home.

Cultural references[edit]

Medina is mentioned by name in the first stanza of Pete Seeger's Vietnam protest song "Last Train to Nuremberg" (1970).

"Do I see Lieutenant Calley? Do I see Captain Medina? Do I see Gen'ral Koster and all his crew?"

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Peers Report: Captain Ernest Medina". Retrieved 2011-06-18. 
  3. ^ "Judge Howard's summary of the evidence surrounding the crucial question of knowledge in United States v. Captain Ernest L. Medina". Retrieved 2011-06-18. 
  4. ^ "1971 Year in Review". 1971-12-28. Archived from the original on 2009-02-12. Retrieved 2011-06-18. 
  5. ^ linderd. "Biography of Ernest L. Medina". Retrieved 2011-06-18. 

External links[edit]