WASHINGTON -- Fourteen years after the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, a former Army commander still is paying the price for improperly investigating the matter.
Now-retired Brig. Gen. Samuel Koster claims the Army's 1971 censure of him cost him not only a black mark on his record and loss of his Distinguished Service Medal but also a demotion and mandatory retirement at a reduced pay.
After failing to clear his record through military channels, Koster sought help with the U.S. Court of Claims.
But the three-judge panel Wednesday refused to lift administrative sanctions imposed by the Army on Koster for failing to begin an immediate probe into the 1968 killing of Vietnamese civilians at My Lai.
Taking generally a hands-off approach to Koster's contentions, it ruled it does not have authority over military censures or awards.
Koster was commander of the 23rd Infantry Division in Vietnam in 1967 and 1968, when a platoon of troops from the division went on a rampage and killed unarmed civilians.
The full story of the events of March 16, 1968, did not become known for more than a year.
Although not holding Koster personally responsible for the killings, the Army censured him for not fulfilling his duty as commander to promptly investigate the incident.
'We are sensitive to (Koster's) assertion ... that he has been made to suffer for the political and public pressures that were brought to bear on the Army as a result of the My Lai incident,' the court wrote Wednesday.
But it said it cannot conclude any differently than the Army, when it stated in 1971 in censuring him that 'General Koster may not have deliberately allowed an inadequate investigation to occur, but he did let it happen, and he had ample resources to prevent it from happening.'
The Army claimed Koster should have more diligently investigated the incident after he was notified of four irregularities, including a report of an unusually high number of civilian deaths at the time.