Colin Powell has the dubious distinction of being the first investigating officer to look into the murder and torture of Vietnamese civilians following the My Lai massacre. Powell whitewashed the charges that Vietnamese citizens were being killed without provocation by American soldiers.

At the time a Major, Colin Powell was Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations at the Americal Division headquarters. Rumors of the My Lai massacre did not prompt an investigation, but when a soldier finally wrote a letter to General Creighton Abrams complaining about the routine murder and torture of civilians, the army brass tasked Powell to investigate and draft a response.

Powell's draft said the soldier's charges were false, except, possibly, for "isolated instances"; abuses were not tolerated, but punished. Said Powell, "In direct refutation of this portrayal is the fact that relations between Americal soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent." Powell never asked for information from the soldier who had written the letter.

A few months later, the atrocities of the Americal Division would come to light after congressional pressure broke through the military's stonewalling, but the first investigating officer - who denied any atrocities took place - went on to become an army General and advisor to presidents.