MY LAI, Vietnam — With talk of peace and cooperation rather than hatred, more than 1,000 people marked the 50th anniversary Friday of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, the most notorious episode in modern U.S. military history.

On March 16, 1968, the American soldiers of Charlie Company were sent on what they were told was a mission to confront a crack outfit of their Vietcong enemies, but met no resistance and over three to four hours killed 504 unarmed civilians, mostly women, children and elderly men in My Lai and a neighboring community.

Provincial official Dang Ngoc Dung said at the commemoration that the My Lai massacre was a typical case of “cruel crimes committed by aggressive and hostile forces” during the war.

He did not name the United States but said Vietnam wants to set aside the past and befriend other countries to build a better, peaceful future.

Relations between the U.S. and Vietnam are the strongest they’ve been since they normalized ties in 1995. The United States is now one of Vietnam’s top trading partners and investors, and relations have also expanded to security and defense.

At Friday’s event, several dozen girls, wearing traditional Ao Dai outfits and dove headgear, performed dances in tribute for the victims and to promote peace. Participants including government leaders, villagers and a group of American veterans laid flowers to pay tribute to the victims.

The My Lai Peace Foundation, a local non-governmental organization, was launched at the event.

“Vietnam had suffered numerous pains of wars,” Truong Ngoc Thuy, president of the foundation, said at the launch. “We therefore more than anyone else understand the price of peace, we desire for peace.”