Quotations: My Lai massacre

A selection of Vietnam War quotations pertaining to the My Lai massacre of March 1968. These quotations have been researched, selected and compiled by Alpha History authors. If you would like to suggest a quotation for this collection, please contact us.

“I’m going to go over and get them out of the bunker myself. If the squad opens up on them, shoot ’em.”
Hugh Thompson, Jr., US pilot, to his crew at My Lai, March 1968

“[Hugh] Thompson landed again… walked over to this lieutenant, and I could tell they were in a shouting match. I thought they were going to get in a fistfight. He told me later what they said. Thompson: ‘Let’s get these people out of this bunker and get ’em out of here.’ Brooks: ‘We’ll get ’em out with hand grenades.’ Thompson: ‘I can do better than that. Keep your people in place. My guns are on you.’ Hugh was outranked, so this was not good to do, but that’s how committed he was to stopping it.”
Lawrence Colburn, a member of Thompson’s helicopter crew

“The most disturbing thing I saw [at My Lai] was one boy – and this is what haunts me – a boy with his arms shot off, shot up and hanging on, and he just had this bewildered look on his face, like ‘What did I do?’… He couldn’t comprehend.”
Fred Wilmer, ‘C’ Company

“He just stood there with big eyes staring around like he didn’t understand. He didn’t believe what was happening. Then the captain’s RTO (radio operator) put a burst of M-16 fire into him.”
‘Butch’ Gruver, ‘C’ Company

“It was terrible. They were slaughtering villagers like so many sheep.”
Sergeant Larry La Croix, June 1968

“I feel that they were able to carry out the assigned task, the orders that meant killing small kids, killing women, because they were trained that way. They were trained that when you get into combat, it’s either you or the enemy.”
Kenneth Hodges, ‘C’ company sergeant

“A sweep operation was conducted recently… Crazy American enemy used light machine guns and all kinds of weapons to kill our innocent civilian people in [My Lai]. Most of them were women, kids, just born babies and pregnant women. They shot everything they saw. They killed all domestic animals. They burned all people’s houses. There were 26 families killed completely – no survivors… The American wolf forgot its good sheep’s appearance. They opened mouth to eat, to drink our people blood with all their animal barbarity. Our people have only one way: it is to kill them so they can not bite anymore.”
Viet Cong radio broadcast on My Lai, 1968

“There may be isolated cases of mistreatment of civilians and POWs [by US military personnel] but this by no means reflects the general attitude throughout the division… In direct refutation of this [Tom Glen’s] portrayal is the fact that relations between American soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent.”
Colin Powell, US Army major, 1968

“Exactly what did occur in the village of Pinkville in March 1968 I do not know for certain, but I am convinced that it was something very black indeed… I feel that I must take some positive action on this matter. I hope that you will launch an investigation immediately and keep me informed of your progress. If you cannot, then I don’t know what other course of action to take.”
Ron Ridenhour, March 1969

“I have considered sending this to newspapers, magazines and broadcasting companies, but I somehow feel that investigation and action by the Congress of the United States is the appropriate procedure… As a conscientious citizen, I have no desire to further besmirch the image of the American serviceman in the eyes of the world.”
Ron Ridenhour, March 1969

“It is concluded that during the period March 16th-19th 1968, troops of Task Force Barker massacred a large number of Vietnamese nationals in the village of Son My. Knowledge as to the extent of the incident existed at company level… Efforts at division command level to conceal information concerning what was probably believed to be the killing of 20-28 civilians actually resulted in the suppression of a war crime of far greater magnitude. The commander of the 11th Brigade, upon learning that a war crime had probably been committed, deliberately set out to conceal the fact from proper authority and to deceive his commander concerning the matter.”
Summary of findings of the Peers Commission, 1970

“The only crime I have committed is in judgement of my values. Apparently, I valued my troops’ lives more than I did the lives of the enemy.”
William Calley, ‘C’ Company lieutenant

“It’s why I’m old before my time. I remember it all the time. I’m all alone and life is hard. Thinking about it has made me old… I won’t forgive as long as I live. Think of the babies being killed, then ask me why I hate them.”
A Vietnamese survivor of the My Lai massacre