40 Years Later: Hersh on My Lai

Friday, March 14, 2008


On March 16, 1968 U.S. soldiers entered the South Vietnamese village of My Lai and killed hundreds of unarmed civilians in what became the most notorious atrocity of the war. Forty years later, New Yorker correspondent Seymour Hersh walks us through the on-the-ground reporting behind his Pulitzer Prize winning scoop.

Click here for the complete unedited interview with Seymour Hersh (approximate run time 35 minutes)

Comments [9]

amir from Austin, Texas

Having read all the preceding commentaries I am unfortunately reminded of how insulated North Americans are in relative terms. My Lai was terrible. So what. So were the things done under Saloth sar or Mao or Stalin or Hitler or a dozen others in this century alone. Your leaders are trying to fight wars to protect your interests and you whine and cringe like infants. You flaggelate yourselves for having reaped the benefits of killing your enemies and elevating your partners. The problem is that people like Seymore Hersh are less concerned about helping your country better itself than they are in vomitting their general bitterness and unhappiness for a buck. Seymore is one of those disappointed and marginalized trotsky-ites who is waging an unending "spit on America" campaign that he embarked on after watching Mcgovern lose. I have one last thought for Seymore and his friends- Peace is the anamoly. War is the norm. If you don't believe me, I recommend that you travel some. Oh, and Seymore, you suck.

Jun. 30 2008 04:38 PM
George from White Plains, New York

Good boys turned into killers. That is the whole point of basic training. I don't know one friend who came back whole from Viet Nam. Their guilt, their shame, was inconsolable. More vets have died from suicide since the war than from combat during the war. Oh God, what is to happen in days to come? Who will take care of our returning children? Who will even know, without a courageous and independent media? The pen is mightier than the sword is not an outdated idea.

Mar. 29 2008 08:26 PM
Shelli from West Orange, New Jersey

Please air this interview again.And again. And again. So many important points are brought up in this interview in such a clear way. The way ordinary people become killers, the mortally dangerous ineptitude of our leaders, and how our own short memories allow for these destructive involvements to occur - again. That's why we need to hear the voices of investigators like Seymore Hersch again and again and again.

Mar. 28 2008 02:03 AM
Louise from the Netherlands

I totally agree with Ronnie. If it is of any help for the commentators who stumbled at the style, more than at the content of the interview: to me this was a poignant, reveiling document about the madness of war and what it inflicts upon humanity. And the fragility of what we luxuriously call civilization.
At the time of the Vietnam war I was busy finding my way in society, and the name My Lay had the connotation of a bad event of which I didn't have any detailed knowledge. Can't say that anymore now, can I.
In contrast with my former ignorance is my actual drive to keep myself informed about the Iraq war as best as possible. For which I heavily rely on Public Radio and whatever on-line newspaper there is. Especially Public Radio should be praised for their persevering attention for the impact on human existence, here as well as there.

Particularly in the second half of the interview mr. Hersh's commitment came clearly through, and he rightly questioned the ignoring of the aspect of morality. It is my belief that his sarcasm originates, as often is the case, from the betrayal of his love for his country, by the betrayal of the standards and values he believed his country was standing for. I guess it wasn't all journalistic joy he found on his way.
We can't write honest history (if such exists) without dogged news-hounds like Hersh - whatever their motivs are.

Mar. 23 2008 09:59 PM

Good work, Seymour, you've really distinguished yourself by bringing up these two stories. Your joy at retelling both events serves only to confirm my opinion of you as a low life, not for being able to break the stories, which was your job, but for being so happy, no more than happy, elated to remind the american people of what happens in wartime. Your elation will undoubtedly only increase your stock at
at the magazine. Don't get me wrong. I am not blaming you for tracking these stories down, but tell me exactly what was the purpose of bringing it up again. A lesson learned? Something to be ashamed of? Is that why you are beaming with happiness?? Why in hell should anyone be so happy at retelling those stories. Seymour,
in a strange way, you run parallel to Calley, anything for a little fame, anything for a buck.

Mar. 18 2008 05:25 PM
Ronnie from Columbus, Ohio

I think the point is that if it weren't for reporters/writers/photographers these two hideous stories would never have come to the public's attention.
This program is "On the Media", not " A History Lesson".
I just re-listened to the piece and while I can agree that Mr. Hersh's inflections belie the gravity of the story he is telling, if you actually LISTEN to his words, he is telling us not only how he tracked down the culprit but also the tragedy he substantiated. He broke the news that we now use in our history books.
Try listening with a discerning, ear before you shoot the messenger.

Mar. 16 2008 06:02 PM
David Ragan from Jackson, Tn

in re: reporting on the Mei Lai Massacre
I was whisked back to my youth when I heard your travesty of the news. The reporter and host laughed and teetered at how he had worked his way around a system that was by his own words completely open to him. The reporter had no problems finding the man he sought but made it sound like some James Bond type investigation. The host spent most of her time raptoursly hanging on each and every word of an absolute nonstory. while the horror of the story was never mentioned. Nor were the conditions that lead up to this inhuman act.
If you want to report history then report history, not some fatous backslapping. It carried me back to the old day of spitting on returning soldiers and calling families and telling them they were glad their sons had been killed.
To summarize, it is not the story of the massacre that was appalling but the way your guest and host callously laughed about how smart and sly they were. It is no different now than it was all those years ago; the people die and the reporters pat themselves on the back on how smart they are. I have supported both public radio and television in the past but never again. Look at a calender, it's time to tell the history not how cute your host and reporters are.
with absolute disgust
David Ragan

Mar. 16 2008 01:10 PM
Ronnie from Columbus, Ohio

I found this piece powerful, compelling and above all tragic.
Seymour Hersh's tale of tracking down these two stories was fascinating.
I can't help but wonder how many mothers have sent good boys to war and been reuinted with a murderer. That one quote said it all.
Excellent piece.

Mar. 15 2008 02:28 PM
Darlene from Grass Valley California

He was 2 years old. 2.

Mar. 15 2008 05:20 AM

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