Our History MagazinesOrder America's Civil War Order American History Order Aviation History Order British Heritage Order Civil War Times Order Military History Order MHQ Order Vietnam Order Wild West Order World War II Order Armchair General
Subscriber ServicesOrder a Subscription Give a Gift Renew Get Subscription Help
What led you to enlist in the Army?
How did you get to the 123rd Aviation Battalion?
You started out on an OH-23 scout helicopter?
When did you meet Hugh Thompson?
Did you fly with him much before My Lai?
On March 16, 1968, did you have any expectations of serious action?
Did you have any knowledge of who was being inserted into My Lai that morning?
What did you see when first flying over My Lai?
By this time, Lt. William Calley's Charlie Company was reaching My Lai?
When did you see those particular villagers again?
Were you talking about this at the time?
You had no radio contact with the men on the ground?
You still didn't understand what was actually happening?
That was a point of no return for Thompson?
How did Hugh react when reason failed?
Did the gunship crews know what was happening on the ground before this?
How many men were in squad and were they threatening?
Were you prepared to fire on the squad?
Could you have just reported this and left, knowing you'd at least made an effort?
After evacuating the people, you thought you could do more?
Did you consider bringing gunships to ferry out others from the ditch?
You found later that that wasn't true?
When did you make your report of what happened?
Do you think most people realize there was more than just the killing that was going on?
Had you ever seen anything even approaching this before?
Thompson had a famous emotional outburst upon returning to base?
Thompson wanted you to also make a report?
Did you expect something would be done as a result?
Months later you were surprised with a medal for action at My Lai?
Was this part of the cover up?
When did you start talking to investigators?
At that point, no one had a clue beside you and Hugh?
Did the word about what happened at My Lai get around?
Did you experience retaliation for what you did that day, or for talking to Henderson?
After My Lai, did you feel traumatized or feel like you carried a huge burden?
What did you do after My Lai for the rest of your tour?
Did you have a sense that what you had seen at My Lai was and isolated incident or did you suspect similar atrocities were happening elsewhere?
Glenn Andreotta was killed just a few weeks after My Lai?
When you testified in Washington for the Army investigation led by General William Peers, did you feel they were after the real story?
So you were encouraged at that point?
Before the story broke, did you or Hugh consider going public with the story?
Did you know when the story was about to break?
How did you feel about that?
You were a witness for the prosecution in the trials that followed?
You and Hugh had a pretty low profile during and after the trials?
How did you and Hugh reconcile what you knew happened with the outpouring of public support for Calley and his men?
Does it worry you that it was, and remains, in our capacity to excuse or rationalize an atrocity like My Lai committed by Americans?
Were you vilified or the target of death threats the way Hugh Thompson was?
You are not comfortable with being called a hero, either?
What about those who didn't stand up to evil in their midst?
Well, it wasn't really an apology, was it? He just lateraled the ball to Medina. I imagine he wants to get right with God; he's not a young guy anymore. Interestingly, there are those toying with the idea of inviting him to make the trip back to My Lai to ask for the people there for forgiveness. Every time I've been back there, the survivors ask me, "Why don't the men who committed the atrocities come back and ask for forgiveness so that we might forgive them." They're Buddhists you know, they can forgive, put it behind them and carry on. That's what they want to do.
You've been back a few times?
Did the boy have a recollection of March 16, 1968?
You saw him again in 2008?
What drove you to create the Hugh Thompson Foundation?
And you want to instill the spirit of Thompson in others.
The My Lai story and Hugh Thompson's role in it is really important, but do you find most people are unaware of it?
You and Hugh had the opportunity to tell your stories to young military officers.
How do you think your story, of an event now long in the past, can make a difference?
Anyway, they remembered our story about My Lai, and instead of just lighting up a target, they took the time to analyze and study the situation. And it turned out it was a good thing that they did. Innocent people didn't die that day They didn't just fly off the handle and engage a target that was borderline. If Hugh knew that, it would have made everything he went through worthwhile for him. He's saved lives again.
How do you intend to spread the word about the foundation?
You must have had some post-traumatic stress after your experience in Vietnam.
Did you get help?
You and Thompson must have been good mutual support.
So, how did you guys feel when you got the Soldiers Medals in 1998?
Were you glad you got it?
Many fellow GIs still don't think you did the right thing?
Ever reflect about how you are part of an event of such historical significance?
For more information about the Hugh Thompson Foundation, visit www.designaire.com/HughThompson
13 Responses to “Interview - Larry Colburn: Why My Lai, Hugh Thompson Matter”
Leave a Reply
What is HistoryNet?
HistoryNet.com is brought to you by World History Group, the world's largest publisher of history magazines. HistoryNet.com contains daily features, photo galleries and over 5,000 articles originally published in our various magazines.
If you are interested in a specific history subject, try searching our archives, you are bound to find something to pique your interest.
From Our Magazines
World History Group