In about 1978, I found myself in my high school library. I don't know why I was there except to say I was probably on detention; I didn't do a lot of reading in those days. In any event, I was wandering around the stacks and I found a book called My Lai 4
. I knew a little about the My Lai massacre because I knew a little about the Vietnam War; my father had been in the army in the 1960s and my uncle had fought in Vietnam. I started reading.
It's not often that a book stays with you your whole life, but Seymour M. Hersh
's My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and Its Aftermath
(Random House, 1970) did. Hersh reported--that's just the word--what happened: he did not embellish, he did not moralize, he did not speculate. He tirelessly interviewed the men who were there, the men who commanded them, and read everything he could get his hands on. Then he told a shocked American public: this happened
. His reporting arguably changed the course of the Vietnam War. It changed the course of my life, as I went on to write a book about My Lai myself.
He has told the story of how he broke My Lai countless times. The story made him famous, and his later reporting only added to that fame. So in this interview about his recently published, telling, and honest memoir Reporter: A Memoir (Knopf, 2018), I focus on Hersh's life before My Lai. I was particularly interested to learn how he became "Sy Hersh, reporter." Listen in.