Varnado Simpson

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Private First Class Varnado Simpson (October 7, 1948 – May 4, 1997) [1] was an American soldier of the US Army who participated in the My Lai Massacre, murdering, torturing and mutilating Vietnamese villagers. He was wracked with remorse after the killings, and eventually committed suicide nearly 30 years later.

Early career[edit]

Simpson joined the U.S. Army in 1967, at the age of 18, and the following year was posted to South Vietnam. He was assigned to Second Platoon, Charlie Company, under the command of Captain Ernest Medina.

At My Lai[edit]

Under Captain Medina's command, Simpson participated in the massacre at the village of My Lai, where he reportedly killed at least eight unarmed villagers, including a mother and her baby. TIME magazine quotes him as stating: "I shot them, the lady and the little boy. He was about two years old."[2] His official statement on the event was succinct: "I killed about eight people that day. I shot a couple of old men who were running away. I also shot some women and children. I would shoot them as they ran out of huts or tried to hide."[3]

After My Lai[edit]

Personal tragedies[edit]

In 1977, Simpson's 10-year-old son was accidentally killed by a random shot fired by some neighborhood teenagers.[4] Simpson recalled the day later by stating, He died in my arms. And when I looked at him, his face was like the same face of the child that I had killed. And I said: This is the punishment for killing the people that I killed. (Simpson's daughter would die of meningitis a few years before he himself committed suicide.)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder[edit]

In 1982, he was admitted to a Veterans Affairs hospital in Jackson, Mississippi, where he was diagnosed with chronic and severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder[5] after recounting his actions in the village, as well as his recurring fears that the dead villagers would come back to wreak vengeance upon him.

In 1989, in an interview for the British documentary Four Hours in My Lai, Simpson claimed to have killed about 25 people and added scalping and bodily mutilation to his description of events. The baby’s face was half gone, my mind just went…and I just started killing. Old men, women, children, water buffaloes, everything… I just killed… That day in My Lai, I was personally responsible for killing about 25 people. Personally. Men, women. From shooting them, to cutting their throats, scalping them, to...cutting off their hands and cutting out their tongues. I did it., he said.[6] At this point, Simpson was heavily medicated for his severe psychological disorders, and it is unclear which memories of the events are truthful or accurate.[7]

For years, Simpson had lived with all his doors and windows locked and shuttered.[8]


After three unsuccessful attempts, Simpson took his own life in his home on Sunday, May 4, 1997, at the age of 48, with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Robert (2010-04-06). "Varnado Simpson". Find a Grave. Retrieved 2015-08-01.
  2. ^ "My Lai: An American Tragedy". TIME. 1969-12-05. Retrieved 2015-08-01.
  3. ^ "My Lai Massacre". Retrieved 2015-08-01.
  4. ^ "Varnado Simpson: The My Lai Massacre" (PDF). 1968-03-16. Retrieved 2015-08-01.
  5. ^ Bilton, Michael; Sim, Kevin (1993). Four Hours in My Lai. Penguin. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-14-017709-1.
  6. ^ Into the Dark: The My Lai Massacre Crime Library
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b "Being forgiven"