McVeigh's former commanding officer breaks silence at Optimist Club meeting
By CHELSEA SHOUN
KINGSPORT - Like countless other Americans, George Hutchinson was glued to the television the day the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed April 19, 1995. He watched as newscasts showed rescuers carrying victim after victim out of the smoldering wreckage. He continued to watch as officials gave preliminary casualty estimates, and then when police took a soldier from Fort Raleigh, Kansas, into custody for questioning.
But the next day, when he saw the face of the man police believed responsible for the bombing, everything changed. He recognized the face as one he knew, one he commanded, one he had trained in the U.S. Army. Timothy McVeigh.
"I'd like to say he was a bad guy when I knew him, but he wasn't. He was a good soldier," Hutchinson said in a speech Monday to the Downtown Kingsport Optimist Club. Hutchinson, a retired Army major and Kingsport resident, commanded both McVeigh and Terry Nichols during the pair's first two years in the military - a time McVeigh described as the best of his life.
He was living in Michigan when the bombing occurred. "It's been pretty tough at times," said Hutchinson who is a member of the Downtown Kingsport Optimist Club and a manager of a Kingsport retail store. McVeigh carried the company's flag when marching in formation. Nichols was his driver. When Hutchinson realized two soldiers from his company had played a part in the bombing, he said he got physically sick. "Two soldiers that I knew - that I had spent 18 months with day in and day out - were responsible for the worst terrorist act ever done in America," he said.
Hutchinson described McVeigh as a quiet, clean-cut guy who always had a smile on his face. Nichols, the "Radar" of the company, was meticulous in caring for vehicles. Sure they liked reading "Soldier of Fortune" magazine and weapons field manuals, Hutchinson said, but what soldier didn't? "I kept asking myself, "Was there anything I should have known?' But there wasn't anything abnormal from anybody else," he said. Hutchinson put so much faith in the soldiers that he sometimes left his young child with Nichols when he needed a baby sitter. "The shocking thing is that Nichols used to bounce my daughter on his knee," he said. "It has just frustrated me."
Hutchinson was interviewed by the FBI, pursued by tabloid news shows and contacted by the New York Times. The FBI felt sure John Doe No. 2 - an accomplice believed to have played a part but never identified - was also a member of the company. Hutchinson went through a company manifest with the agents and traveled to Oklahoma City to speak with other federal agents. Nichols' attorneys visited him in the Tri-Cities and subpoenaed him to testify as a character witness. He fought the subpoena. "I knew it would be hard for me to sit on the witness stand and say good things about them in front of survivors and the victims' families," he said.
While Hutchinson didn't grant an interview to any of the television shows even though he was offered large sums of money, he did decide to talk to the New York Times. However, he cut the interview short because he said the reporter wanted him to admit that the Army was somehow responsible for the bombing. "The Army didn't do that at all," he said.
Hutchinson has since retired from the Army with roughly 20 years of service. He still serves in the inactive Reserve. Nichols ultimately turned state's evidence on McVeigh and was sentenced to life in prison. Another of McVeigh's Army buddies, Michael Fortier, pleaded guilty to knowing about the attack beforehand but telling no one. He got 12 years in prison and will be up for parole in the coming months, Hutchinson said. McVeigh was executed June 12, a punishment Hutchinson said didn't fit the crime. "I was always very much in favor of capital punishment until the day they killed McVeigh. It was too easy for him - to let him die for a cause," he said.
While Hutchinson said he did not want to discuss his personal beliefs regarding the bombing, he did say he would like to ask McVeigh why he did it. "How could you kill a child? He could have gotten his point across just as well if he had blown it up at 3 a.m.," he said. Hutchinson returned to Oklahoma City after the building was taken down. He said McVeigh's execution brought back all the bitter feelings he experienced during the initial investigation and trial. "You don't know how much I wanted McVeigh to say he was sorry, if not to anyone but just the kids. Any man who can face death and basically brag about going to hell, something's not all there," he said.
Copyright 2001 Kingsport Times-News.
From the webmaster of this site: After being contacted by several readers of these pages, I felt it was time to make a statement. It should be noted that many on the Liberal Left have tried to link the actions of McVeigh and others in this tragedy to Christians, the US military, etc. There is a culture of unfounded hostility and negative views from the Liberal Left in relation to traditional American values and the military. Their views are unbalanced to the extreme. For example, they excuse the widespread use of terrorism by Muslim extremists almost daily, in fact to the point of tacit support. But the facts are clear, Christianity and the military had nothing to do with this. That is my position and that is what the facts prove.
The Right had created a culture of paranoia and conspiracy theories that is fed by some in the NRA and some in the Religious Right leadership. Today the Liberal Left spews the same kind of paranoia and conspiracy nonsense with Neo-cons, Jews/Israel, and President Bush in relation to say Iraq or Supreme Court appointments. All of this is nonsense. It's time the public starts to use their God-given reason and think before they believe something they read on the internet or in the newspapers. Lewis Loflin. Contact the Webmaster
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