Carl Thorne-Thomsen had everything going for him as a young man. He was one of eighth brothers in the Thomsen household.
He was raised in Lake Forest, the posh suburb of Chicago. His Mom was an English teacher at the local High School. Carl attended High School there and was a very popular member of his class. He was elected to the Student Counsel.
Lower left, Student Council President
Junior Prom King (Carl) and his Queen
Carl played the usual sports and was a very bright student. Upon graduation Carl had the distinction of earning a scholarship to Harvard University. He enrolled in the Fall and eventually became a successful member of Harvard’s Swim Team. Things were going along splendidly but Carl wasn’t comfortable with his privileged existence. By 1967 the war was being shown nightly on the network news. As the war began taking its terrible toll, more and more demands were being made on the Selective Service System to replace the losses and those rotating home. Carl didn’t agree with the conduct of the war while he was at Harvard, but he understood the inequities of the Draft System that favored the affluent and well connected and he felt uncomfortable with his sitting out the campaign in an Ivy League College. In early 1967 Carl decided to do something about it. He put aside his scholarly pursuits and volunteered for the draft. It didn’t take long before he was chosen by his Friends and Neighbors.
He arrived in A/2/12 on August 23rd, 1967 (ironically, on the day after I left). Like all rookies in the unit, he was apprehensive, but enthusiastic.
John Stone (pictured left) wrote this about Carl:
Not sure exactly when I first met Carl—most likely during the five day pre- combat training at base camp.
Carl Spaul Thorne-Thomsen—the first guy I ever met with 4 names. When I first met him, I thought his first name was Thorne. I thought that was the coolest first name I ever heard. Then I was calling him by what I thought was his whole name—Thorne Thomsen. It wasn’t long before I got it right. Carl was so much easier.
I liked him from the minute I met him. The type of guy you wanted to hang with. He was very outgoing—so friendly—and quick-witted. I have to assume he was well educated—if not, he was very intelligent and had that ability to recall things that would fit the conversation. He knew something about everything and everything about some things, but was never condescending in our conversations. When he would talk, I would listen and when I was talking, he would listen. The difference was, I was probably getting more out of the conversation than he was…He was an extraordinary speaker. I can still hear his voice…the tone…the way he spoke. He had a knack of choosing and organizing his words well in advance.
Carl was a real funny guy—He came out with some real funny stuff—a real comedian, but not silly. Boy did he make me laugh with his little comments and jokes. I always considered him my joking buddy. I always enjoyed being with him—not only because he made me laugh, but just an easygoing guy—at least with me.
Even though I knew him for a short two months, he left a impression on me that has lasted a lifetime. I suppose he made an impression on everyone that knew him. I would guarantee, if his life wasn’t cut short, he would have succeeded in any enterprise attempted.
Even after 36 years, I still find it hard to believe he is gone. Gone yes…but only in body. I will never forget him. —Carl was one extraordinary guy.
This is what Charlie Page
(pictured right) says of Carl:
Carl Thorne-Thomsen was a Harvard student who ended up in Vietnam. He was a handsome, wealthy, articulate, and intelligent individual. I often told him there were no scholar-athletes at Harvard because there were no athletes at Harvard. He told me that USC had the best athletes money could buy. One of his friends said on the web site that he was the next JFK for this country. I believe it.
Carl paid the ultimate price for his beliefs. On October 25th 1967 Carl was killed in the ambush that devastated the Company.
When Lt. Quick wrote Carl’s family and extended his sympathy to them for Carl’s loss he received a letter back from them. He shares part of it here:
Of all the letters we've received, including one from the President, yours has been the most meaningful...about the loss of our son Carl.
I want you to know that our son wrote often of the bravery of the men in
Alpha Company, and its leaders, its Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers...
[Carl] said Alpha Company was the best company in Vietnam.
[Perhaps] it's best if we do not state our position on the war, but we would
like to do something for the men of Alpha, of whom Carl thought so highly."
Note: The family later sent a TV to Alpha Company in Carl's memory.
Carl was a man of principles and was willing to take the risks and make the sacrifices to right what he considered an injustice perpetrated on the under privileged class, who bore the brunt of the fighting in Vietnam. He was a hero to them; he was a hero to the Country.
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