The original quote comes from the Vietnam War
. After the Tet offensive
American forces went on a wild counterattack. After the village of Ben Tre was virtually destroyed, an American Major said to journalist Peter Arnett
(who would become famous for his work on CNN
during the Gulf War
), "It became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it."
As quoted by Neil Sheehan in his book about John Paul Vann -- A Bright Shining Lie.