Hugh C. Thompson, Jr

Hugh C. Thompson, Jr

Birth
Atlanta, DeKalb County, Georgia, USA
Death 6 Jan 2006 (aged 62)
Alexandria, Rapides Parish, Louisiana, USA
Burial Lafayette, Lafayette Parish, Louisiana, USA
Memorial ID 12922923 · View Source
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Vietnam War United States Army Soldier. He rescued Vietnamese civilians from his fellow United States soldiers during the 1968 My Lai massacre, and brought the massacre to a halt. Joining the Navy in 1961, and upon completion of his Navy term of service, joined the US Army in 1966, to become a helicopter pilot. He volunteered for the Vietnam Aerial Scout Unit, and was assigned to Task Force Barker to fly over the jungle to draw enemy fire, giving attack helicopters a chance to eliminate enemy forces. On the morning of March 16, 1968, WO Thompson was piloting an OH-23 helicopter, when they came upon American ground troops killing Vietnamese civilians around the village of My Lai. To prevent more killings, he landed his helicopter between a group of Vietnamese civilians and the soldiers, ordering his door gunner to fire their M6O machine guns on the soldiers if they attempted to kill any more civilians. He then evacuated the civilians, including a 2-year-old boy that he found clinging to his dead mother. He ordered two other helicopters to fly eleven Vietnamese to the hospital at Quang Ngai. At this point, he reported the massacre to higher headquarters, and received a cease-fire order to be declared, sparing countless more civilians. Despite his efforts, approximately 500 Vietnamese mostly women, children, infants, and the elderly were systematically murdered in the bloody massacre, which resulted in the later court-martial of 1st Lt. William Calley, the sole officer convicted for the massacre. Calley was sentenced in March of 1971 to life in prison; after numerous appeals, he was released on bail in September of 1974; and finally he was paroled in September of 1976. For the remainder of Thompson's Vietnam tour, he continued to fly OH-23 helicopters, and was shot down five times, the last time breaking his back. He remained another 13 years in the Army, retiring in 1982 at the rank of major, then became a counselor at the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs. He would periodically travel to United States Army Academy at West Point to give a personal lecture to the cadets on military ethics. When Thompson's role in preventing loss of innocent lives became known, the United States Army awarded him in 1998 the Soldier's Medal, which is the highest award for valor not involving combat. For the same act of heroism, SPC Glenn Urban Andreotta and SPC Lawrence Manley “Larry” Colburn received the Soldier's Medal. He and Colburn were co-chairman of the Stonewalk Project, which organized and led the physical pulling of a one-ton granite memorial stone for Unknown Civilians Killed in War from Massachusetts to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Thompson died from cancer while a patient at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Alexandria, Louisiana on January 6, 2006.

Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson


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  • Created by: Kit and Morgan Benson
  • Added: 7 Jan 2006
  • Find a Grave Memorial 12922923
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Hugh C. Thompson, Jr (15 Apr 1943–6 Jan 2006), Find a Grave Memorial no. 12922923, citing Lafayette Memorial Park, Lafayette, Lafayette Parish, Louisiana, USA ; Maintained by Kit and Morgan Benson (contributor 46483611) .