Hugh C. Thompson, Jr. (April 15, 1943 January 6, 2006) was a helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War. He is chiefly known for his role in stopping the My Lai Massacre, during which he was flying a reconnaissance mission.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Thompson joined the US Navy in 1961, then US Army in 1966 and trained as a helicopter pilot. He volunteered for the Aerial Scout Unit and assigned to Task Force Barker to fly over Vietnamese forests and try to draw enemy fire, to pinpoint the location of troops. Serving as one door-gunner, his Crew Chief was Glenn Andreotta and his other door-gunner was Spc Lawrence Colburn, both of whom would later also draw claims of heroism for their role at My Lai, though Andreotta died three weeks after the event.

After coming across the dead bodies of Vietnamese civilians outside My Lai on March 16, 1968, Thompson set down their OH-23 and the three men began setting green gas markers by the prone bodies of the Vietnamese civilians who appeared to still be alive. Returning to the helicopter however, they saw Captain Ernest Medina run forward and begin shooting the wounded who had been marked - and the three men moved their ship back over the village where Thompson confronted Lt. Stephen Brooks who was preparing to blow up a hut full of cowering and wounded Vietnamese; he left Andreotta and Colburn to cover the company with their heavy machine guns and orders to fire on any American who refused the orders to halt the massacre. (Needless to say, none of the officers dared to disobey him, although as a mere warrant officer, Thompson was outranked by the commissioned lieutenants.)

Thompson: Let's get these people out of this bunker and get 'em out of here.
Brooks: We'll get 'em out with hand grenades.
Thompson: I can do better than that. Keep your people in place. My guns are on you.
Thompson then ordered two other helicopters (one piloted by Dan Millians) flying nearby to serve as a medevac for the 11 wounded Vietnamese. While flying away from the village, Andreotta spotted movement in an irrigation ditch, and the helicopter was again landed and a child was extracted from the bodies, and brought with the rest of the Vietnamese to the hospital at Quang Ngai.

Thompson subsequently reported the massacre, whilst it was still occuring, to his superiors. The cease-fire order was then given.

After My Lai
Kept in the dangerous OH-23 Raven Helicopter missions, which some considered punishment for his intervention and the subsequent media coverage, Thompson was shot down a total of five times, breaking his backbone on the last attack. He suffered psychological scars from his service in Vietnam through out the rest of his life.

Exactly thirty years later, the three were awarded the Soldier's Medal (Andreotta posthumously), the United States Army's highest award for bravery not involving direct contact with the enemy.

Thompson and Colburn at the My Lai monument in 1998In 1998, Thompson and Colburn returned to the village in My Lai, where they met with some of the villagers saved through their actions including the 8 year old Do Hoa pulled from the irrigation ditch. They also dedicated a new elementary school for the children of the village.

In a 2004 interview with 60 Minutes, he was quoted referring to C-Company's men involved in the massacre, "I mean, I wish I was a big enough man to say I forgive them, but I swear to God, I can't."

He served as a counselor in the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs, and gave a lecture at the United States Naval Academy in 2003 on Professional Military Ethics.

At the age of 62, Thompson was removed from life support, after extensive cancer treatment, and died on January 6, 2006, at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Alexandria, Louisiana. Lawrence Colburn came from Atlanta, Georgia to be at his bedside.[1]


Now that is what a true soldier should be. He proved courage along with his other two crew mates to stop the platoon from killing any more civilians.

And that is all I will say.