Army pilot was hero at My Lai
RICHARD GOLDSTEIN; The New York Times
Published: January 8th, 2006 02:30 AM
Hugh Thompson, an Army helicopter pilot who rescued Vietnamese civilians during the My Lai massacre, reported the killings to his superior officers in a rage over what he had seen, testified at the inquiries and received a commendation from the Army three decades later, has died in Alexandria, La. He was 62.
The cause was cancer, Jay DeWorth, a spokesman for the Veterans Affairs Medical Center where Thompson died Friday, told The Associated Press.
On March 16, 1968, Thompson, a chief warrant officer, and his two crewmen were flying on a reconnaissance mission over the South Vietnamese village of My Lai when they spotted bodies strewn over the landscape.
Thompson landed twice in an effort to determine what was happening, finally coming to the realization that a massacre was taking place. The second time, he touched down near a bunker in which a group of about 10 civilians were being menaced by American troops. Using hand signals, Thompson persuaded the Vietnamese to come out while ordering his gunner and his crew chief to shoot any American soldiers who opened fire on the civilians. None did.
Thompson told of what he had seen when he returned to his base. “They said I was screaming quite loud,” he told US News & World Report in 2004. “I threatened never to fly again. I didn’t want to be a part of that. It wasn’t war.”
Thompson later testified before Congress, a military inquiry and the court-martial of Lt. William L. Calley Jr., the platoon leader at My Lai, who was the only soldier to be convicted in the massacre.
In 1998, the Army presented Thompson with the Soldier’s Medal, for heroism not involving conflict with an enemy. .
There's not much an old sailor can add to that story; I do have some questions, though! It wasn't so long ago a group of veterans was denying that things like this went on, and said that anyone who told such stories was disparaging them and their service. They called themselves the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth...
There are those who deny the Holocaust, saying it never happened and that it was a media stunt. There are those who deny the Armenian massacre, and Turks who speak of it are tried for treason. There have were denials in the Balkans about the massacre at Srebrenica and initially about the Rwandan genocide. Tienanmen square is denied in China, Pearl Harbor isn't taught in Japanese history books, let alone the rape of Nanking which is still denied even though the Japanese government apologized for it!
I am sure my words here would be considered treasonous by some; they forget that there was once a King named George who tried to deny his people the right to speak, and had his tail thoroughly kicked for it. He spied, he jailed, he oppressed, and they rose to defeat him. Though most of our citizenry isn't of that same fiery stock our ancestors were, there has to be a way to show our current King George the error of his ways, even if it's only showing his party the door in the next election cycle.
Somehow we have to take our country back from big business, the lobbyists and the "cronie-ists". The revolving door between officeholders, elected and appointed, and lobbyist positions needs to be welded shut. I don't know how to accomplish that, but there has to be a way!
We used to have a collective conscience as a nation; now we only seem to have a wallet! I miss the country I grew up in-desperately!