A Viet Nam War pilot who stopped a massacre

Posted on 28 Mar 2015


Just know this about the world: stop violence and you may be villified because many people are sleepwalkers. Thank you, Hugh, Glenn, and Laurence, and to everyone else working in whatever way you do to prevent wrongs and protect the stupid. We would be another extinct species if individuals didn’t do the right thing despite the personal consequences. 

Hugh Clowers Thompson, Jr. (April 15, 1943 – January 6, 2006) was a United States Army warrant officer in 123rd Aviation Battalion, 23rd Infantry Division who played a major role in ending the Mỹ Lai Massacre in Sơn Mỹ Village, Sơn Tịnh DistrictSouth Vietnam on March 16, 1968.

During the 
Mỹ Lai Massacre, Thompson and his Hiller OH-23 Raven crew, Glenn Andreotta and Lawrence Colburn, stopped a number of killings by threatening and blocking officers and enlisted soldiers of Company C, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Brigade, 23rd Infantry Division. Additionally, Thompson and his crew saved a number of Vietnamese civilians by personally escorting them away from advancing United States Army ground units and assuring their evacuation by air. Thompson reported the atrocities by radio several times while at Sơn Mỹ. Although these reports reached Task Force Barker operational headquarters, nothing was done to stop the massacre. After evacuating a child to a Quảng Ngãi hospital, Thompson angrily reported to his superiors, in person at Task Force Barker headquarters, that a massacre was occurring at Sơn Mỹ.

Immediately following Thompson’s report, Lieutenant Colonel Frank A. Barker ordered all ground units in Sơn Mỹ to cease search and destroy operations in the village.

In 1970, Thompson testified against those responsible for the 
Mỹ Lai Massacre. Twenty-six officers and enlisted soldiers, including William Calley and Ernest Medina, were charged with criminal offenses, but all were either acquitted or pardoned. Thompson was condemned and ostracized by many individuals in the United States military and government, as well as the public, for his role in the investigations and trials concerning the Mỹ Lai Massacre. As a direct result of what he experienced, Thompson suffered from posttraumatic stress disorderalcoholismdivorce, and severe nightmare disorder. Despite the adversity he faced, he remained in the United States Army until November 1st, 1983 and continued to make a living as a helicopter pilot in the Southeastern United States. In 1998, Thompson returned to Sơn Mỹ, Vietnam with Lawrence Colburn to meet with survivors of the massacre.

Thompson’s role in stopping the 
Mỹ Lai Massacre and testifying against the war-criminals responsible is thoroughly examined in Trent Angers’ The Forgotten Hero of My Lai: The Hugh Thompson Story.