The Forgotten Hero of My Lai | Hugh Thompson Jr.

On March 16. 1968 American troops murdered over 500 innocent women, old men, and children in the Vietnamese village of My Lai. But it could have been much worse if not for one very brave helicopter pilot: Hugh Thompson Jr.

After two failed attempts to end the slaughter peacefully, Thompson ordered his crew to turn the helicopter's guns on their fellow Americans. That day the killing stopped. Some scholars say up to 20,000 lives were saved that day because that mission was supposed to go on for 4 days, through many more villages, and there were up to 20,000 people in all those villages. But thanks to the actions of Hugh Thompson and his crew, the mission was halted in just 4 hours.

Hugh Thompson never pulled out his pistol. That was a dramatization from the movie scene. He kept his pistol holstered when he stood up against his own Americans forces ---which is even more bold and heroic considering they had just killed over 500 civilians.

An officer had also previously threatened to kill a soldier for not participating in the killing. Nevertheless, Hugh Thompson put himself in harm’s way and shielded the civilians with his own body until lifting them to safety. In 1998, 30 years after the massacre, Thompson and the two other members of his crew, Glenn Andreotta and Lawrence Colburn, were awarded the Soldier's Medal (Andreotta posthumously), the United States Army's highest award for bravery not involving direct contact with the enemy.

by Matt Orfalea
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