[Mb-civic] CBC News - A HERO DURING VIETNAM MASSACRE,
PILOT DIES AT 62
CBC News Online
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Sat Jan 7 06:48:32 PST 2006
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The following is a news item posted on CBC NEWS ONLINE
A HERO DURING VIETNAM MASSACRE, PILOT DIES AT 62
WebPosted Fri Jan 6 20:16:45 2006
---Hugh Thompson Jr., a helicopter pilot who trained his guns on American
troops to save civilians during the worst atrocity in modern U.S.
military history, has died of cancer at 62.
On the morning of March 16, 1968, he was a 24-year-old chief warrant
officer skimming above Vietnamese rice paddies in a U.S. Army helicopter
with a crew of two, gunner Lawrence Colburn and crew chief Glenn
In and around the village of My Lai, they saw piles of bodies and
realized that U.S. troops were killing civilians – about 500 that
day, it was later estimated.
INDEPTH: My Lai
After landing and being warned away, they saw civilians running toward a
bunker, pursued by Americans.
Thompson landed the helicopter in the line of fire between the two
groups. With Colburn and Andreotta providing cover – he told them
to shoot the Americans if they opened fire – he coaxed the
Vietnamese out of the bunker so they could be flown to safety.
Before returning to base, the three landed again to pick up a child,
about four years old, from a ditch full of bodies. Andreotta, who died in
combat weeks later, waded through the gore to rescue the youngster.
After the My Lai story broke, some Americans accused Thompson of
treachery and called Lieut. William Calley, who led the massacre, a hero.
FROM NOV. 13, 1998: Three awarded medals for stopping My Lai massacre
In 1998, however, Thompson and his crew were awarded the Soldier's Medal,
Andreotta posthumously. The medal is the highest U.S. honour for bravery
not involving conflict with the enemy.
The medal citation credited Thompson with saving at least 10 civilian
lives directly and with taking back reports that led to a ceasefire order
and ended the killings. He died Friday at a veterans hospital outside
The only American punished for the massacre was Calley, who spent three
years under house arrest before getting parole.
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