Hugh Thompson, Jr.

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Hugh Thompson, Jr.

Hugh C. Thompson, Jr. (April 15, 1943January 6, 2006) was a US Army helicopter pilot who rescued Vietnamese civilians during the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam war and campaigned to bring those responsible to justice. After receiving the prestigious Soldier's Medal he became a popular speaker on military ethics.


  • I'm going to go over and get them out of the bunker myself. If the squad opens up on them, shoot 'em.
    • To Spec. Lawrence Colburn, giving him the order to fire on any fellow US Army soldiers if they attempted to kill a group of unarmed Vietnamese civilians. [1]


  • Don't do the right thing looking for a reward, because it might not come.
    • In a 2004 interview with AP. [2]
  • Something terrible happened here 30 years ago today. I cannot explain why it happened. I just wish our crew that day could have helped more people than we did.
    • Quoted by CNN, regarding the My Lai massacre. [3]
  • I'd received death threats over the phone. Dead animals on your porch, mutilated animals on your porch some mornings when you get up. So I was not a 'good guy'.
    • In a 2004 interview with 60 minutes. [4]
  • These people were looking at me for help and there was no way I could turn my back on them
    • In a 1998 interview with AP. [5]
  • They said I was screaming quite loud. I threatened never to fly again. I didn't want to be a part of that. It wasn't war.
    • In a 2004 interview with US News & World Report. [6]

Quotes of others about Thompson[edit]

  • Thompson landed again. Glenn and I got out of the aircraft, took out the guns. Hugh walked over to this lieutenant [Brooks], and I could tell they were in a shouting match. I thought they were going to get in a fist fight. He told me later what they said. 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.' Hugh was outranked, so this was not good to do, but that's how committed he was to stopping it.
    • Thompson's gunner, Spec. Lawrence Colburn [7]
  • He was treated like a traitor for 30 years, so he was conditioned to just shut up and be quiet. Every bit of information I got from him, I had to drag it out of him.
    • Trent Angers, Thompson's biographer [8]
  • What a great man. There are so many people today walking around alive because of him, not only in Vietnam, but people who kept their units under control under other circumstances because they had heard his story. We may never know just how many lives he saved. [9]
    • Col. Tom Kolditz, head of the Army academy's behavioral sciences and leadership department.
  • You can't imagine what courage it took to do what he did. [10]
    • Seymour Hersh, journalist who "broke" the My Lai massacre story.
  • He was the guy who by his heroic actions gave a morality and dignity to the American military effort. At war sometimes things get topsy turvy, so he was a moral example at a time when things were pure evil.
    • Douglas Brinkley, Tulane history professor. [11]

The Forgotten Hero of My Lai: The Hugh Thompson Story[edit]

Published in 1999, The Forgotten Hero of My Lai: The Hugh Thompson Story is the account of the My Lai massacre acording to Hugh Thompson, author Trent Angers

Thompson landed his helicopter and dismounted. Sergeant David Mitchell (Squad Leader, 1st Platoon, C Company) walked over to him. When asked by Thompson whether any help could be provided to the people in the ditch, the sergeant replied that the only way to help them was to put them out of their misery. 2nd Lt. William Calley (1st Platoon Commander, C Company) then came up, and the two had the following conversation:
Thompson:: What's going on here, lieutenant?
Calley:: This is my business.
Thompson:: What is this? Who are these people?
Calley:: Just following orders.
Thompson:: Orders? Whose orders?
Calley:: Just following...
Thompson:: But, these are human beings, unarmed civilians, sir.
Calley:: Look Thompson, this is my show. I'm in charge here. It ain't your concern.
Thompson:: Yeah, great job.
Calley:: You better get back in that chopper and mind your own business.
Thompson:: You ain't heard the last of this!

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