Saturday, January 07, 2006

Death of an American Hero

Hugh Thompson Jnr has died. For those who don't know who he was, here is his citation for the Soldier's Medal, the US Army's highest award for bravery while not under enemy fire:

For heroism above and beyond the call of duty on 16 March 1968, while saving the lives of at least 10 Vietnamese civilians during the unlawful massacre of noncombatants by American forces at My Lai, Quang Ngai Province, South Vietnam. Warrant Officer Thompson landed his helicopter in the line of fire between fleeing Vietnamese civilians and pursuing American ground troops to prevent their murder. He then personally confronted the leader of the American ground troops and was prepared to open fire on those American troops should they fire upon the civilians. Warrant Officer Thompson, at the risk of his own personal safety, went forward of the American lines and coaxed the Vietnamese civilians out of the bunker to enable their evacuation. Leaving the area after requesting and overseeing the civilians' air evacuation, his crew spotted movement in a ditch filled with bodies south of My Lai Four. Warrant Officer Thompson again landed his helicopter and covered his crew as they retrieved a wounded child from the pile of bodies. He then flew the child to the safety of a hospital at Quang Ngai. Warrant Officer Thompson's relayed radio reports of the massacre and subsequent report to his section leader and commander resulted in an order for the cease fire at My Lai and an end to the killing of innocent civilians. Warrant Officer Thompson's heroism exemplifies the highest standards of personal courage and ethical conduct, reflecting distinct credit on him, and the United States Army.

(Link and emphases added)

That medal was awarded in 1998 - thirty years later than it should have been.


Impressive, a hero indeed.

I wonder if there were any similar incidents on the other side. Maybe during the Tet offensive (eg Hue) or somthing. If so I guess we wouldn't know...

Posted by Genius : 1/08/2006 10:23:00 AM

While the Viet Cong definitely targetted civillians during Tet, coverage of the other side was thin to non-existent, and so there's no way of knowing. I'd also expect the consequences of such actions to be somewhat higher. Thompson was "merely" ostracised by his unit and received death threats from outraged "patriotic" Americans. Similar actions from a low-ranking Viet Cong or NVA soldier would probably have resulted in execution.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 1/08/2006 10:54:00 AM