2006-01-09 12:53:57 UTC
LAFAYETTE - Funeral services for Hugh C. Thompson Jr., 62, will be held
in the Delhomme Chapel of the Flowers at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 11,
2006. Following a brief illness, he died shortly after midnight on
Friday, Jan. 6, 2006, at Veterans Administration Medical Center in
A Vietnam War hero whose story of bravery and courage is known around
the world, Mr. Thompson is the U.S. Army helicopter pilot who is
credited with putting a stop to the My Lai Massacre, in which 504
Vietnamese civilians were killed at the hands of U.S. soldiers in March
The story of his bravery at My Lai remained buried for the better part
of 30 years, until the U.S. Army finally awarded him the Soldier's Medal
at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., in March of 1998. This
medal is the highest award the Army can bestow for battlefield action
other than combat with the enemy.
The following year, in 1999, his life story was published in the book
titled "The Forgotten Hero of My Lai: The Hugh Thompson Story." His
story was also the subject of two segments of "60 Minutes," narrated by
Mike Wallace of CBS News.
Mr. Thompson's story was featured in newspapers and on television
throughout the U.S., Europe and numerous Asian countries. It was also
featured in Reader's Digest and circulated around the world.
In 2000 and 2001 he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by U.S.
Senator John Breaux. In his Letter to the Norwegian Nobel Committee,
Senator Breaux stated that Mr. Thompson's actions at My Lai make him a
valuable role model, not only for young people but for military
personnel around the world as well. Senator Breaux added: "Hugh
Thompson's story is a shining example of ethical, humane treatment of
civilians and prisoners-of-war during wartime...His actions serve as a
powerful statement having the power to inspire others to act justly and
compassionately toward their neighbor, regardless of nationality."
Mr. Thompson was inducted into the U.S. Army Aviation Hall of Fame in
2004. In 1998 he received the Courage of Conscience Award-an award also
given to Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa and other world-renowned figures
who have worked for peace, particularly on behalf of the poor and the
The story of Mr. Thompson's heroism inspired poems, essays, editorials,
thousands of congratulatory letters, a 1960's-style song called
"Warriors for Humanity," a symphony, extensive newspaper and TV
coverage, a book on his life, and numerous inquiries from movie producers.
He was born April 15, 1943 in Atlanta and reared in Stone Mountain,
Ga.He served in the U.S. Navy from 1961 to 1964. He joined the Army to
attend Warrant Officer Flight School, which he completed in 1967 before
shipping out to Vietnam. While in Vietnam he served as a reconnaissance
helicopter pilot. In March of 1968 he interceded in the My Lai Massacre
and rescued nine unarmed Vietnamese civilians from a sure death.He was
injured in four helicopter crashes and following the last crash, was
evacuated to an Army hospital in Japan.
Next, he served as an instructor pilot at Ft. Rucker, Ala., was
commissioned First Lieutenant in 1970, and served as one of the
government's chief witnesses against Lt. William Calley, the only person
convicted of a crime in connection with the My Lai Massacre.
His military career included assignments at Ft. Rucker, Ala.; Ft.
Jackson, S.C.; Korea; Ft. Ord, Calif.; Ft. Hood, Texas; Ft. Polk, La.;
and several points in Hawaii.
He retired from the military in 1983, flew as a commercial helicopter
pilot in Louisiana for seven years, and worked as a counselor for the
Louisiana Department of Veteran Affairs in Lafayette, La., for 12 years,
retiring in April of 2005.
In recognition of his heroism in Vietnam, he received honorary doctorate
degrees from Connecticut College in 1998 and Emory University in 2002.He
gave lectures on battlefield ethics at the U.S. Military Academy at West
Point, as well as at the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy
and U.S. Marine Corps Base at Quantico, Va.
He is survived by his wife, the former Mona Gossen; three sons, Hugh
Allen (Bucky), Steven, and Brian and his wife, Nicole (nee Arabie);
three grandsons, Tyler, Connor, and Samson; and one brother, Tommie
Thompson, of Austin, Texas.
He was preceded in death by his father, Hugh C. Thompson Sr. and his
mother, Wessie (nee Elmore) Thompson.
Visitation is scheduled for 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 10 at
Delhomme Funeral Home on Bertrand Drive in Lafayette. Visitation will
continue from 9 a.m. until the time of services Wednesday in the
Delhomme Chapel of the Flowers.
Services will be conducted by the Rev. L.C. Lord, pastor of First
Baptist Church of Broussard, who was Mr. Thompson's friend and neighbor.
Interment will follow in Lafayette Memorial Park Cemetery, in the
veterans' section, on Pinhook Road.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the My Lai Peace Park
project, c/o Mike Boehm, Madison Quakers, Inc., P.O. Box 1461, Madison,
Pallbearers will be Hugh Allen Thompson, Brian Thompson, Steven
Thompson, Larry Colburn, Jeff Thompson, and Tommie Thompson.
Honorary pallbearers will be Tom Anderson, Mike Wallace, Col. Nick
Johnson, Col. Dan Gower, Michael Bilton, Karl Bengtson, Trent Angers,
Rod Touchet, Richard Red, Judge Ned Doucet and Judge Ed Broussard.
Personal condolences can be sent to the Thompson family at
Delhomme Funeral Home, 1011 Bertrand Drive, is in charge of all funeral
Originally published January 9, 2006