Hugh C. Thompson, Jr. - Daily Advertiser (Lafayette, LA) obit
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Louisiana Lou
2006-01-09 12:53:57 UTC
Hugh C. Thompson Jr.

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
of 1968.

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,
Wisconsin 53701-1461.

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
Louisiana Lou
2006-01-12 15:56:10 UTC

Local hero honored
Thompson receives final salute
Jason Brown

Larry Colburn was there the day Hugh Thompson Jr. helped stop the My
Lai massacre in March 1968.

On Wednesday, Colburn came to Lafayette to lay to rest a man he called
a true "moral compass" for his actions in preventing the almost certain
deaths of innocent Vietnamese civilians.

Thompson, 62, died Jan. 6 and was buried Wednesday at Lafayette
Memorial Park with full military honors, the passing of a helicopter, a
21-gun salute and a memorial tribute by fellow veterans.
His funeral services were well-attended by friends, family members and
veterans, who referred to him as a courageous leader among men as they
looked out at his flag-draped coffin.

"He wasn't an angel. He was a man just like any other man, but that
morning in My Lai, he was an angel and a moral compass," Colburn said.

Colburn was a gunner on the Huey helicopter Thompson landed between
advancing American soldiers and Vietnamese civilians that day in 1968,
helping to put a stop to a massacre that claimed 504 lives before it
was over.

Thompson's biographer, Trent Angers, considers Thompson one of the
greatest heroes in American history.

"His act of heroism at My Lai was just the purest act of unselfishness
and heroism with no agenda. He had nothing to gain, and he just did
what was right because it was right," Angers said.

"Hugh Thompson brought honor to our country at a time when our country
was being shamed by the war criminals who killed people at My Lai," he

Thompson's actions at My Lai were overlooked for decades before finally
being acknowledged by the Pentagon, having first been the subject of
documentaries and biographies. He since has been featured in two
segments of 60 Minutes and in newspapers and television stations across
the world.

But, Thompson was more than just a hero - a label he would never attach
to himself - he was a friend and family member who left behind a wife,
three sons, three grandsons and a brother.

"Hugh Thompson was a very good friend. He's a man of incredible
integrity. He was a true friend. He was a veteran's friend," said Karen
Fontenot, with the Vietnam Veterans of America Acadiana Chapter 141.

"I was a nurse during the Vietnam War ... and I have a deep
understanding and appreciation for what he did," she said.

Thompson, along with his crew members, was later awarded the Soldier's
Medal, one of the Army's most prestigious awards.

"What occurred in My Lai can happen in any country. As Americans, we're
not above that," said Kevin Clement, a retired army lieutenant colonel
who years later became instrumental in make sure Thompson got the
Soldier's Medal. "What prevents that is good leadership. What you saw
in My Lai was an absolute breakdown in leadership."

Colburn agreed.

"Something within him would not allow that to happen in his presence,
and so he threw all caution to the wind and put his career, his life,
everything on the line and took a stand," Colburn said. "Rank
disappeared, just melted away. It was just one man recognizing evil and
refusing to go along with it."

Originally published January 12, 2006