10 Nov 2013

REMEMBERANCE DAY : The Forgotten hero of My Lai

There is also an often forgotten hero in this ghastly event. That person is US helicopter pilot, Captain Hugh Thompson. The My Lai massacre was the slaughter of innocent Vietnamese villagers in 1968 by the US army. The army rampaged through the village of My Lai killing all in sight; men women and children.

Those still alive were pursued by the Army as they fled to the nearest ditch. It was here that Capt Thompson happened across this atrocity. From his airborne viewpoint he could clearly see what was happening. Then in an act of bravery and with total disregard for his own safety he set his helicopter down between the Vietnamese civilians and the pursuing soldiers.

He then ordered his gunners to direct their machine guns towards the US soldiers and told them to open fire on his fellow Americans should they attack the surviving civilians. The Army reluctantly backed off. Those still alive could thank Capt Thompson for their lives. For decades Capt Thompson was shunned in the US and received many death threats. One Congressman even went so far as to say "that he was the only American who should be punished over My Lai." Capt Thompson passed away in 2006. When I think of him the often quoted words of Edmund Burke comes to mind:

"Evil prevails when good men do nothing".

John Bellew,
Dunleer, Co Louth
Sunday Independent

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