Battlepanda: Saluting an American Hero


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Saluting an American Hero

Why is it that I've never heard of Hugh Thompson's name until today? And it's not just my ignorance -- the scarily smart and well-informed Majikthise did not either. This man is an American hero whose story is smothered because his heroism concerned an American shame -- the My Lai massacre. From Mike the Mad Biologist:
Too often, a hero is defined as someone who kills people. But some of the noblest heroes stop the killing, often at great risk and personal cost. Hugh Thompson, Jr. died from cancer today:
Mr. Thompson and his crew came upon US troops killing civilians at the village of My Lai on 16 March 1968.

He put his helicopter down between the soldiers and villagers, ordering his men to shoot their fellow Americans if they attacked the civilians.

"There was no way I could turn my back on them," he later said of the victims.

Mr Thompson, a warrant officer at the time, called in support from other US helicopters, and together they airlifted at least nine Vietnamese civilians - including a wounded boy - to safety.

He returned to headquarters, angrily telling his commanders what he had seen. They ordered soldiers in the area to stop shooting.

But Mr Thompson was shunned for years by fellow soldiers, received death threats, and was once told by a congressman that he was the only American who should be punished over My Lai.

Ironically enough, Thompson's story is taught in school all the way in Denmark. From a Danish commenter at Majikthise:
Interesting. In Denmark Thompson is used as an example of how a soldier should behave, protecting civilians against even your own armed forced.

He is used when teaching soldiers/officers about lawful orders, and which orders they are required to not follow. the excuse that someone was just following orders are not accepted in the Danish military - soldiers/officers are trained in realizing when an order is unlawful, and have a duty to not only disregard such orders, but to keep otheers from following them, and to reprot or arrest the officer that gave the orders.

Even though I haven't been in the military, I know his story.

We should be teaching our kids his story right here in America.