Tuesday, March 16, 2010

American Soldiers Committing Murder, Rape, War Atrocity, and the Rare Heroism of Hugh Thompson

Vietnam, Son Tinh, My Lai
1968 March 16
photo by Ronald L. Haeberle

"From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"Warrant Officer One Hugh Thompson, Jr., a helicopter pilot from an aero-scout team, witnessed a large number of dead and dying civilians as he began flying over the village — all of them infants, children, women and old men, with no signs of draft-age men or weapons anywhere. Thompson and his crew witnessed an unarmed passive woman kicked and shot at point-blank range by Captain Medina. The crew made several attempts to radio for help for the wounded. They landed their helicopter by a ditch, which they noted was full of bodies and in which there was movement. Thompson asked a sergeant he encountered there (David Mitchell of the 1st Platoon) if he could help get the people out of the ditch, and the sergeant replied that he would 'help them out of their misery'. Thompson, shocked and confused, then had a conversation with Second Lieutenant Calley, Platoon Leader of 1st Platoon, who claimed to be 'just following orders'. As the helicopter took off, they saw Mitchell firing into the ditch.

"Thompson then saw a group of civilians (again consisting of children, women and old men) at a bunker being approached by ground personnel. Thompson landed and told his crew that if the U.S. soldiers shot at the Vietnamese while he was trying to get them out of the bunker that they were to open fire at these soldiers. Thompson later testified that he spoke with a lieutenant (identified as Stephen Brooks of the 2nd Platoon) and told him there were women and children in the bunker, and asked if the lieutenant would help get them out. According to Thompson, 'he [the lieutenant] said the only way to get them out was with a hand grenade'. Thompson testified that he then told Brooks to 'just hold your men right where they are, and I'll get the kids out'. He found 12 to 16 people in the bunker, coaxed them out and led them to the helicopter, standing with them while they were flown out in two groups.

"Returning to My Lai, Thompson and other air crew members noticed several large groups of bodies. Spotting some survivors in the ditch Thompson landed again and one of the crew members entered the ditch. The crew member returned with a bloodied but apparently unharmed child who was flown to safety. Thompson then reported what he had seen to his company commander, Major Frederic W. Watke, using terms such as 'murder' and 'needless and unnecessary killings'. Thompson's reports were confirmed by other pilots and air crew.

"For their actions Thompson was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and his crew were awarded Bronze Star medals. In 1998, their medals were replaced by the Soldier's Medal, 'the highest the US Army can award for bravery not involving direct conflict with the enemy.' The medal citations said they were being awarded 'for heroism above and beyond the call of duty while saving the lives of at least 10 Vietnamese civilians during the unlawful massacre of non-combatants by American forces at My Lai'. The veterans also made contact with the survivors of My Lai."

No comments: