Hugh Thompson, Jr. (April 15, 1943 – January 6, 2006)
...Thompson then flew over an irrigation ditch filled with dozens of bodies. Shocked at the sight, he radioed his accompanying gunships, knowing his transmission would be monitored by many on the radio net: "It looks to me like there's an awful lot of unnecessary killing going on down there. Something ain't right about this. There's bodies everywhere. There's a ditch full of bodies that we saw. There's something wrong here."
Movement from the ditch indicated to Thompson that there were still people alive in there. Thompson landed his helicopter and dismounted. David Mitchell, a sergeant and squad leader in 1st Platoon, C Company, walked over to him. When asked by Thompson whether any help could be provided to the people in the ditch, the sergeant replied that the only way to help them was to put them out of their misery. Second Lieutenant William Calley (commanding officer of the 1st Platoon, C Company) then came up, and the two had the following conversation:
- Thompson: What's going on here, Lieutenant?
- Calley: This is my business.
- Thompson: What is this? Who are these people?
- Calley: Just following orders.
- Thompson: Orders? Whose orders?
- Calley: Just following...
- Thompson: But, these are human beings, unarmed civilians, sir.
- Calley: Look Thompson, this is my show. I'm in charge here. It ain't your concern.
- Thompson: Yeah, great job.
- Calley: You better get back in that chopper and mind your own business.
- Thompson: You ain't heard the last of this!
Thompson took off again, and Andreotta reported that Mitchell was now executing the people in the ditch. Furious, Thompson flew over the northeast corner of the village and spotted a group of about ten civilians, including children, running toward a homemade bomb shelter. Pursuing them were soldiers from the 2nd Platoon, C Company. Realizing that the soldiers intended to murder the Vietnamese, Thompson landed his aircraft between them and the villagers. Thompson turned to Colburn and Andreotta and told them that if the Americans began shooting at the villagers or him, they should fire their M60 machine guns at the Americans: "Y'all cover me! If these bastards open up on me or these people, you open up on them. Promise me!"
...Initially, commanders throughout the American chain of command were successful in covering up the My Lai Massacre. Thompson quickly received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions at My Lai. The citation for the award fabricated events, for example praising Thompson for taking to a hospital a Vietnamese child "caught in intense crossfire". It also stated that his "sound judgment had greatly enhanced Vietnamese–American relations in the operational area." Thompson threw away the citation.
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