Song for Hugh Thompson

Hugh Thompson was a pilot, just like many more
Fighting for Old Glory on a far-off, foreign shore
He was on a lethal mission, only one of many
Following his orders to kill the enemy
To kill the enemy

He flew low above the village, searching for the foe
When he saw a wounded child on the path below
He thought this to be a sure sign that the enemy was near
So he radioed for back-up and more choppers did appear
More choppers did appear

“Help the wounded,” he cried out, “and beware of an attack”
And then the child died by a bullet through her back
And when he looked around for the culprits of the scene
It was a company of men in U.S. military green
U.S. military green

The dead were in the hundreds, strewn all around
In this place called My Lai, which once had been a town
There was a hut of huddled children, soldiers had them in their sights
Hugh decided at that moment to fight for what was right
To fight for what was right

“Train your weapons on the G.I.’s,” and his ‘copter crews obeyed
And stood among the children, tattered and afraid
The whole town had been murdered, but for some kids and widowed wives
And Hugh Thompson made sure that those remaining would survive
That those remaining would survive

It was a fifteen-minute stand-off in a knee-deep sea of red
Amidst the moaning of the dying and the silence of the dead
Hugh Thompson was a soldier and he served his country well
On the day he saved the lives of a dozen kids in hell

Sheet music for this song may be found in Songbook Vol I (1997-2004).

“Song for Hugh Thompson” originally appeared on the 1998 CD, We Just Want the World.  In later years it appeared on the 2009 retrospective CD, Waiting for the Fall, and the 2010 CD, Troubadour:  People’s History in Song.

I read about Hugh Thompson in a newspaper while sitting in a cafe in Virginia.  Hugh Thompson was about to be given an award by the government of Vietnam for saving the lives of a number of women, children and babies who would otherwise have been killed by US troops who had just killed several hundred women, children, babies and old men in the course of the My Lai Massacre.  When the US government found out that Vietnam was about to give him this award, they quickly organized to give him an award themselves, for “bravery in a noncombat situation” or some bullshit.  The fact is that he and his helicopter crew put an end to this horrible slaughter by engaging in an armed stand-off with fellow US soldiers.

Hugh Thompson died quite young, though not until he received these awards, participated in Veterans for Peace, where I met him briefly one year when I was performing at the Philadelphia VFP convention.  This song was played at his funeral, former VFP chairman, the late Dave Cline, told me.