THE SECRETARY OF THE NAVY
The President of the United
States takes pleasure in presenting the NAVY
STAFF SERGEANT JOHN C. THOMPSON
for service as set forth in the following
For extraordinary heroism with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron THREE HUNDRED SIXTY-FOUR in support of the Republic of Vietnam against the insurgent communist guerrilla forces (Viet Cong) on 30 April 1964. During this action, Sergeant Thompson was assigned as loadmaster to service a flight of eighteen helicopters ordered to effect the evacuation of an outpost which was totally surrounded by the insurgent communist guerillas. He arrived in the zone on the first aircraft and remained at his post until all the trapped personnel had been safely evacuated. As each aircraft approached for landing, he willingly stood up exposing himself to heavy fire being placed on the landing zone and guided the aircraft to a safe landing by use of hand and arm signals. During intervals between landing herlicopters, he armed himself with hand grenades and employed them in the defense of the landing zone. When the final aircraft arrived, there were six persons, including Sergeant Thompson, left to be evacuated. As the pre-established number of five passengers were loaded, he gallantly offered to remain alone in the face of certain death in order to keep the load of the helicopter at a safe weight for take-off and to cover it with fire during its withdrawal. The pilot ordered him aboard an as the helicopter was taking off and he was pulled in, the passengers and crew fired over his body at the attacking enemy. His great personal valor and fearless devotion to duty reflected great credit upon himself and the Marine Corps and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
For the President,
/s/ Paul H. Nitze
Secretary of the Navy
Citation provided by:
Franklin A. Gulledge, Jr., Major USMC (Ret.) and,
Awards Branch, Headquarters, United States Marine Corps
I have a very vivid memory of the action that Tommy Thompson earned his Navy Cross. It was 30 April 1964. SSgt Thompson was my loadmaster. Since I was leading the squadron that day we were the first bird into the tight LZ. Thompson's job was to load each bird with the prescribed number of ARVN and we would spirrel out as the next bird came in. As soon as I touched down all hell broke loose and all 87 or so ARVN tried to board my A/C. Thompson stood exposed to heavy fire and pulled the pin on a granade and waved it at our brave allies to keep them from swamping our bird. About that time I got hit and so did my crew-chief. My leg was flopping around and hitting the cyclic causing the blades to hit the droop stops pretty hard. Dick Ensley, my co-pilot must have thought we had been hit in the transmission because he rolled off throttle and I was sure he was going to shut down. I let go of my leg long enough to get on the intercom to tell him to take off. Power came back in a hurry and away we went. During this time, Thompson is outside wrestling with the ARVN troops and tossing granades down the hill at the bad guys who were moving up to the LZ. He did that on each subsequent landing and when the last bird landed for the final load he was reluctant to get aboard for fear of overloading the A/C. The last bird , of course wouldn't take-off without him. That day I think all but 2 or 3 of the birds got home without battle damage. We got all of the good guys out but without Tommy Thompson's courage and determination there's no telling how that mission would have ended. My thinking is that the Navy Cross was the minimum award he rated. I was proud to lead that flight and will always remember how well everyone conducted themselves.
As I recall, this action was a special forces extract that was hotly contested. The lead pilot, Bill Cunningham, was wounded, as were others. Tommy directed the extract in the zone which could only handle one H-34 at a time. When the last H-34 landed, special forces soldiers were holding off the VC with small arms and MG fire. Tommy directed them to the H-34 . He then was going to man the machine gun while the H-34 exited the zone, which means he would never have gotten out. The pilot ordered him into the H-34 and got him out. It was a heroic act which would surly have lead to his death if the pilot had not been a quick thinker and realized what an immense sacrifice Tommy was going to make.
John Braddon, Colonel USMC(Ret)
Back Browser or Home