The Navy Cross




-------------WASHINGTON, D. C.

             The  President  of  the  United  States  takes  pleasure  in  presenting  the NAVY CROSS to


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

SSgt. John C. Thompson's Navy Cross

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.

Semper Fi
Bill Cunningham

I was the senior member of the HMM-364 awards board that initially recommended that Tommy be awarded the Navy Cross.  Initially, GC FMF PAC awarded him a Silver Star because that was the highest award for which they were authorized.  Eventually, CMC awarded him the Navy Cross.

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)

Index to SSgt. John C. Thompson's complete history

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