10 Selfless Acts Amid Terrible Tragedies That Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity
The Vietnam War is widely considered to be the darkest chapter in American military history, and by far its darkest moment was the My Lai massacre. On March 16th, 1968, US soldiers with the 23rd Infantry Division, 11th brigade, massacred between 347 and 504 unarmed civilians in South Vietnam. If you can believe it, the massacre could have been far worse if it wasn’t halted by one man.
Hugh Thompson was an Army helicopter pilot who realized what was happening early on in the massacre, after a seeing several dead civilians from the air during a reconnaissance mission. He landed his helicopter twice to investigate the dead, before realizing that it was American soldiers who were responsible for the killings. After failing to talk sense into a commander who had ordered the massacre, he spent the rest of the day directing and evacuating civilians away from the carnage, and at one point even threatened to open fire on US soldiers who were about to kill several civilians. After evacuating a wounded child, he reported the incident to his superiors, who ordered troops on the ground to stop the killings.
For his efforts, Thompson was shunned by his peers in the military for many years. In 1969 he was called to testify in Congress about the incident, and was chastised by Congressmen with the House Armed Services Committee, who felt that he should have been court martialed for threatening to open fire on American troops. It wouldn’t be until 30 years later that he was awarded a medal for his part in ending the massacre.
Father Thomas Byles
The sinking of the Titanic is a testament to that fact that in previous generations, altruism was a far more common trait. As the ship went down, hundreds of men insisted on staying aboard, and letting as many women and children as possible get on the few remaining life boats. It would be difficult to single out any of the heroic souls that went down with that ship.
But if you had to, a good choice would be Father Thomas Byles. The Catholic priest was on his way to New York to preside over his brother’s wedding when the Titanic struck an iceberg. As the crowds of desperate passengers swelled toward the lifeboats, he refused several invitations to leave the ship. Instead he helped other passengers find lifeboats, and stayed on board with a hundred trapped individuals. He prayed with them, heard their confessions, and gave them their last rites until the ship finally sank. His body was never recovered. Byles has since been recommended for sainthood by the Catholic Church.