This Military Service Page was created/owned by
COL Mike Berger (007-6)
Thompson, Floyd James (Jim), COL USA(Ret).
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Home Town Not Specified
Last Address Key West
Date of Passing Jul 16, 2002
Location of Interment Buried at Sea, North Atlantic Ocean
Wall/Plot Coordinates Not Specified
Last Known Activity
Other Comments: Jim Thompson was a Special Forces Captain when he was captured in Vietnam. He endured nine years in captivity and became the longest held POW in United States history, Jim was captured when the Bird Dog he was co-piloting was downed by small arms fire on March 26, 1964. He suffered burns, a bullet wound, and a broken back, and was captured by the Viet Cong. The pilot Captain Richard L. Whitesides, was not found.
Jim spent more than half his captivity in the hands of the VC, tortured, starved, and isolated from other POWS. He was later moved to the Hanoi prison system and was the last person released on March 16, 1973, in Operation Homecoming. By the time he was released Jim had been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. Among his decorations is the Vietnamese Military Merit Medal - their equivalent of our Medal of Honor.
I worked with Jim at MILPERCEN after he came back. He told me that after he had been in captivity for some time, his VC captors brought him a news story about how the US Government had created a POW remembrance day - they made fun of him and the US for such a stupidly sentimental gesture. Lying in his cage they let him see the article and he realized that the day of the year originally selected (March 26) was the day he had been captured - someone had remembered him. He said that fact alone kept him going for a year.
While at MILPERCEN Jim was up for Colonel but was not selected. He asked the Selection Board why he was passed over and was told he was not "competitive." He wrote a great reply saying, "You are damn right I am not competitive. When my fellow officers were becoming competitive I was lying in a 3 foot x 3 foot x 6 foot bamboo cage." He was promoted.
Medical problems finally caught up with Jim and he suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed. He was 49 when he was forced to retire in 1982.
Note: Awards and decorations as shown are incomplete. He was also awarded the Vietnamese Veterans Medal 1st Class.
I wish to thank MAJ Mark Cooper for helping identify Jim's additional A&Ds.