Lawrence Manley Colburn, a helicopter gunner in the Vietnam War who helped end the slaughter of hundreds of unarmed Vietnamese villagers by US troops at My Lai, has died. He was 67. Lisa Colburn, speaking with the AP , said her husband of 31 years was diagnosed with cancer in late September. "It was very quick," she said from her home in Canton, Ga. "He was a very peaceful man who had a great desire for there to be a peaceful world." She also called him "a compassionate person who was a hero in many people's eyes." In a Facebook post, Lisa Colburn wrote: "As most of you know, Larry has been very ill for a while but his suffering ended today, 12/13/16/." Colburn was the last surviving member of a US Army crew that ended the My Lai massacre of March 16, 1968. Pilot Hugh Thompson landed the helicopter between unarmed villagers and American troops and ordered Colburn and crew chief Glenn Andreotta to cover him.
Thompson then persuaded Charlie Company to stop shooting. The company's soldiers had begun shooting that day even though they hadn't come under attack. They added that it quickly escalated into an orgy of killing that claimed as many as 504 civilians—mostly women, children, and the elderly. Trent Angers, who wrote The Forgotten Hero of My Lai: The Hugh Thompson Story, said Colburn played an indispensable role in stopping the massacre. "He stood up, shoulder to shoulder with Hugh and Glenn, to oppose and stand down against those who were committing crimes against humanity. Without his assistance, Hugh might not have done what he did," Angers said. Colburn and Thompson were nominated for the Nobel Peace prize in 2001 and received the Soldier's Medal, the highest US military award for bravery not involving conflict with the enemy. Thompson, who lived in Lafayette, La., died in 2006. Andreotta was killed three weeks after My Lai. (Read more My Lai Massacre stories.)