A Heroic Vietnam Rescue: Helicopter Pilot Awarded the Medal of Honor
On Tuesday September 7, President Joe Biden formally presented the Medal of Honor to Capt. Larry Taylor, in recognition of the valor he exhibited during the Vietnam War. In a harrowing episode on June 18, 1968, 1st Lt. Taylor courageously piloted his Cobra attack helicopter, amidst intense adversarial attack, to save four reconnaissance team members who were on the brink of being overtaken by adversaries.
President Biden described the scenario saying, "In the complete absence of moonlight, with only the dim glow of Lt. Taylor's cockpit controls, he responded to a desperate radio call indicating the team was surrounded." Now 81, Taylor, hailing from Tennessee, recollected how he realized the men would not survive without his intervention. One of those rescued, David Hill, described Taylor's strategy as innovative, "thinking outside the box."
The incident transpired during a mission to monitor enemy troop movements near the Saigon River. North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops detected Hill's team, ensuing in a fierce firefight. Rapidly depleting their ammunition, they requested reinforcements. Taylor responded swiftly, navigating to the site northeast of present-day Ho Chi Minh City. Recognizing their desperate situation and the advancing enemy despite their attempts to fend them off, Taylor devised an alternate extraction strategy.With diminishing fuel and ammunition, Taylor brilliantly used diversion tactics and swiftly landed amidst hostile fire. In less than ten seconds, the team members clung to the helicopter's exterior, given its limited seating, and were safely airlifted.
At the medal presentation, President Biden emphasized the multiple hits Taylor's aircraft sustained and remarked that Taylor had surpassed the standard call of duty by risking his life for others. The president termed it as an epitome of valor, and the Army acknowledged that Taylor's actions that night were unprecedented.
In an interview preceding the ceremony, Taylor mentioned his extensive combat history in Vietnam, emphasizing, "We never lost a man." Following his return from Vietnam in 1968, Taylor concluded his active duty in the Army by 1970 and was later discharged from the Army Reserve in 1973. Post his military service, Taylor managed a roofing business in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He currently resides in Signal Mountain, Tennessee with his wife, Toni. Capt. Taylor's commendable service has earned him a plethora of awards, including the Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and two Distinguished Flying Crosses. Surprisingly, Taylor had not previously been awarded the Medal of Honor, sparking a dedicated campaign by his supporters, lasting over six years. President Biden made the gratifying call in July.
The president poignantly remarked on the long-lasting impact of Taylor's heroism, sharing how family members of those saved would approach him during Army reunions with heartfelt gratitude for saving their loved ones.