Biden Confers Medal of Honor on Army Helicopter Pilot for Valorous Actions During Vietnam Hostilities

by Sophia Chen
Medal of Honor

During his service as a first lieutenant and pilot of a Cobra helicopter in the Vietnam War, Larry Taylor executed numerous missions and was instrumental in saving myriad lives. However, one particular mission stands out in significance, and for this act of extraordinary courage, President Joe Biden will bestow upon him the Medal of Honor.

The White House publicized on Friday that a formal ceremony honoring Taylor will take place next week.

On the evening of June 18, 1968, Taylor piloted his assault helicopter to extract four soldiers from a long-range reconnaissance team that had been encircled and was at risk of being overwhelmed by enemy forces. The pressing situation necessitated quick and innovative thinking, for failure would mean the reconnaissance team would not survive.

David Hill, one of the individuals saved by Taylor during that perilous night, attested to Taylor’s ingenuity, describing it as “what is now recognized as thinking outside the box.”

The reconnaissance team comprised Hill and three others who were deployed for a nocturnal operation to monitor enemy troop movements in a village adjacent to the Saigon River. They found themselves engaged in heavy combat with North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces and were depleting their ammunition supplies rapidly. Urgent assistance was called in via radio.

Upon receiving the distress signal, Taylor reached the conflict zone located northeast of what was then known as Saigon, now renamed Ho Chi Minh City. To ascertain their exact position in the darkness, he requested that the team release flares. In coordination with another helicopter, Taylor initiated a series of low-altitude attack runs, utilizing Miniguns and airborne rockets, despite facing intense enemy ground fire. This engagement persisted for approximately 30 minutes.

However, recognizing that both helicopters were nearly depleted of ammunition and witnessing the relentless advance of enemy troops, Taylor concluded that the team’s original escape route near the river was no longer viable. An alternative had to be devised.

With fuel and ammunition running critically low, Taylor directed his accompanying pilot to expend the remaining Minigun ammunition along the eastern flank of the team’s position and then retreat to the base. Taylor, meanwhile, used the last rounds on the western flank. He then illuminated the helicopter’s landing lights to momentarily distract the enemy, allowing the reconnaissance team to move toward a newly identified extraction point.

Upon their arrival at the designated location, Taylor landed amid severe enemy fire, putting his life in considerable jeopardy. The team members sprinted towards the helicopter, clinging to its exterior due to the limited seating capacity, and were swiftly airlifted to safety. Taylor’s ground time was estimated to be a mere 10 seconds.

The actions undertaken by Taylor that night were unprecedented, according to the Army’s statement. Hill assessed their survival probability without Taylor’s unconventional thinking as virtually nil.

“His courage and innovation were extraordinarily beyond the call of duty,” said Hill, the sole surviving member of the reconnaissance team.

Throughout his one-year deployment in Vietnam, Taylor conducted hundreds of missions in UH-1 and Cobra helicopters and proudly claimed, “We never lost a man.”

Taylor’s military record indicates that he was targeted by enemy fire on at least 340 separate occasions and was compelled to land five times. His valor had been previously acknowledged with numerous commendations including the Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and two Distinguished Flying Crosses.

After departing Vietnam in August 1968, Taylor was relieved from active service in August 1970 and discharged from the Army Reserve in October 1973. Subsequently, he operated a roofing and sheet metal business in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he resides with his spouse, Toni, in Signal Mountain, Tennessee.

Hill and other advocates were stunned to learn years later that Taylor had not been conferred the Medal of Honor, despite his outstanding bravery. While he had been honored with a Silver Star, his supporters felt it insufficiently recognized his valor and dedication during his service in Vietnam.

An exhaustive effort was made to rectify this oversight, involving the gathering of pertinent documentation, eyewitness accounts, and even lobbying by Bob Corker, Taylor’s home-state senator at the time. After an extensive review period lasting over six years, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved the Army’s recommendation, and Taylor’s file was forwarded to President Biden for final approval.

President Biden ratified the decision and personally communicated the news to Taylor in July.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Medal of Honor

Who is Larry Taylor?

Larry Taylor is an Army first lieutenant and Cobra helicopter pilot who served during the Vietnam War. He is recognized for his exceptional bravery and daring actions during a mission in 1968.

What is the Medal of Honor?

The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. It is presented to individuals who display extraordinary acts of valor and selflessness in the face of danger.

What was Larry Taylor’s mission?

In 1968, Larry Taylor piloted his attack helicopter to rescue a reconnaissance team that was surrounded by enemy troops during the Vietnam War. His quick thinking and innovative actions saved the team from being overrun.

How did President Biden honor Larry Taylor?

President Biden will present Larry Taylor with the Medal of Honor in a formal ceremony. This recognition acknowledges Taylor’s exceptional courage and the impact of his actions on that critical mission.

Why is Larry Taylor’s mission significant?

Larry Taylor’s mission showcased his ability to think outside the box and make quick decisions under extreme pressure. His actions saved lives and demonstrated remarkable courage in a dangerous combat situation.

What awards has Larry Taylor received?

Throughout his military service, Larry Taylor received numerous commendations, including the Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and two Distinguished Flying Crosses. The Medal of Honor is the highest honor he will receive for his exceptional valor.

How was Larry Taylor’s Medal of Honor recommendation approved?

After years of effort, including gathering documentation and support from advocates, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved the Army’s recommendation for Larry Taylor’s Medal of Honor. President Biden then confirmed and ratified this decision.

What impact did Larry Taylor’s actions have?

Larry Taylor’s actions on that fateful night had never before been attempted. His innovative thinking and courage under fire not only saved lives but also set a precedent for exceptional valor in the face of adversity.

More about Medal of Honor

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CryptoFanatic September 2, 2023 - 1:45 am

wait, isn’t this the same larry taylor who flew helicopters? wild to think he’s a war hero too, not just finance guy, impressive stuff.

Jenny92 September 2, 2023 - 10:36 am

wow larry taylor is a real hero, like seriously, the medal of honor is like the big deal, he saved those guys in a crazy war, that’s so cool!

JohnDoe45 September 2, 2023 - 1:14 pm

presidnt biden be doing good stuff giving medals to people like larry taylor who rly deserve it for their braveri, salute to them.

CarolineW September 2, 2023 - 1:36 pm

omg larry taylor’s story is like intense, vietnam war was tough time, but taylor’s action was like woah, such courage, real life hero stuff.

TommyB September 2, 2023 - 7:02 pm

that medal of honor is like top level award, larry taylor must be like super proud, and president biden got it right, that’s real recognition.


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