Vietnam War helicopter pilot, retired Army Capt. Larry Taylor, 81, received the highest military honor in the United States from President Joe Biden by receiving a Medal of Honor. Taylor’s remarkable feat in 1968 involved flying his Cobra helicopter in a gunfight to save four US soldiers from imminent danger, despite receiving a direct order to return to base.
On the night of June 18, 1968, a long-range reconnaissance patrol team led by then-1st Lt Taylor came under intense enemy fire and found themselves encircled by hostile troops near Ho Chi Minh City. With dwindling fuel and ammunition, Taylor courageously conducted low-level attack runs while enduring relentless ground fire for approximately 30 minutes.
Recognizing that the team’s designated escape route was a deadly trap, Taylor quickly radioed for a new extraction point. When the troops reached the designated location, 1st Lt Taylor executed a daring landing, showing “complete disregard for his personal safety,” according to the White House. The four soldiers had to cling to the exterior of the two-person helicopter due to space limitations.
During the medal ceremony, President Biden remarked, “The rescue helicopter was not en route. Instead, Lieutenant Taylor received a direct order: Return to base. His response was just as unequivocal: ‘I’m getting my men out. I’m getting my men out.’ Lieutenant Taylor proceeded to carry out the extraction personally, an unprecedented action for a Cobra pilot.”
Throughout the rescue mission, Taylor’s aircraft sustained multiple hits, but he remained resolute in his mission. “He refused to give up. He refused to leave a fellow American behind,” President Biden praised. “When duty called, Larry did everything to answer. He rewrote the fate of four families for generations to come.”
With this honor, Larry Taylor joins the exclusive ranks of Medal of Honor recipients, a distinction held by only 3,515 individuals among the 40 million who have served in the US military since the Civil War.