Vietnam Veteran to Be Awarded Medal of Honor for Heroic Helicopter Rescue After 55 Years

by Braxton Taylor

The White House announced Friday that the president will award the Medal of Honor to Army Capt. Larry Taylor for his heroic actions during the Vietnam War.

Taylor, who was an AH-1 Cobra pilot between August 1967 and August 1968, is credited with the daring rescue of a small patrol of soldiers who were surrounded by the enemy in Vietnam. He made the rescue amid enemy fire and despite the fact his helicopter wasn’t designed to carry extra people.

A press release from the White House says that Taylor will be presented with the award — an upgrade of a previously awarded Silver Star — by President Joe Biden at a ceremony Sept. 5.

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Taylor’s heroic actions took place more than 55 years ago on June 18, 1968, near the hamlet of Ap Go Cong.

According to details released by the White House, then-1st Lt. Taylor was leading a helicopter light-fire team deployed in support of a reconnaissance patrol that had been surrounded.

“He and his wingman strafed the enemy with mini-guns and aerial rockets,” the statement said. Amid the “intense ground fire, the two Cobra gunships continued to make low-level attack runs for the next 45 minutes.”

However, during the fighting, Taylor was told that the plan to rescue the soldiers with a UH-1 Huey helicopter had been canceled because it stood almost no chance of success.

“Running low on fuel, with the patrol team nearly out of ammunition, Taylor decided to extract the team using his two-man Cobra helicopter, a feat that had never been accomplished or even attempted,” the statement said.

Taylor decided to land his Cobra “under heavy enemy fire and with complete disregard for his personal safety” and had the trapped patrol team grab onto his helicopter’s rocket-pods and skids. Taylor then carried them to safety and without injury.

Taylor’s original Silver Star citation notes that his “selfless courage, competent leadership and quick perception of the situation … were responsible for saving the lives of four American soldiers.”

Taylor joined the Army after graduating from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville in 1966.

According to a biography on the university’s website, “after completion of the armor officers basic course, [Taylor] concluded being on the ground was not in his future.”

“He attended flight training and was later assigned to one of the Army’s first Cobra companies in Vietnam,” the website says.

The university biography says that Taylor would go on to fly “well over 2,000 combat missions in the UH-1 and Cobra helicopters” as part of the 1st Squadron, 4th U.S. Cavalry, 1st Infantry Division.

“He was engaged by enemy fire 340 times and was forced down five times,” the website notes.

The National Medal of Honor Center said Taylor ultimately earned “a litany of other decorations including the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, two Bronze Stars, four Distinguished Flying Crosses, 44 Air Medals, among others” — in addition to the Silver Star that is now being upgraded to the nation’s highest honor for valor in combat.

Taylor would go on to finish his career in the Army with the 2nd Armored Cavalry in West Germany, according to a service statement. He was honorably released from active duty on Aug. 31, 1970, and was discharged from the U.S. Army Reserve on Oct. 17, 1973.

According to the Army, after his discharge, Taylor “operated a successful roofing and sheet metal company in Chattanooga and was involved with several veterans’ organizations.”

— Konstantin Toropin can be reached at konstantin.toropin@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.

Related: Paris Davis, Black Green Beret in Vietnam, Finally Awarded Medal of Honor at White House

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