Biden Honors Pilot's Heroism with Medal of Honor for Vietnam Rescue

16:45 01.09.2023

President Biden to Recognize Vietnam War-era Army Pilot Larry Taylor with Medal of Honor

In a ceremony scheduled for September 5th, President Joe Biden will award the Medal of Honor to Larry Taylor, a former US Army pilot from Signal Mountain, Tennessee. The White House announced this decision, stating that Taylor had risked his life to rescue a reconnaissance team that was on the verge of being overrun by enemy troops during the Vietnam War. The Medal of Honor is the highest decoration given by the American military to individuals who display acts of valor and exceed the expectations of duty.

As an Army first lieutenant and Cobra helicopter pilot, Larry Taylor had flown numerous missions and saved countless lives during his service in the Vietnam War. However, none of his rescue flights were as daring or significant to him as the one that will now earn him the prestigious Medal of Honor. The fateful night of June 18, 1968, in particular, stands out in Taylor's memory as he embarked on a mission to rescue four men who were part of a reconnaissance team surrounded by North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops.

The reconnaissance team, consisting of David Hill and three others, was engaged in tracking the movement of enemy troops in a village near the Saigon River when they found themselves under attack. Running low on ammunition and with no means of escape, they radioed for help. Taylor responded swiftly, taking off in his attack helicopter and arriving at the site just minutes later. To assist in locating the team in the darkness, Taylor requested they send up flares to mark their position.

Taylor and a pilot from an accompanying helicopter initiated a fierce attack on the enemy using their helicopters' Miniguns and aerial rockets. Despite facing intense ground fire, they made multiple low-level runs, providing cover for the reconnaissance team for approximately thirty minutes. However, with ammunition running low and the enemy relentlessly advancing, Taylor knew they had to come up with a different plan to ensure the team's survival.

Taylor quickly assessed the team's intended escape route, realizing that they would be overrun if they attempted to reach it. With both helicopters running low on fuel and ammunition, Taylor directed his wingman to fire the remaining rounds of his Minigun along the team's eastern flank before heading back to base camp. Simultaneously, Taylor fired his remaining rounds on the western flank.

To distract the enemy and buy time for the patrol team to reach safety, Taylor utilized the helicopter's landing lights. Risking his own life, Taylor landed amidst heavy enemy fire, and the four team members rushed towards the helicopter, clinging to its exterior. With only two seats available, Taylor skillfully whisked them away to safety. The entire operation took a mere ten seconds, showcasing Taylor's incredible bravery and quick thinking.

The Army stated that what Taylor accomplished that night had never before been attempted. David Hill, the sole surviving member of the reconnaissance team, believed their odds of survival were "absolutely zero" without Taylor's innovative and courageous actions. Taylor himself admitted that much of his decision-making during helicopter flights in Vietnam was improvised, as there was no set playbook for such situations. Regardless, he successfully completed hundreds of combat missions without losing a single man.

Throughout his deployment in Vietnam, Taylor encountered enemy fire on at least 340 occasions and was forced to make emergency landings five times. His bravery and dedication to saving lives earned him numerous combat decorations, including the Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and two Distinguished Flying Crosses. After leaving Vietnam in August 1968, Taylor continued his service before being discharged from the Army Reserve in October 1973. He later established a successful roofing and sheet metal company in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

For years, Taylor's supporters, including David Hill, were astonished to learn that he had not received the Medal of Honor, despite being awarded the Silver Star. They felt that this represented a failure on the part of the Army or his commanders at the time to adequately recognize his valor and dedication. Determined to rectify this oversight, they embarked on a mission to gather documentation, witness statements, and other information to support Taylor's case. They even sought the assistance of then-Senator Bob Corker from Tennessee.

After six years of persistent efforts, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved the Army's recommendation to award Taylor the Medal of Honor. The file was subsequently forwarded to President Biden, who personally called Taylor in July to deliver the news of his forthcoming recognition. The ceremony on September 5th will finally acknowledge Larry Taylor's extraordinary acts of courage and honor his selfless dedication to saving the lives of his fellow soldiers during the Vietnam War.

/ Friday, September 1, 2023, 4:45 PM /

themes:  Joe Biden  Military  War  Texas  Tennessee

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