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Helicopter Pilot Who Disregarded Order During Vietnam War Receives Medal of Honor

Retired Captain Larry Taylor flew his Cobra helicopter into a firefight to save four other service members

A retired Army helicopter pilot who disregarded a direct order during the Vietnam War was given the Medal of Honor by President Joe Biden.

Biden presented the honor to retired Captain Larry Taylor at a ceremony at the White House. The Medal of Honor is the highest military medal. 

On June 18, 1968, Taylor was part of a long-range reconnaissance patrol team that came under fire and was surrounded by Vietnamese soldiers outside of Ho Chi Minh City. The then-First Lieutenant initially made several attack runs but, low on fuel and ammunition, was ordered to return to his base. Taylor refused to comply when he learned that no other helicopters were being sent into the firefight. He flew his Cobra helicopter into the conflict to rescue the four other members of his team.

Taylor also determined a new extraction point when he realized the men’s first path was too dangerous and almost certainly fatal.

The White House said Taylor acted “with complete disregard for his personal safety” when he landed his helicopter to save the other service members.

“The men had to cling to the outside of the two-person aircraft as there wasn’t room inside,” noted the BBC

During his remarks on Sept. 5, Biden said Taylor “did something extraordinary.”

“When duty called, Larry did everything — did everything to answer,” said the president. “And because of that, he rewrote the fate of four families for generations to come.”

“That’s valor. That’s valor. That’s our nation at its very best,” said Biden.

“First Lieutenant Taylor’s conspicuous gallantry, his profound concern for his fellow soldiers, and his intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army,” said Lieutenant Colonel Ann Hughes while reading Taylor’s Medal of Honor citation.

Taylor is 81 years old. Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, he was commissioned Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve in 1966 and became a member of the regular army in August of 1966. He was honorably released from active duty on Aug. 31, 1970 and discharged on Oct. 17, 1973. By the end of his career, Taylor had flown 2,000 combat missions and received a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, and 43 Air Medals.

The Medal of Honor is awarded to military members who “distinguish themselves conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their own lives above and beyond the call of duty,” including while “engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States,” while “engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force,” or while “serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party,” per the White House.

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