|Vietnam Veterans of America|
When was the last time you took a call from the White House? For Larry Taylor, a member of Chattanooga, Tennessee, Chapter 203, it was July 8 when he picked up his phone and President Joe Biden was on the other end of the line. The President had some amazing news. He told Taylor that he would soon be receiving the Medal of Honor for his exemplary courage under fire in the Vietnam War 55 years ago.
Taylor flew Bell AH-1 and UH-1 Huey helicopters with A Troop, 1st Squadron, of the 4th Cavalry in the Army’s 1st Infantry Division in the war. Throughout his combat-heavy 1968-69 tour of duty, the University of Tennessee graduate flew hundreds of dangerous missions and, among other medals and citations, received the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, two Bronze Stars, four Distinguished Flying Crosses, and the Silver Star.
That Silver Star came after a daring and dangerous mission on June 18, 1968. During that fateful day, Taylor, piloting a UH-1 Cobra gunship, came to the rescue of a four-man Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol team surrounded and pinned down by North Vietnamese regulars outside a remote, small village northwest of Saigon.
“They were gonna die,” Taylor told NewsChannel 9 TV in Chattanooga. “There were four of them, and they were surrounded by about 60 [NVA troops] in a ring. I had seen people who were captured and tortured, and there was no doubt in mind that I had to create a diversion and go in and get ’em.”
So Taylor and his co-pilot, J.O. Ratliff, went to work. For a good half hour, they expended virtually all of their rockets and minigun ammo fighting back the NVA troops. Taylor then radioed the LRRPs to di-di mau about a hundred yards to a grassy area. After they did, he came in for a landing. There was little time to waste as Taylor was almost out of fuel.
With no room inside the attack Cobra, two LRRPs managed to jump up on the chopper’s rocket pods and straddled them, and the other two did the same on the landing skids. The four men held on as best they could as, under fire, Taylor whisked them a few miles away to safety.
A SIX-YEAR QUEST
Early in 2017, Dave Hill, the assistant team leader of the LRRP team Taylor rescued, learned at his unit reunion that he received the Silver Star for the amazing rescue—not the Medal of Honor that Hill had assumed. So Hill started the long process of trying to upgrade the award to a Medal of Honor.
He had help from other 1st Infantry Division Vietnam War veterans, as well as the U.S. Army Ranger Association and the 75th Ranger Regiment Association. The process took six years from the time Hill contacted Tennessee U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, making the case for the upgrade, to the call on July 8 from President Biden.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had approved the upgrade in April and sent it on to the White House. President Biden took the final step of authorizing the Medal.
“Larry Taylor has been a loyal VVA member for years, and if anybody deserves the Medal of Honor, he does,” said Chapter 203 President Charlie Hobbs. “We’re extremely proud of him in the chapter.”
Taylor, 81, accepted the medal of honor in a ceremony at the White House on September 5th.
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