Vietnam War veteran and former roofing contractor Larry L. Taylor has been given the highest military decoration for his heroic actions during the war that saved the lives of his fellow soldiers.
On Tuesday, Taylor, a retired Army helicopter pilot, received the medal at the White House from President Joe Biden for flying into certain danger to save the lives of four members of a reconnaissance team. Then-1st Lt. Taylor served as one of the first Cobra helicopter pilots during the Vietnam War. On June 18, 1968, a four-man reconnaissance patrol team was surveilling a village occupied by approximately 80 North Vietnamese. A firefight ensued, and the soldiers quickly realized they were surrounded, which is when they radioed for air support.
Taylor, co-pilot J. O. Ratliff, and one other Cobra helicopter flew over the firefight and provided air support until they were out of rockets and ammunition.
Realizing the team was surrounded with few options, Taylor radioed the team leader and made an unusual request. He asked the soldiers to create a diversion, run 100 yards from where they were and lie down in the grass. The soldiers followed his orders and were surprised as they quickly realized Taylor was landing his Cobra in the middle of the firefight. The helicopter began taking fire.
"At that point, according to Army standards, he could have left the fight," said Biden during the ceremony. "But Lt. Taylor had his own sacred standard: Quote, 'You never leave a man on the ground,' end of quote."
Given how the Cobra helicopter had no place to transport troops, Taylor ordered the four soldiers to jump onto the helicopter skids and rocket pods and hold tight as he lifted the men out of the fight and to a safer location several miles away.
The soldiers rescued on that night were David Hill of Visalia, Calif.; Robert Elsner of New York City; Gerald Patty of Maryville, Tenn.; and William P. Cohn of Norwich, Conn. Sgt. Hill, the last surviving member of Taylor's mission, was the driving force behind the Medal of Honor nomination.
"He wouldn’t see some of these men again until 30 years later at Army reunions," said Biden. "By that time, Lt. Taylor had long become Capt. Taylor. He had flown more than 2,000 combat missions. And he had received a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, and 43 Air Medals."
Taylor concluded his four years of military service with the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment in West Germany. With the 1st Squadron, 4th U.S. Cavalry, 1st Infantry Division. After leaving the Army, Taylor operated a roofing and sheet metal company in Chattanooga and has remained active in several veterans' organizations. Now retired, Taylor and his wife, Toni, reside in Signal Mountain, Tenn.
Taylor is now the 33rd Tennessee and the sixth soldier with ties to the Chattanooga area who has received our country's highest military award for valor.
After receiving the Medal of Honor, Taylor will return to Chattanooga, where the Heritage Center is partnering with Hamilton County, the City of Chattanooga and the Chattanooga Area Veterans Council to hold a Patriot Day and "Welcome Home" Parade to honor Taylor. The parade will start at 11:30 a.m. on Sept. 11.