Chattanooga Native’s Valor Recognized Decades Later

Former U.S. Army Captain Larry L. Taylor, a Chattanooga native, will receive the Medal of Honor at the White House on Tuesday, September 5, for his extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry during the Vietnam War in 1968. This long-overdue recognition comes as a testament to Taylor’s fearless actions as a helicopter pilot with Troop D (Air), 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry, 1st Infantry Division.

Rescue Under Fire: Taylor’s Daring Helicopter Heroics

On June 18, 1968, then-1st Lt Taylor was part of a two-helicopter team dispatched to support a four-man long-range reconnaissance patrol team in peril near the hamlet of Ap Go Cong, Republic of Vietnam. Taylor and his wingman, both piloting AH-1G Cobra helicopter gunships, embarked on a harrowing mission that would ultimately define his legacy.

Departing from their Phu Loi base, Taylor and his wingman arrived at the contact site just northeast of Saigon a few minutes later. Their objective: To locate and rescue the besieged patrol team. What followed was 45 minutes of relentless and courageous action as Taylor and his wingman conducted low-level attack runs, strafing the enemy with mini-guns and rockets while braving intense ground fire.

Capt. Taylor
(Image source: US Army)

As both helicopters neared depletion of ammunition and the enemy continued to close in on the beleaguered patrol team, Taylor realized that conventional rescue plans were falling apart. Another attempt to rescue the patrol team using a UH-1 “Huey” helicopter had been canceled due to the escalating danger.

With fuel running perilously low and the patrol team on the brink of running out of ammunition, Taylor made a daring and innovative decision. He resolved to extract the team using his two-man Cobra helicopter, a feat that had never been attempted, let alone achieved.

Taylor directed his wingman to fire his remaining mini-gun rounds and then return to base camp. In an audacious maneuver, Taylor deployed his own remaining rounds while using his Cobra’s landing lights to draw the enemy’s attention away from the patrol team, who were heading southeast toward a designated extraction point.

Upon the patrol team’s arrival at the extraction site, Taylor executed a landing under heavy enemy fire, displaying complete disregard for his personal safety. The patrol team clambered aboard his Cobra, sitting on the rocket pods and skids, as Taylor carried them to a safe location, defying overwhelming odds and securing their escape.

The Making of a Hero: Taylor’s Journey to the Skies of Vietnam

Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Taylor’s journey toward heroism began when he attended the Army Reserve Officer Training Program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. After being commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army Reserve in June 1966, he proceeded to transition into the regular Army, taking on the responsibilities of an armor officer.

However, Taylor soon recognized his calling as a pilot, given his prior experience with a fixed-wing pilot’s license. He pursued training as a helicopter pilot, graduating from the US Army Primary Helicopter School at Fort Wolters, Texas, and completing advanced helicopter training at Fort Rucker (renamed Fort Novosel in 2023), Alabama, where he qualified as an Army aviator in June 1967.

AH-1G Cobra
AH-1G Cobra in Vietnam, 1969. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

Taylor’s valorous service in Vietnam spanned from August 1967 to August 1968, during which he flew some of the first Bell AH-1G Cobra attack helicopters in combat. Over the course of more than 2,000 combat missions, flying both the Cobra and UH-1 Hueys, he encountered enemy fire on 340 occasions and was forced down five times. His courage and dedication earned him at least 50 combat decorations, including the Silver Star, 43 Air Medals, a Bronze Star, and two Distinguished Flying Crosses, in addition to the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Bronze Star.

In a remarkable turn of events, Taylor’s actions on that fateful day in June 1968 led to the award of the Silver Star, a recognition that President Joe Biden subsequently upgraded to the Medal of Honor in 2023.

A Life Beyond the Battlefield

Concluding his military service as a captain with the 2nd Armored Cavalry in West Germany, Taylor ventured on a successful career in the private sector, operating a roofing and sheet metal company in Chattanooga. He remained actively involved in several veterans’ organizations and generously contributed to charitable nonprofit organizations within the Chattanooga community.

Today, Larry L. Taylor and his wife, Toni, reside in Signal Mountain, Tennessee, where they are cherished members of their community.

The Medal of Honor, the most prestigious military decoration, is awarded to members of the armed forces who distinguish themselves conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their own lives above and beyond the call of duty. Taylor’s meritorious conduct on that June day in 1968, involving great personal bravery and self-sacrifice, unquestionably sets him apart, and this prestigious honor is a long-overdue recognition of his unparalleled heroism.