Valor Friday

| September 8, 2023

Captain Larry Taylor

This week Captain Larry Taylor was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Vietnam War. Let’s see why he’s been belatedly honored.

Larry Taylor grew up in the St Elmo neighborhood of Chattanooga, Tennessee. His roots in the area extend back generations. His great-great-grandfather had served in the Civil War, his great-uncle fought in World War I, and his father and uncles served in World War II.

During high school, Taylor was on the JROTC drill team. In his junior year, he was on the wrestling team for their successful season. During his senior year he was cadet captain and headed the drill team. He was also voted “Best Dressed” by his peers.

In college, Taylor heeded the call to serve, joining the ROTC program at nearby University of Tennessee, graduating in 1966.

Commissioned into active duty in the Armor Branch, after graduating the training, he jumped at the chance to move to the Aviation Branch. He already had his private pilot’s license, so he figured his prior flight experience would help. As he recalled, it didn’t help. “If anything, the old habits made learning the helicopter a little harder — but as soon as I found the hover button, boy did my life change. I couldn’t wait to get to Vietnam. Lord forgive my innocence.”

Trained to fly the brand new AH-1 Cobra, Taylor’s first operational assignment was to press the new attack helicopter into action in Vietnam. When he arrived in Vietnam in August 1967 at Bien Hoa, to serve with 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry, 1st Infantry Division, they were met with nine brand new Cobras for them.

Larry Taylor in Vietnam

The Cobra was the first purpose-built attack helicopter gunship. It was built by Bell Helicopter, who had seen tremendous success with the venerable UH-1 Huey. As a specialized airframe, the Cobra was based on the Huey. In fact, in some circles the AH-1 was known as “HueyCobra” in a nod to its familial lineage.

Introduced into Army service in 1967, they were immediately sent to Vietnam where they racked up more than a million hours in the air. Some 300 Cobras would be lost, but they proved their worth. The US Army continued to fly them for decades, and the US Marines continue to fly derivatives of the type.

In contrast to the two pilots, crew chief, and gunner employed on Huey gunships, the Cobra required just one pilot and one co-pilot/gunner. Designed from the outset to rain hellfire on the enemy, it quickly became a favorite of the troops on the ground.

Once flying over the jungles of Vietnam, Taylor and his Cobra were frequently called into action. They primarily supported the 1st Infantry Division’s long range reconnaissance patrol (LRRP) teams. LRRP units had, just in 1966, been authorized for all of the Army’s brigades and divisions in Vietnam. LRRP were small units, typically composed of six-man teams. They would, as their name implies, operate alone, on long range patrols, conducting reconnaissance on enemy movements.

Training for LRRP was grueling and demanding, as the job required nothing but the best. As Taylor recalled, “Those [LRRP] boys wouldn’t be out 15 minutes before the Viet Cong surrounded them.” They’d call for air support, and the Cobras would answer. With as fast as the Cobra could fly (upwards of 150 knots), they could arrive on station minutes after launch.

To engage the enemy, the Cobras were equipped with a devastating amount of firepower. On the nose was mounted an M28 turret. The turret was equipped with two M134 miniguns. Each minigun is a six-barrelled Gatling-gun firing 7.62mm. Later versions would also mount 40mm grenade launchers in place of one or both minigun. On the helicopter’s stub wings were provisions for another minigun, the M61 Vulcan 20mm Gatling gun, or, as most commonly equipped in these early days, dozens of 70mm rockets.

Coming in over any beleaguered American ground troops, First Lieutenant Taylor sucked up his fear and, in the words of Chaplain Forgy, he would “Praise the lord and pass the ammunition.” Taylor felt a connection with the men on the ground. If he hadn’t gotten the chance to leave the Armor Branch, he’d likely have been down there among the brush with them, after all.

Taylor said, “I don’t know if it was some spiritual connection or the fact that we shared a bond of brotherhood I’ve never seen anywhere else, but whenever I came in rocking my minigun … I swear I could feel the LRRP team’s relief. I was their savior. But to the enemy, I was the angel of death, come to collect their souls.”

Taylor’s most harrowing mission is legendary in Army Air Cavalry circles, and still taught today as part of Ranger School I’m told. The call came in about 2100 hours on 18 June 1968. Four LRRP teams had been sent out to reconnoiter a small village. Taylor had foreknowledge of the mission, and knew it was a dangerous one. He even told his superiors that it was doomed to fail, but the powers that be moved forward nonetheless.

As they were known to do, the LRRP men soon found themselves heavily engaged. Taylor, listening to the radio of the elite warriors on the ground, said, “Chatter over the net crackled and screeched but the words came as clear as the desperation in the voice — ‘We’re surrounded!’”

Sergeant Dave Hill was the man on the ground who gave out the frantic call for help. Taylor says that “sometimes Dave’s rank varied depending on which CO he had offended that week.” That’s usually the sign of a good warfighter in my experience. At the moment, even the best warriors needed help. Hill remembers, after being completely engulfed by enemy fire, “We settled in and called for support.”

Hill’s team was “Wild Cat 2”, and Taylor was flying under the epic call sign “Darkhorse Three Two.” Taylor was the lead of two Cobras that answered the call, the other piloted by Roger Trickler. Taylor said he immediately felt that this mission was different from the hundreds of like missions he’d already performed. Taylor’s co-pilot Bill Ratliff similarly had gone eerily quiet as they ran to get their chopper in the air. This mission wouldn’t be like any other.

Less than 30 minutes later, the Cobras arrived on station. Taylor says, “We found the LRRP team in the middle of a rice paddy larger than a football stadium, surrounded by a reinforced company of North Vietnamese.” From the ground, Hill remembers that the two cobras “Over the next 35 minutes, they continually made rocket and gun runs around us.”

Taylor and his wingman repeatedly flew circles around them, trying to provide cover as the team repositioned themselves for extraction. The enemy was relentless. The two very loud, very obvious gunships drew the enemy’s attention.

Taylor says, “I heard the plink of enemy bullets as they found their mark on my Cobra and returned in kind. No one shot at me twice. No one ever shot at a Cobra twice. Miniguns ripped the air with a stream of lead and rockets smashed the ground with explosive death, but the enemy refused to surrender with their prey so close.”

Despite the withering fire the Cobras laid into the enemy, the LRRP team was going to be overrun at any moment. “They were gonna die,” says Taylor. “There were four of them and they were surrounded by about 60 [enemy combatants] in a ring.” At that point the radio traffic from the ground came up, more desperate than before. “We’re pinned down, get us out! God, we’re going to die out here.”

“Not on my watch,” Said Taylor to himself, using his helicopter to draw the enemy fire, even though doing so put him directly above the LRRP team (and thus exposing their position). Taylor radioed to his command echelon, “but they were about as helpful as tits on a boar.” Taylor told them that he was going to evacuate them himself.

“Negative-negative-negative, you will belay that.” Came the reply, to which Taylor pleaded, “They’re going to die.” All they got in return from command was “Standby… Standby… Standby…”

Soon the Cobras were almost out of ammunition. The plumes from their own rockets and gunfire combined with that of the enemy and in the darkness reduced visibility to almost nothing.

The Cobras expended 152 rockets and nearly all of their 16,000 rounds of 7.62mm minigun ammo. Now also low on fuel, Taylor radioed for permission to land 100 yards away from the besieged recon soldiers. Landing amidst that melee, by all accounts, was a death sentence.

“What the hell are you waiting for? Either get me a Huey, or I’m extracting them,” Taylor hollered into his headset. The reply was that the landing zone was too hot, the LRRP men would have to make it two kilometers south, and meet the Huey there. Well, that wasn’t happening.

Taylor was exasperated. He remembers thinking, “What part of ‘they’re surrounded’ don’t you understand? Forget it. I’m getting my men out. … I am exercising my prerogative as the senior commander on the scene!”

In the perhaps inflated lore surrounding the incident, the story is told by men of the 1/4 Cavalry that, in his enthusiasm to properly relay to his command the desperation of the situation, “one of the pilots” accused the commander of “having unnatural relations with his mother.”

Taylor remembers, “I switched the radio channel back to the LRRP team. ‘You guys still have your claymores?’ The answer was “Roger” so I let them know, I only got enough rounds for a quick pass. Set up them claymores, aim them toward the village, blow them after I make my pass, then sit tight. I’ll come find you.”

Now, the Cobra is a two-seat helicopter. While I mentioned earlier it doesn’t need the same crew as a Huey, it’s also not provisioned for any more than two pilots. There’s no jumpseat and no cargo hold. There’s just two stub wings (upon which were mounted the gunship’s offensive rocketry) and two landing skids. Just where Taylor planned on putting an additional four men is…well…inconceivable.

Taylor made his pass on the team’s western flank, Trickler expended the last of his minigun ammo with a strafing run on the eastern flank, and the men on the ground triggered their claymores (which will force even the most hardened soldiers to take cover). Hill recalls out of the darkness, “All of a sudden we feel this down draft of wind, and here comes Taylor’s Cobra and he’s landing.”

The four LRRP troops, out of ammo, ran for the safety of the helicopter. Hill still had some grenades, so he fell back. Running behind his three teammates, he’d stop every ten yards or so to turn back towards the tenacious enemy and lob a few grenades.

The infantrymen jumped onto the Cobra and grabbed whatever they could, and held on for dear life. Taylor said, “Two of them jumped on the far side. They were sitting on the skid holding on to the strut and the other two jumped on the rocket pods.” In a 2023 interview, he told the Associated Press that he was on the ground for all of 10 seconds. He wasn’t sure exactly where the men were holding on, but “they beat on the side of the ship twice, which meant haul ass. And we did!”

Hill was one of those who sat on the rocket pod. Like Slim Pickens in Strangelove, he “rode it like a horse backwards” as the Cobra took to the skies. For his bravery under fire that night, Hill would receive the Silver Star.

Before landing in the rice paddy, Ratliff had warned Taylor that their fuel light had come on. They were out of gas before even setting down. They had 20 minutes of fuel. The flight back to base was 25. To Lieutenant Taylor this was one more obstacle that he would overcome through sheer force of will.

Taylor skillfully and carefully flew up to about 2,000 feet, gently enough that he wouldn’t shake any of his passengers off. This altitude allowed them to get out of range of small arms fire. Flying on borrowed time, with four men literally clinging to the side of his chopped, Taylor brought it in for a perfect, soft landing near Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Saigon.

The LRRP men jumped off, and gave Taylor their thanks through thumbs up signs and salutes. Then Taylor was gone, to make it back to his base at Phu Loi.

Taylor would receive the Silver Star for the incredible rescue operation. Hill and others would spend years trying to get Taylor proper recognition. Taylor remained in the Army for a bit longer. He ultimately left the service as a Captain in 1970 and was discharged from the US Army Reserve at the same rank in 1973.

During his service Taylor was also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross four times, the Bronze Star Medal, and a whopping 43 Air Medals. He flew more than 2,000 combat missions over Southeast Asia. He came under enemy fire at least 340 times, and was forced to land by said fire five times.

For his role that June night in 1968, Taylor is humble. He says, “I just got caught doing my job. I didn’t plan on it. Didn’t expect it. It just happened. That’s what you do. I told my men, ‘You never leave a man on the ground,’ and we never did, and I never lost a man. Not one. … I’d flown thousands of missions in Vietnam and saved countless lives. But none had meant so much to me as the four we saved that night, for life had never become so sweet as the night I became the angel of death … no man left behind.”

After the Army, Taylor returned to Chattanooga and ran a successful roofing and sheet metal company.

In July 2023, Taylor’s wife Toni picked up the phone. “Standby for the President of the Unites States.” There was no advanced call to coordinate. Soon they were talking to President Biden. Taylor was told his Silver Star would be

Taylor said of the call, “We talked for quite a few minutes. I told him, ‘I thought you had to do something to receive a Medal of Honor.’” Biden responded, “I have your 201 file. You are coming to Washington.” Larry says he “told me to wear whatever I’d wear to Sunday school.”

In an interview prior to heading to D.C. Taylor reflects, “Most people on the street don’t know what the hell [the Medal of Honor] is, but I do, so I’m proud. To be mentioned in the same company as those people kind of makes you stop and think. It’s an exclusive fraternity, that’s for sure.”

In 2022, on the 54th anniversary of that harrowing night, Sergeant Hill said,

“In extracting our LRRP team, “Wildcat 2”, on your Cobra, from a very hostile, deadly and lonely rice paddy near the village of Ap Go Cong, Republic of Vietnam. Who would have bet that any of us would have even seen the sun come up on the morning of 19 June 1968, let alone the dawns of another 54 years. Words are inadequate to describe your actions, nor my humble gratitude, for the many years of friendship given you and me since then, so i will just say: “Thank you, sir”

Taylor received the Medal of Honor from Biden at the White House on 5 September 2023. The President said that despite Taylor being ordered to leave the LRRP team, “he refused to put his own life above the lives of those in need. That’s valor. That’s our nation at its very best.”

At the ceremony, Taylor, humble as ever, said, “You just do whatever is expedient and do whatever to save the lives of the people you’re trying to rescue.”

The Coolidge National Medal of Honor Heritage Center, with help from local government and civic organizations, will be having a “Welcome Home” parade for Taylor when he goes back home, with his new silk ribboned medal around his neck, on 11 September 2023.

The lesson taught to future aviators by Captain Taylor has resulted in at least one similar rescue. In 2007, in Ramadi, Iraq, AH-64 pilots then-Chief Warrant Officer 4 Kevin Purtee and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Allen Crist conducted a similar rescue of a critically wounded soldier. Read about it here. Both men received the Distinguished Flying Cross for it.

Category: Army, Army News, Historical, Medal of Honor, Real Soldiers, Valor, We Remember

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NVA could hear the clanking sound two K out.


Taylor’s Cobra must of had special engines so the chopper could carry the weight of his big brass balls.


Just goes to show you that not all Army LTs are bad…😉

Bad-Ass? Yep.

Bad as incompetent? Nope. Not LT Taylor.

A Humble Salute To You, Sir.🫡

Thank You, Mason, for providing “The Rest Of The Story.”


CPT Taylor and his Wife, Toni.

Old tanker

Damn shame that Capt. Taylor had to wait so long for this. Well deserved Sir.


Delayed, perhaps due in part to the Mike Foxtrot round he fired at higher.


I salute you, sir!


Hardcore! Musta been one of the inspirations for George Thorogood’s “Bad To The Bone” tune. A Warrior’s Warrior, another Southern Boy, whose heritage of “doing your duty in all things…” is in his DNA. Gotta wonder, too, if the delay for proper recognition was due to Lt. Taylor telling higher to “go piss up a rope” (I’m sure he prefaced it with a “with all due respect, Sir) as he flew back to rescue these men. Betcha, too, that somebody in his CoC wanted to bring charges for “Failure to obey a Lawful Order”.

Battery Gun Salute for this Hero! Great story, again, Mason. For those that haven’t been keeping up, our very own Mason has a 3 Volume set of “War Hero Books” (Profiles of Valor) that are a very good read. They’re available on the ‘Zon for a very reasonable price. Maybe. just maybe, if Mason can keep his hands off of that trophy wife of hissen, quit spoiling the multitude of youn’uns they have, take a little time away from his day job, he might be able to finish the long promised next issue to said tomes.


KoB wrote:

“A Warrior’s Warrior, another Southern Boy, whose heritage of “doing your duty in all things…” is in his DNA.”

Yep. You nailed it again, KoB! 👏👏👍👍

“Well, it’s easy for a country boy to be misunderstood
When the honky tonks are jumping and the girls are looking good
Yeah, I get excited and some people think I’m rude
It’s the way my daddy raised me it’s my rebel attitude..”

“I’m a southern boy
Southern born and bred
I’ve got Sweet Home Alabama buzzing all around in my head
I’m right at home in Georgia or down in Caroline
Yeah I’d be happy anywhere below that Mason-Dixon line..”

“I’m a southern boy
I like a rowdy crowd
Put Bocephus on the jukebox and turn that sucker way up loud
Don’t need a reservation
We’re just a-having fun
Yeah it’s party time in Dixie
Ya’ll just come on down and get ya some..”

“From Rockingham to Birmingham
Mobile to New Orleans
Jacksonville to Copper Hill
Pike to Bowling Green
Layfayette to Somerset
Boone to Rocky Mount
If you don’t live in Dixie then
You’re only camping out”

“I’m a southern boy
I say my sirs and ma’ams
I’m kinda rough around the edges but I’m mighty proud of who I am
Roll on Mississippi rock on Tennessee
If it was good enough for Elvis you know it’s good enough for me”



You will believe a Cobra with four extra men can fly!


Getting some “piece” in the quiet is what led to you having kids in school. And it’s true…the murder of your kids when you are trying to get a piece is a crime, tho sometimes it would be ruled “justifiable”.


TNX Mason. Excellent read. I highly recommend it.

E-4 Mafia 4 Life!

If I am not mistaken, you can have someone besides the President do the honors.
In other times, it might be the SECDEF. But the top brass are all lame.
I would have requested another MOH recipient do the honors.
I wouldn’t want Joe sniffing my hair or touching my shoulder.


When the universe conspires to put men of the right stuff on a collision course and they step-up…

Thank You Captain for being configured so!

I’d have given anything to see that bird come in with 4 ‘crunchies‘ hanging on! Would’ve been Johnny-on-the-spot with as many beers required to get the rice paddy taste out their mouths.