Over 55 years after U.S. Army helicopter pilot Larry Taylor rescued four men during the Vietnam War, his Silver Star was upgraded as he received the Medal of Honor from President Biden today during a ceremony at the White House.
On a June night in 1968, Taylor flew his Cobra helicopter on a fire support mission of a four-man Long Range Patrol team. On this mission to obtain intelligence on a Vietnamese village, the four men were surrounded by North Vietnamese soldiers. Taylor heard the urgency in the voices on the radio, desperately calling for help.
Arriving on site, Taylor and his copilot provided fire support and radioed for a Huey to pick up the team. Running low on ammunition, Taylor became impatient as the situation became more dire on the ground while calls for extraction were answered with orders to wait. Taylor decided the men would not die on his watch.
Taylor radioed that he would rescue the four men and was told by command to stand down, despite the likelihood the men on the ground would soon be killed. Taylor worked with the patrol team to set up and detonate a distraction of claymore mines. As he fired his last rounds and set off massive explosions, Taylor brought his helicopter down to rescue the four men. Two held tight to the skids of the Cobra as the other two sat on rocket pods.
Taylor flew the men to safety, and for his bravery was awarded the Silver Star. In his one-year deployment to Vietnam, Taylor flew more than 2,700 missions, 1,200 of them combat missions in both the Cobra and Huey helicopters. Taylor became legendary in the US Army, but it was not until 2017 that the process to have Taylor’s Silver Star upgraded to a Medal of Honor began.
One of the men saved in that mission, Dave Hill, formed the group that took charge of collecting the information needed to upgrade Taylor’s award. Months of searching resulted in locating J.O. Ratliff, Taylor’s copilot that night. Despite a strong corroborating letter, the men’s first attempt to upgrade the Medal was denied. They then brought in General B. B. Bell (US Army, Retired), and together, the group managed to secure a second review in 2021, which has now resulted in an upgrade to a Medal of Honor.
Of the mission that night he has said, “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.”