Aviation History

Vietnam War AH-1 pilot who lifted four US Army soldiers clinging to the Cobra’s skids and rocket pods out of harm’s way to receive the Medal of Honor

On Jul. 8, 2023 former Vietnam War veteran Larry Taylor received a call from US President Joe Biden. Biden informed him that he will receive the Medal of Honor for his actions on Jun. 12, 1968.

On Jul. 8, 2023 former Vietnam War veteran Larry Taylor received a call from US President Joe Biden. Biden informed him that he will receive the Medal of Honor for his actions on Jun. 12, 1968, according to News Channel 9 abc.

On that day four American soldiers found themselves surrounded while surveilling a village. This prompted an intense firefight. Taylor, a skilled AH-1 Cobra pilot, swiftly took charge, after he recognized the dire situation and the urgent need for air support.

Taylor flew over the battlefield, providing critical air support until their ammunition was depleted, along with co-pilot J.O. Ratliff and another Cobra helicopter.

Taylor devised a daring plan because of the scarcity of resources. As explained by Alert 5, he directed the four-man Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) team to create a diversion and then instructed them to retreat 100 yards away, taking cover in the grass. In an audacious move, Taylor landed his Cobra in the midst of the firefight, with the soldiers on the ground clinging tightly to the helicopter’s skids and rocket pods. Despite the immense danger, Taylor skillfully lifted the men out of harm’s way and transported them to a safer location several miles away.

Taylor received a Silver Star for his actions. In 1999 after a conversation between former Army Ranger Dave Hill and another Army Ranger during a unit reunion, the quest to recognize Taylor’s extraordinary valor began. On that day Hill found out that Taylor did not receive the Medal of Honor for his bravery, prompting him to question why. Determined to rectify this oversight, Hill embarked on a mission that spanned over two decades.

In January 2017 the first step towards the upgrade came: a letter from then-Senator Bob Corker’s office pledged support for Taylor’s cause. This marked the beginning of a lengthy process that required substantial evidence and eyewitness testimonies. Two witnesses who could attest to the events of that fateful night were found by Hill and the group advocating for Taylor’s honor. Although Hill and Ratliff were still alive, Ratliff was living abroad and out of reach. The search for another witness commenced, involving efforts to locate the families of the soldiers who were present during the firefight. Except for Gerald Patty’s family, unfortunately, most of these veterans had passed away.

The group submitted the upgrade packet with only one witness, hoping it would be sufficient, but the Army requested further information and an additional witness to corroborate the events. They were then finally able to establish contact with Ratliff who provided an exceptional witness letter, supporting and validating all the details mentioned in the original application.

Larry Taylor

Nevertheless, the initial submission was deemed lacking in new information by the board responsible for Medal of Honor upgrades despite their best efforts. The breakthrough came when retired 4-star General B.B. Bell was involved, that, given his extensive experience with award recommendations, interceded in the process. Highlighting the additional information they possessed that Taylor’s command did not, Bell convinced the Army to reconsider.

The submission for upgrade finally made its way to the Pentagon as a result of his intervention. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin granted approval and forwarded Larry Taylor’s request for the Medal of Honor to the White House in April 2023. Recognizing Taylor’s extraordinary heroism during that critical juncture in Vietnam, President Joe Biden personally signed off on the upgrade. The President will honor Larry Taylor with a ceremony at the White House, paying tribute to his remarkable acts of bravery in June 1968.

The Bell AH-1 Cobra is a two-blade, single-engine attack helicopter manufactured by Bell Helicopter. It was developed using the engine, transmission and rotor system of the Bell UH-1 Iroquois. A member of the prolific Huey family, the AH-1 is also referred to as the HueyCobra or Snake.

The AH-1 was the backbone of the US Army’s attack helicopter fleet, but has been replaced by the AH-64 Apache in Army service. Upgraded versions continue to fly with the militaries of several other nations. The AH-1 twin-engine versions remain in service with US Marine Corps (USMC) as the service’s primary attack helicopter.

Photo credit: U.S. Army

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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