Larry Taylor, most recent Medal of Honor recipient dies at age 81

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The most recent Medal of Honor recipient died Sunday after a lengthy battle with cancer.

Capt. Larry Taylor, 81, waited 55 years before his piloting heroics that saved the lives of four men during the Vietnam War were recognized with the nation’s highest award for military valor.

President Joe Biden presented Taylor with the medal at the White House on Sept. 5, after a years-long effort by friends, fellow soldiers and officials to have his June 18, 1968 actions reviewed.

The president said in his remarks that when he called Taylor to inform him he would receive the medal, that Taylor said, “I thought you had to do something to receive the Medal of Honor.”

“Well, Larry, you sure in hell did something, man. If you ask anyone here, I’m pretty sure they’d say something — you did something extraordinary,” Biden said at the ceremony.

Roger Donlon, the first American to receive the Medal of Honor for actions in the Vietnam War, died Thursday of complications from Parkinson’s disease. He was 89.

Army Sgt. David Hill led the effort to see Taylor recognized. Hill was one of the four soldiers saved by Taylor.

Hill and his three fellow soldiers were conducting a nighttime reconnaissance mission near the Saigon River in South Vietnam when multiple enemy platoons surrounded them.

In a whisper, they radioed for help and Taylor was on duty with Troop D (Air), 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry, 1st Infantry Division about 30 miles away.

Taylor rushed to his AH-1G Cobra helicopter with his co-pilot and two other soldiers in a separate Cobra.

The pair of helicopters found Hill’s team in the dark by having them radio “now” when they flew over their position.

Taylor then fired rockets and the Cobra’s 7.62mm mini gun to strafe enemy positions as Hill’s team placed claymores, shot and ran from their position.

The four men reached a clearing that was open enough for Taylor to land.

The Cobra is a two-person crew aircraft. It has no passenger seats or space.

Two men straddled the rocket launchers like horses while the other two hugged the aircraft’s landing skids.

Taylor flew the four of them to friendly lines. They hopped off the helicopter, ran to the front and saluted the pilot who’d saved them. That would be the last time they’d see each other for more than 30 years.

The Army later gave Taylor the Silver Star Medal, which Hill only learned about at a 1999 reunion. He thought Taylor deserved much more. He made two attempts over the next 20 years that failed to gain any traction.

But after finding new information not previously submitted, including interviews with the surviving soldiers, a third submission, made in 2021, proved successful.

Taylor grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee and joined the Army Reserve Officer Training program at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. He became an Army aviator in 1967 and deployed to Vietnam.

During his deployment to Vietnam from 1967 to 1968, Taylor flew 2,000 missions, taking enemy fire 340 times. In addition to the Medal of Honor, Taylor was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses, and received the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Bronze Star, among other awards.

His remains will be buried at the Chattanooga National Cemetery, home to those of fellow Medal of Honor recipients Charles Coolidge and Desmond Doss, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported.

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

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