Larry Taylor, Vietnam War Pilot Lauded for Daring Rescue, Dies at 81

Larry L. Taylor, a helicopter pilot who staged a daring rescue of four U.S. Army rangers under enemy fire in the jungles of Vietnam 55 years ago, died on Jan. 28 at his home in Signal Mountain, Tenn., five months after he was belatedly awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroics. He was 81.

His death was confirmed by the Charles H. Coolidge National Medal of Honor Heritage Center in Chattanooga, which is just south of Signal Mountain, where Mr. Taylor was born and raised.

Mustered out as a captain in 1971 after serving as a first lieutenant during his one year in Vietnam, 1967-68, Mr. Taylor earned more than 50 decorations for flying more than 2,000 combat missions in Cobra and UH-1 “Huey” copters. He was engaged by enemy fire 340 times and forced down five times.

On June 18, 1968, Lieutenant Taylor was piloting one of two helicopter gunships supporting a four-man long-range reconnaissance patrol in Binh Duong Province, northeast of Saigon, when the Rangers, trudging through a rice paddy on a moonless night, were surrounded and about to be overrun by some 100 Vietcong guerrillas. A rescue mission by two other helicopters was canceled because it seemed hopeless.

Mr. Taylor when he was a lieutenant in the Army, sitting in his UH-1 “Huey” helicopter in an undated photo.Credit…Lewis D. Ray/U.S. Army

But Lieutenant Taylor, along with his co-pilot, Chief Warrant Officer James Ratliff, was determined to extract the four soldiers from the jungle floor — despite coming under enemy gunfire, and even though the craft was running low on ammunition and fuel. After strafing the Vietcong and diverting them with his craft’s landing lights, he ignored an order to return to base and gambled on a maneuver that the military said had never been tried before with a two-person Cobra, which has seats only for the pilot and co-pilot.

We are having trouble retrieving the article content.

Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.

Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.

Thank you for your patience while we verify access.

Already a subscriber? Log in.

Want all of The Times? Subscribe.

Related Articles

Back to top button