Biden awards Medal of Honor to Vietnam War pilot Larry L. Taylor

President Biden awards the Medal of Honor to 81-year-old retired Captain Larry L. Taylor, who rescued fellow servicemen during the Vietnam War. / Credit: Pool/CBS News

National – On Tuesday, September 5, 2023, President Biden, at the White House, awarded the Medal of Honor to 81-year-old retired Captain Larry L. Taylor, a helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War who flew hundreds of missions and risked his life to save four of his countrymen caught in a firefight. 

“When I called Larry to let him know he finally was receiving this recognition, his response was, ‘I thought you had to do something to receive the Medal of Honor,'” the president said during the White House ceremony. “Let me say that again, he said, ‘I thought you had to do something to receive the Medal of Honor.’ Well Larry, you sure as hell did something, man.”

Taylor was a first lieutenant on June 18, 1968, when he deployed in support of a patrol that had been surrounded by an enemy force. Braving intense fire in pitch black conditions, Taylor and his wingman made low-level attack runs. As they neared the end of their ammunition, Taylor learned that a plan to rescue the patrol had been canceled. So, Taylor decided to extract the team using his two-man Cobra helicopter — something the White House says had never been attempted, let alone accomplished. 

“The rescue helicopter was not coming,” Mr. Biden said as he retold the story Tuesday. “Instead, Lieutenant Taylor received a direct order: Return to base. His response was just as direct: ‘I’m getting my men out. I’m getting my men out.’ Lieutenant Taylor would perform the extraction himself, a move never before accomplished in a Cobra.”

“Welcome Home” Parade Honoring Taylor Scheduled for September 11 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Taylor had his wingman fire his remaining mini-gun runs and return to basecamp. Then, Taylor fired his own remaining mini-gun rounds, using his landing lights to draw enemy attention while the soldiers headed to an extraction point. 

Once his team reached the extraction site, Taylor landed his Cobra under heavy fire, “with complete disregard for his personal safety,” as the White House put it. The soldiers climbed aboard and Taylor took them to a safe location. That day, Taylor rewrote the stories of the four men he saved for generations, the president said. 

The soldiers miraculously rescued on that night were David Hill of Visalia, Ca.; Robert Elsner of New York City; Gerald Patty of Maryville, Tn.; and William P. Cohn of Norwich, Ct. 

Sgt. David Hill, the surviving member of Taylor’s mission and “driving force” behind Taylor receiving the Medal of Honor, was in the crowd to watch the president honor Taylor at the White House. 

For his heroic actions on that night, June 18, 1968, Taylor was awarded the Silver Star, which President Biden upgraded to a Medal of Honor. Upon receiving his Medal of Honor, Taylor became the 33rd Tennessee and the 6th soldier with ties to the Chattanooga area who have received our country highest military award for valor.

Captain Taylor concluded his four years of military service with the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment in West Germany. With the 1st Squadron, 4th U.S. Cavalry, 1st Infantry Division, Taylor flew well over 2,000 combat missions in the UH-1 and Cobra helicopters. He was engaged by enemy fire 340 times and was forced down five times. He was awarded 61 combat decorations, including 44 Air Medals, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, two Bronze Stars, and four Distinguished Flying Crosses. Taylor was honorably released from active duty in August 1970, and was discharged from the U.S. Army Reserve in October 1973. 

After leaving the Army, Taylor operated a roofing and sheet metal company in Chattanooga where he has also remained active in several veterans’ organizations. Now retired, Taylor and his wife, Toni, reside in Signal Mountain, Tenn.

On Monday, September 11,  the Medal of Honor Heritage Center in partnership with Hamilton County, the City of Chattanooga, and the Chattanooga Area Veterans Council will hold a special Patriot Day and “Welcome Home” Parade to honor Captain Taylor as the newest Medal of Honor recipient and a true American hero.

The parade will officially start at 11:30 a.m. on Monday, September 11, and will conclude with a public ceremony at 1 p.m. where local, state, and national dignitaries will make comments honoring Larry Taylor and his heroic act of valor on June 18, 1968, during the Vietnam War.

The parade will officially kick-off with a special flyover of multiple Vietnam-era Cobra and other modern-day helicopters along the parade route in downtown Chattanooga. Taylor will lead the parade as the grand marshal with the US Army’s 1st Infantry Division Mounted Color Guard and Band from Fort Riley, Kansas. The parade will start at the intersection of Martin L. King Boulevard and Market Street. The public is invited to line Market Street, and continue down Market Street to W. Aquarium Way, which is where the parade will make a left turn toward the Coolidge National Medal of Honor Heritage Center at the Aquarium Plaza.

“Chattanooga is the Birthplace of the Medal of Honor, and I encourage everyone to bring their children downtown on September 11 and line Market Street to help honor Larry Taylor as a true American hero and help celebrate the important heritage of the Medal of Honor whose birthplace, like Captain Larry Taylor, is right here in Chattanooga, Tennessee,” said General BB Bell, chairman of the National Advisory Board at the Coolidge National Medal of Honor Heritage Center.

The parade will also feature a variety of high school bands and JROTC units from schools located throughout Chattanooga and the surrounding community. In addition, ROTC units from universities throughout the region will be marching in the parade alongside various veteran organizations representing all branches of the military and varying conflicts from the Vietnam War to the War on Terror. For additional information on submitting a parade entry, interested parties should contact Bill Norton by email at

At approximately 1 p.m., the parade will conclude with an official ceremony in front of the Coolidge National Medal of Honor Heritage Center. The public is encouraged to attend the ceremony where Medal of Honor recipient Leroy Petry, who is the president of the Medal of Honor Society, along with other national, state, and local dignitaries and representatives of the US Army will make remarks to honor Taylor and his heroic actions during the Vietnam War.

The Medal of Honor is the highest honor given to members of the military who display conspicuous gallantry and bravery in the field at the risk of their own lives. 

According to the National Medal of Honor Museum, only 3,515 Americans who served in the Armed Forces have received the medal, out of 40 million who have served since the Civil War. The public is also invited to visit the Coolidge National Medal of Honor Heritage Center in Chattanooga, Tenn. and learn more about Captain Larry L. Taylor and other Medal of Honor recipients associated with this region as well as explore why Chattanooga is known as the birthplace of the Medal of Honor.