TN Vietnam veteran who rescued four soldiers to receive Medal of Honor

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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WKRN) — A Vietnam veteran and Chattanooga hero will be going to the White House next week, where President Joe Biden will present him with the Medal of Honor.

Capt. Larry Taylor will be the 33rd Tennessean to receive the Medal of Honor, which is the highest military decoration a person can receive for their valor in combat, according to the Coolidge National Medal of Honor Heritage Center in Chattanooga.

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Taylor distinguished himself while serving as one of the first Cobra helicopter pilots during the Vietnam War. While Taylor was a part of many harrowing operations, the Heritage Center said one operation rises above all others.

(Photo: WKRN)
(Photo: WKRN)

On the night of June 18, 1968, a four-man Long-Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) team was surveilling a village occupied by around 80 North Vietnamese. A fight ensued and the soldiers quickly realized they were surrounded.

After the soldiers radioed for air support, Taylor and his co-pilot J.O. Ratliff, along with one other Cobra helicopter, flew over the area and provided support until they were out of rockets and ammunition.

Realizing the LRRP team was surrounded with little, if any, options, Taylor radioed the team leader and made an “unusual request,” according to the Heritage Center. He asked the soldiers to create a diversion, run 100 yards and lie down in the grass.

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The soldiers followed his orders and were surprised as they realized Taylor was landing his Cobra in the middle of the battlefield. The Cobra helicopter had no place to transport troops, so Taylor ordered the soldiers to jump onto the helicopter skids and rocket pods and hold on tight.

Taylor then lifted the four men, David Hill of Visalia, Cali.; Robert Elsner of New York City; Gerald Patty of Maryville, Tenn.; and William P. Cohn of Norwich, Conn. out of the fight and to a safer location miles away.

(Photo: WKRN)
(Photo: WKRN)

For his actions that night, Taylor was awarded the Silver Star, which President Biden has now upgraded to a Medal of Honor. The president will present Taylor with the Medal of Honor on Tuesday, Sept. 5 at the White House in Washington D.C.

Not only will he be the 33rd Tennessean to receive the decoration, but Taylor will be the sixth soldier with ties to the Chattanooga area to have received the Medal of Honor. He also was awarded 61 combat decorations, including 44 Air Medals, for his service.

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After being engaged by enemy fire 340 times and forced down five times, Taylor concluded his four years of military service with the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment in West Germany. He operated a roofing company in Chattanooga before retiring with his wife in Signal Mountain.

In a news release announcing the Medal of Honor Ceremony, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee said, “I am proud to congratulate Captain Larry Taylor on becoming the 33rd Tennessean to receive the Medal of Honor and extend my deepest gratitude for his remarkable acts of valor. We are forever indebted to Captain Taylor and all Tennessee heroes who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to defend our nation and her people.”

(Photo: WKRN)
(Photo: WKRN)

After receiving the Medal of Honor, Taylor will return to Chattanooga where the Heritage Center, Hamilton County, City of Chattanooga and Chattanooga Area Veterans Council have planned a “Welcome Home” parade, set to begin at 11:30 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 11.

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The parade, which will start at the intersection of MLK Boulevard and Market Street, will kick off with a flyover of multiple Vietnam-era Cobra and other modern-day helicopters along the parade route in downtown Chattanooga.

The public is invited to line Market Street and continue down to West Aquarium Way, where the parade will make a turn toward the Heritage Center. 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.

“What a privilege to have in our midst one of America’s living heroes worthy of the Medal of Honor, our country’s highest award for military valor in action,” said Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly. “Let’s come together to celebrate and recognize one of our own and put Chattanooga’s famous spirit of patriotism on full display as we honor Medal of Honor recipient Captain Larry Taylor on September 11.”

The parade will also feature a variety of high school bands and JROTC units from schools located throughout Chattanooga and the surrounding community. It will conclude around 1 p.m. with an official ceremony in front of the Heritage Center, where officials will make remarks.

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To find out more about Taylor and various events planned to honor him, or watch the Medal of Honor Ceremony on Sept. 5, click here.

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