1 of 6 | President Joe Biden awards U.S. Army Captain Larry Taylor with the Medal of Honor, for "incredible" valor during the Vietnam War on June 18, 1968, in a ceremony Tuesday in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 5 (UPI) -- A Vietnam Army helicopter pilot was presented with the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military award, at the White House on Tuesday for saving the lives of four of his fellow soldiers 55 years ago.
President Joe Biden praised Capt. Larry L. Taylor, of Chattanooga Tenn., who wore a black military uniform and grew emotional at times, for the act of "incredible" valor in 1968 that changed the "fate of four families."
"He rewrote the fate of four families for generations to come," Biden said Tuesday at the ceremony. "That's valor. That's power. That's our nation at its very best."
Taylor, 81, choked up as Biden draped the Medal of Honor around his neck, saluted the president and shook his hand.
On June 18, 1968, Taylor and his co-pilot braved ground fire to rescue four U.S. soldiers who had been surrounded by enemy forces in a Vietnamese village. The rescued soldiers climbed onto the aircraft's landing skids and held on as Taylor flew them to safety at a nearby water treatment plant.
"We took them down there and I landed, and I left my wide landing lights on and so the four of them ran out in front of the helicopter and then they turned around and lined up, all four of them, saluted, and then ran for the lights," Taylor told reporters last week.
"I was doing my job," Taylor added humbly. "And I knew that if I didn't go down and get them, they wouldn't like it."
Biden reminded Taylor that he went against a direct order to return to base that day.
"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," Biden added.
On Tuesday, Biden recounted what Taylor said when he received word of the award.
"Now when I called Larry to let him know he finally was receiving his recognition, his response was, 'I thought you had to do something to receive the Medal of Honor?' ...Well, Larry, you sure as hell did something, man," Biden said. "If you ask anyone here, I'm pretty sure they'd say you did something extraordinary."
The Medal of Honor is awarded to service members of the U.S. armed forces who distinguish themselves in warfare at the risk of their own lives, above and beyond the call of duty.
Taylor, who served in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot from August 1967 to August 1968, has been honored with both the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal for his actions during the war. He flew 2,000 combat missions and engaged with enemy fire 340 times.
Taylor was honorably released from active duty in 1970 after attaining the rank of captain and from the U.S. Army Reserve in 1973.