An official website of the United States Government 
Here's how you know

Official websites use .gov

.gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at the Medal of Honor Hall of Heroes Induction Ceremony for Captain Larry Taylor

Good morning, everyone. 

Secretary Wormuth, General George, thank you for your moving words. And thank you for what you do each and every day to take care of our soldiers and their families. 

And let me add my thanks to our distinguished guests, including the family, and friends, and battle buddies of Captain Larry Taylor. 

Yesterday, President Biden presented Captain Taylor with our nation's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor. And today, I am deeply honored to be here with you all as we add his name to our Hall of Heroes. 

As you heard earlier, on the night of June 18, 1968, then-Lieutenant Taylor was at Phu Loi Base Camp when he heard the horn go off. And he knew what that sound meant. It meant that somewhere, American soldiers were in trouble. And he had two minutes to get his Cobra attack helicopter in the air and fly toward them.

So he got moving, along with his copilot and another helicopter team.

Now, Lieutenant Taylor had a radio frequency. And he knew the general direction of where he was headed. But that was it.  

He didn't know the exact coordinates of the soldiers who were in danger. Or what he would encounter once he got there. Or that later that night, he would pull off a feat that had never been done before.

He just heard the horn. And he took off flying. 

Now, as you heard General George say, earlier that evening, a Long-Range Patrol team of four soldiers had been on a reconnaissance mission. 

They walked into a rice paddy about the size of a football field and soon realized that they were in the middle of a staging ground for opposing forces. 

And suddenly, they were surrounded by at least 80 enemy troops. 

Now these soldiers, these four American soldiers were trained in "Escape and Evasion." But in this case, they had nowhere to escape to. 

What they did have was a radio. And that was their lifeline. Because on the other end of that radio was Lieutenant Larry Taylor. 

Lieutenant Taylor flew over the rice paddy. But he couldn't see his comrades on the ground from his helicopter. He later recalled that it was so dark it was like looking down into an inkwell. 

But four soldiers' lives were in grave danger. So he daringly dipped to low altitudes to find them. And once he spotted their position, he directed his firepower to attack the encroaching enemy.  

And over the next 45 minutes, the American pilots in the air and the soldiers on the ground fought with everything that they had. 

In return, the enemy was firing RPGs and bullets at them from every point on the compass.

Now, even with the blasts and the tremors of rockets and rifles, Lieutenant Taylor and his wingman, Warrant Officer James Ratliff, fearlessly made "treetop" attacks on the opposing force. 

And when they ran low on firepower, Larry Taylor made "fake" runs to draw enemy fire toward his helicopter to spare the men on the ground.

Soon, Lieutenant Taylor had fired every single rocket and nearly every round that he had. And he was running low on gas. 

Now, usually, that meant that he would fly back to base and refuel and rearm. But the four men on the ground were down to their last magazine of ammunition. Lieutenant Taylor estimated that they were still outnumbered at least 15 to 1. And no evacuation Huey helicopter was on the way. 

And so leaving them behind would mean certain death.

It was now or never. 

So Lieutenant Taylor quickly came up with a plan. In a clear and calm voice, he directed the soldiers where to point their last claymore mines. 

When Lieutenant Taylor gave the signal, they detonated the mines. Now that cleared a path. And the men ran as fast as they could through the clearing. 

A few moments later, the four men could feel the downward blast coming from the Cobra's blades. In Lieutenant Taylor's words, they "all arrived at the same hole in the mud."

Now as many of you know, the Cobra was only designed to carry a pilot, a co-pilot, and ammunition. The cockpit was just 36 inches wide. And Larry, I still don't know how you fit in that cockpit, but you did it somehow.  But Lieutenant Taylor remembers that it was so small that you couldn't even open a paper map and have the map be useful to you. So there was no use in even opening the map.

So evacuating soldiers with this kind of helicopter was absolutely unheard of. 

And most would never even think to try it. 

But after making it through an intense firefight and miraculously meeting up with the patrol team on the ground, Lieutenant Taylor was willing to improvise. 

So over the radio, he told the men to hang on to the outside of his helicopter, wherever they could. 

Sergeant David Hill and Specialist Bill Cohn climbed onto the rocket pods. Specialist Gerald Patty and Private Bob Elsner held on tight to the skids. 

Within 10 seconds, they were off. 

Lieutenant Taylor climbed to 1500 feet in the air before turning on his navigation lights. 

Moments before, the patrol team had feared for their lives. And the next 10-minute flight was the ride of their lives.

Lieutenant Taylor touched down at a secure location. And the four soldiers ran out in front of the helicopter, ducking under the blades. 

And they turned back to look, to catch a glimpse of the pilot who had just risked everything to rescue them. 

They could hardly see Lieutenant Taylor's helmet through the haze. But they gave him a salute and a grateful thumbs up. 

The valor that Lieutenant Taylor displayed that night was extraordinary. But to Lieutenant Taylor, it was simple: He would not leave a man behind. Now or ever. 

Since leaving military service, Captain Taylor has gotten Christmas cards from the families 
of those he protected in Vietnam.  

And at reunions, he's met many of their descendants. Because when Captain Taylor saved four lives that night, he secured the future of new generations of Americans.

I'm happy to say that there's a new addition to that legacy. David Hill, one of the men who rode on the Cobra's rocket pod, is here with us today—along with his four-month-old grandson.

Let's give them all a round of applause.


Captain Taylor, on that battlefield some 55 years ago, it was now or never. And our Hall of Heroes will honor you, now and forever. 

May we all draw inspiration from the resolve and the courage of this American hero. 

May God bless Captain Larry Taylor, and his family, and all those who step up to serve the country that we love.  

And may God continue to bless the United States of America. 

Thank you.