During 2019, Freedoms Foundation and the Friends of the Medal of Honor Grove are paying tribute to the living recipients of the Medal of Honor on the anniversary of the actions for which they earned the nation’s highest award for valor. The series continues with First Lt. James A. Taylor of the 1st Cavalry, whose unit took on a regimental-size North Vietnamese force on Nov. 9, 1967, near Que Son, South Vietnam.
“On Nov. 8, 1967, Taylor was at his base camp when he was notified that his commander had been wounded in action and was being evacuated from the battle area,” writes Peter Collier in Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty. “Taylor was ordered to fly out to the combat zone by helicopter to assume command of B Troop. … After arriving in the combat area, a decision was made to consolidate the troop, evaluate the situation, and attack the enemy at first light the next day.
“Prior to launching the attack, Taylor was replaced as troop commander and resumed his duties as executive officer. As the battle began the next morning, Taylor’s priorities were to coordinate the evacuation of the wounded, to call in air and ground support, and to arrange for additional supplies, including ammunition and fuel.”
Taylor’s Medal of Honor citation continues the story:
“His troop was engaged in an attack on a fortified position west of Que Son when it came under intense enemy recoilless rifle, mortar, and automatic weapons fire from an enemy strong point located immediately to its front.
“One armored cavalry assault vehicle was hit immediately by recoilless rifle fire and all 5 crewmembers were wounded. Aware that the stricken vehicle was in grave danger of exploding, Capt. Taylor rushed forward and personally extracted the wounded to safety despite the hail of enemy fire and exploding ammunition.
“Within minutes a second armored cavalry assault vehicle was hit by multiple recoilless rifle rounds. Despite the continuing intense enemy fire, Capt. Taylor moved forward on foot to rescue the wounded men from the burning vehicle and personally removed all the crewmen to the safety of a nearby dike. Moments later the vehicle exploded.
“As he was returning to his vehicle, a bursting mortar round painfully wounded Capt. Taylor, yet he valiantly returned to his vehicle to relocate the medical evacuation landing zone to an area closer to the front lines. As he was moving his vehicle, it came under machinegun fire from an enemy position not 50 yards away. Capt. Taylor engaged the position with his machinegun, killing the three-man crew.
“Upon arrival at the new evacuation site, still another vehicle was struck. Once again Capt. Taylor rushed forward and pulled the wounded from the vehicle, loaded them aboard his vehicle, and returned them safely to the evacuation site.
“His actions of unsurpassed valor were a source of inspiration to his entire troop, contributed significantly to the success of the overall assault on the enemy position, and were directly responsible for saving the lives of a number of his fellow soldiers. His actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military profession and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.”
After reorganizing his unit and briefing the new commander when he arrived, Taylor “participated in another attack that eventually overran the North Vietnamese position,” writes Peter Collier in “Early in 1968, he received a letter from his wife in which she said that members of her family had heard he was being recommended for the Medal of Honor. He assumed it was merely a rumor until he was pulled back from the front lines — despite his protests — and made company commander of Headquarters Company, 123rd Aviation Battalion at Chu Lai, South Vietnam.
“At the White House on Nov. 19, 1968, Taylor was nervous and worried about embarrassing his family. But it was President Lyndon Johnson who became emotional. He had tears in his eyes as he shook Taylor’s hands, and embraced him after awarding him the medal.”
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