US President Joe Biden has awarded the nation’s highest military medal to a Vietnam War helicopter pilot who disregarded a direct order.
Retired Army Capt Larry Taylor, now 81, flew his Cobra helicopter into a firefight to rescue four US troops from near certain death in 1968.
He had been ordered to return to base, but refused when he learned there was no other rescue helicopter being sent.
A Cobra had never before been used for such a mission before, the Army says.
He received the Medal of Honor at the White House.
On the night of 18 June 1968, the long range reconnaissance patrol team that then-1st Lt Taylor saved came under heavy fire and was surrounded by enemy troops outside Ho Chi Minh City.
Running low on fuel and ammunition, he made low-level attack runs as the enemy returned intense ground fire for about half an hour.
Upon realising that the team’s escape route was a death trap, he radioed with a new extraction point.
When the men arrived at the location, 1st Lt Taylor landed the helicopter “with complete disregard for his personal safety” to pick up the four troops, the White House said.
The men had to cling to the outside of the two-person aircraft as there wasn’t room inside.
President Biden said at Tuesday’s medal ceremony: “The rescue helicopter was not coming.
“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.”
The Tennessee native’s aircraft was hit multiple times amid the rescue mission.
“He refused to give up. He refused to leave a fellow American behind,” Mr Biden said. “When duty called, Larry did everything to answer. He rewrote the fate of four families for generations to come.”
Only 3,515 US military personnel have received the Medal of Honor, out of 40 million who have served since the Civil War.