3:23 | The number one mission of the Marine Corps Reserve is to be ready to go to war. Having risen through the ranks of reserve officers, Larry Taylor knew it would pay off, and it did with all the recent wars. When the 9/11 attacks occurred, he was at a meeting in Washington and could only watch from the roof as the Pentagon burned.
Keywords : Larry S. Taylor US Marine Corps Reserve 4th Marine Aircraft Wing Desert Storm 9-11 9/11 Washington DC Army Navy Country Club Pentagon US Marine Corps Mobilization Command
Beer and ball games. That's what retired Marine Corps General and former Air America pilot Larry Taylor enjoys these days. He remains involved in various activities related to his service and has a ready lesson available for civic groups who ask him to speak. It can be summed up as "the troops eat first."
Marine aviator Larry Taylor valued his stint with a ground unit as a liaison officer, but he was intrigued by this civilian outfit, Air America. It was an open secret that it was an intelligence operation supporting friendly locals in Southeast Asia. It could be mundane supply and refugee flights or it could be dangerous insertions on the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
How did that interview with Air America go? Aviator Larry Taylor got the job, but he found out when he got to Thailand that he'd been lied to about his interest in flying T-28's. He was satisfied flying helicopters, though, and since he was a civilian, he actually got some time off every month.
Air America pilot Larry Taylor flew the Sikorsky H-34, the same aircraft he'd flown in the Marines. It could take a lot of punishment and keep on flying, which was something he really loved. Official policy was that the civilian pilots could not carry weapons, but in a war zone, that policy was fairly flexible.
Air America aviator Larry Taylor was operating near a secret communications site when he heard on the radio that an A-1 Skyraider pilot was bailing out. He flew his helicopter to the area and was waiting when the parachute came down. It would be years before he learned the name of the rescued pilot.
One type of mission for Air America pilots was support for CIA operatives embedded with local tribes, particularly the Hmong. A lot of the action was near the Ho Chi Minh trail and the lesser known Sihanouk Trail, which was where pilot Larry Taylor had his helicopter shot up by ground fire.
Air America pilot Larry Taylor speaks of his encounters with the legendary Anthony Poshepny, a.k.a. Tony Poe. Poe was a CIA operative living with the Hmnog tribe in a remote area of Laos. He had married a local woman and was considered indispensable to the clandestine campaign to aid the indigenous people.
In his 20 months with Air America, pilot Larry Taylor never heard the initials "CIA" spoken. He and his colleagues were never under any misconception, though, about who they were working for. He dismisses the accusation that Air America was involved in smuggling heroin on the side.
Did he have to keep a low profile in Thailand as a civilian working for Air America? Larry Taylor says no, he just went about his day. He had a Thai girlfriend and enjoyed dinners with her family.
Air America pilot Larry Taylor went with a pal from the Army to Vung Tau for a little R&R. There was just one problem. It was the end of January 1968 and the Tet New Year celebrations were about to begin. As soon as they arrived in Vung Tau, they immediately began hearing rumors of attacks. It was about to get real stressful.
After his time with Air America, Larry Taylor returned home and did two things, joined the Marine Corps Reserve and tried to find that sweet airline job. He finally got the job and concurrently rose through the ranks of the Marines. He would even have some active duty left in him in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
He was in a platoon leaders course when he looked up from the mud and wondered if he could get into flight school. Larry Taylor made good on that desire and became a helicopter pilot. During an early shipboard cruise, the unit was dispatched to the Panama Canal Zone to stop rioting.
As a Marine helicopter pilot during the Cold War, Larry Taylor participated first in hurricane relief in Haiti, and then got a taste of action in the Dominican Republic.
After all his military commitments, retired Marine General Larry Taylor went to Iraq to run a program for a civilian contractor. It was post Surge and more uncomfortable than dangerous. His biggest problem was not the enemy. It was the State Department bureaucracy.
When he was recalled to active duty after the 9/11 attacks, General Larry Taylor insisted that he also get the newly required martial arts training that all Marine were supposed to have. One of his duties overseeing mobilization readiness was to pacify reserve units who were anxious to fight, but not yet sent into battle.
Operation Eagle Claw was the name of the attempt by US Special Forces to rescue the hostages from the embassy in Iran. The mission was aborted because of mechanical failures in helicopters and then turned tragic when eight men died in a fiery crash. Pilot George Ferkes was part of that team and he describes the events from his perspective.
Bill Pearson had been to Vietnam twice and returned unscathed, but the Army wasn't done putting him in danger. He was assigned as an aviation consultant to Iran, advising the Shah's air force on it's supply of American aircraft. The day he arrived, martial law was declared and it wasn't long before there were mobs outside trying to burn down the building. The embassy was no help. Escape seemed impossible.
When he returned from Vietnam, George Ferkes is fairly sure he saw his old hooch burning on the television when Quang Tri fell. After a couple of years he leapt at the chance to join a special ops outfit, even though, at the time, there was little interest in those units.
It was a lousy assignment. Jim Bolan was one of the first Special Forces officers and, after Vietnam, he wound up in a training unit with no jump slot. Prodded by his wife, he went to Washington to dust off his most valuable inside contact, who was now the Army's Chief of Staff.
There was some good intelligence available during the planning of the Iran hostage rescue attempt. For instance, pilot George Ferkes knew that an aircraft could easily avoid the radar at the border. That was not the problem, though, once the effort got underway.
When the Iran hostage crisis happened, President Carter asked the joint chiefs if there was any way they could be rescued. This set off a mad scramble to put together a multi-branch operation and Air Force special ops pilot George Ferkes was right in the middle of it.
After his Vietnam tours, Jake Jacobson served in Thailand and the Philippines, among other places, with different Special Forces teams. After almost thirty years of service, he retired, but was soon in Saudi Arabia training Bedouins. He didn't care for that job. (Caution: coarse language.)
Lt. Geoff Farrell was sleeping in the command track when he heard it on the radio. We were at war with Iraq. His armored cavalry unit crossed from Saudi Arabia into Iraq where they were greeted by friendly children in the middle of nowhere.
Bob Stewart was more nervous going to Vietnam than he was going into space the first time. You could get maimed in combat but in space you were either A-OK or completely gone. He made two flights on the space shuttle and, along with Bruce McCandless, made the first EVA with the new MMU, the Manned Maneuvering Unit.
After the battle, the men of the 2nd Armored Cavalry did humanitarian work for the Iraqi civilians, then it was time to return to Germany. For Geoff Farrell, a feeling of unreality set in on the flight home. How do you decompress from combat? At least those who fought in this war were not going to experience the humiliation that Vietnam veterans had faced.
In the aftermath of the debacle at Desert One, an effort to plan and execute another mission to rescue the hostages in Iran got under way. Air Force special ops pilot George Ferkes recalls that new tactics and equipment were developed that served as the blueprint for the revitalization of special operations units throughout the military.
Bob Stewart arrived in Houston as the first active Army officer to become a space shuttle mission specialist. After a year of classes, he was given a technical task, develop the shuttle's entry flight control system. The first flight was scheduled for two years out but he had to give management some bad news.
Special forces went through a bit of a renaissance after the failed rescue of the hostages in Iran. Never again would US special operations be caught flat footed and unprepared. Pilot George Ferkes was a part of that mission and it provided him with a purpose that guided him through the rest of his career.
The rumor was that the Iraqi's Soviet made tanks were superior to ours. Geoff Farrell had this on his mind while rolling across the desert to engage them. Just as they got near, a sandstorm came up. Then the Iraqi artillery began to fall. Then the first Iraqi tank was destroyed, shattering the myth.
When Bob Ratonyi heard that a good friend had fled the country after the Hungarian Uprising, he decided to do the same. He recruited another friend and they began to plan their escape. Their group of two expanded to seven and they naively set out for the Austrian border. Part 3 of 4.
The student led march to the parliament building had been exhilarating for Bob Ratonyi and he got up the next morning to go to his classes but there were no streetcars running. Then he saw two dead Russian soldiers in their vehicle. The peaceful march had turned into the bloody Hungarian Uprising. Part 2 of 4.
Thermal imaging had been around for a while and Geoff Farrell was very familiar with it. GPS, however, was new and expensive, and no one was familiar with it. Both were integral to the swift victory in Desert Storm. Before his deployment he declined a dose of an experimental drug that was supposed to protect against chemical weapons and he wonders if that drug contributed to Gulf War Syndrome.
It was all propaganda, everything on the radio and in the newspapers. That was life in communist Hungary as Bob Ratonyi was coming of age. He urged his mother to take an offered post as the party representative at her factory so she could take advantage of it.