December 4, 2018

Profile: Larry Liss

Larry Liss as a Captain receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross, July 1967. (Source: NMAJMH)

A Pennsylvania native, Larry Liss was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army in 1963. He volunteered for flight training while he was stationed in Germany, and learned how to fly the Huey, a military helicopter. In 1966 Liss graduated from flight school, and flew to South Vietnam less than a month later.

In Vietnam, Lieutenant Liss was stationed at Cau Song Be, an outpost near Tay Ninh City. On May 14, 1967, he learned that a group of South Vietnamese soldiers were being ambushed by a North Vietnamese Army regiment. He and other soldiers immediately got into their Huey helicopters and flew to help.

When the American pilots arrived they faced a big problem. The attacks were taking place on a very narrow road which was overgrown with trees and bamboo. No one had any visibility of what was happening on the ground. They used their helicopters’ blades to cut through and reach the South Vietnamese. As soon as they started, the trapped soldiers began climbing into the helicopters. The American pilots made many trips, and saved between 80-100 South Vietnamese soldiers. On many of these trips, Liss risked his own life to help the rescued soldiers. He left his seat in the cockpit to help them board the helicopter, while his co-pilot kept it stable and hovering in the air. Later reports from other pilots said that several South Vietnamese soldiers were shot and killed while escaping. Despite this, Liss continued to disregard his own safety to save as many people as possible.

In July 1967, Lieutenant Liss was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for Valor for his actions during this mission. He was later recommended for the Medal of Honor for this mission as well. Other awards he received include a Bronze Star, 3 Purple Hearts, Valorous Unit Award for extraordinary heroism, National Defense Service Medal, Meritorious Unit Commendation, Vietnam Service Medal with three bronze stars, Vietnamese Campaign Medal, and 2 Vietnamese Crosses of Gallantry. He is also featured on the Wall of Honor at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

Larry Liss retired from the Army in 1970 as a Captain. Over his 7 years in the military, he flew over 650 combat missions, and about 4,500 hours. In 2009 BBC featured him on an episode of their 4-part series, “Helicopter Missions.” Today, Liss serves as the Director of Veterans Business Services for Gap International. He helps to integrate veterans and their unique leadership abilities into corporate settings.