Larry Guarino was born on April 16, 1922, in Newark, New Jersey. He enlisted in the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Army Air Forces on March 12, 1942, and was commissioned a 2d Lt and awarded his pilot wings on February 16, 1943. Lt Guarino flew with the 308th Fighter Squadron of the 31st Fighter Group in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations during WWII where he was credited with the destruction of 3 enemy Bf 109 fighters in aerial combat while flying British Spitfires. After service in the MTO, Guarino was transferred to the Asiatic-Pacific Theater of Operations where he flew combat missions over Southeast Asia, including present-day Vietnam. After the war, Guarino went into the Air Force Reserve and was reactivated in 1951 because of the Korean War. After the Korean War, Guarino served at England AFB, Louisiana, from June 1955 to October 1956. He then served with the 336th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina, from October 1956 to January 1959. After serving as an Instructor at Keesler AFB, Mississippi, from January 1959 to November 1961, Guarino was assigned as the Operations Officer for the 510th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Clark AB in the Philippines, from November 1961 to December 1962. He was next assigned to the 80th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Itazuke AB, Japan, from December 1962 to June 1964, when he was transferred to the 44th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Kadena AB, Okinawa. Major Guarino began flying combat missions in Southeast Asia in early 1965 and he was forced to eject over North Vietnam on June 14, 1965. He was captured and taken as a Prisoner of War, spending the next 2,800 days in captivity. Colonel Guarino was released during Operation Homecoming on February 12, 1973. After repatriation and hospitalization, Col Guarino served as Deputy Commander of the 6550th Air Base Group at Patrick AFB, Florida, from December 1973 until his retirement from the Air Force on July 3, 1975. Colonel Guarino was the only Vietnam POW to have flown combat missions over Hanoi in a previous war. Larry Guarino died on August 18, 2014.
His Air Force Cross Citation reads:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Section 8742, Title 10, United States Code, awards the Air Force Cross to Colonel Lawrence N. Guarino for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force as senior ranking officer of a North Vietnamese prison camp during the period 11 May 1968 to 22 September 1969. Following the execution of a carefully conceived escape plan by two of his officers, Colonel Guarino, who was known by the enemy to be the senior ranking officer in the camp, immediately came under maximum pressure including savage torture without parallel. Colonel Guarino exhibited exceptional heroism, courage, and determination during this period. Displaying great resilience when back in communication, he assumed command once again and slowly built the prisoner organization. Through his extraordinary heroism and maximum resistance in the face of a brutal enemy, he reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.