Swede Larson was born in 1927 in Winona, Minnesota. He enlisted in the Navy V-5 program on June 16, 1945, and served as a Yeoman from July 1, 1945 to August 1, 1946, and then served in the Naval Reserve from February 20, 1947, to September 17, 1948. Larson entered the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Air Force on October 4, 1948, and was commissioned a 2d Lt and awarded his pilot wings at Las Vegas AFB (now Nellis AFB), Nevada, on September 30, 1949. His first assignment was as a P-47 Thunderbolt and F-84 Thunderjet pilot with the 525th Fighter-Bomber Squadron of the 86th Fighter-Bomber Group at Neubiberg AB, Germany, from December 1949 to December 1952, followed by service as a gunnery instructor with the 3646th Flying Training Squadron and on the staff of the 3645th Combat Crew Training Group at Laughlin AFB, Texas, from December 1952 to August 1955. Capt Larson's next assignment was with the 3605th Combat Crew Training Squadron and 3600th Combat Crew Training Group at Luke AFB, Arizona, from August 1955 to August 1957. He served as an F-86 Sabre pilot with the 310th Fighter-Bomber Squadron at Osan AB, South Korea, from August 1957 to June 1958, and then as an operations officer with the 314th Air Division, also at Osan AB, from June to August 1958. His next assignment was as a B-47 Stratojet pilot with the 353rd Bomb Squadron at Lockbourne AFB, Ohio, from August 1958 to September 1961, followed by service as a B-52 Stratofortress pilot with the 28th Bomb Squadron at Homestead AFB, Florida, from September 1961 to March 1964. Maj Larson next served on the staff of the 19th Bomb Wing at Homestead AFB from March 1964 to November 1966, when he deployed to Southeast Asia. Col Larson served as an F-105 pilot with the 469th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Korat Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, from November 1966 to January 1967, and then as Commander of the 469th Tactical Fighter Squadron from February 1967 until he was forced to eject over North Vietnam while flying his 95th combat mission on May 5, 1967. Col Larson was immediately captured and taken as a Prisoner of War. After spending 2,131 days in captivity, Col Larson was released during Operation Homecoming on March 4, 1973. After being hospitalized to recover from his injuries at Lackland AFB, Texas, he served as Vice Commander of the Officer Training School at Lackland AFB from September 1973 until his medical retirement from the Air Force on May 14, 1974.
His 1st (of 2) Silver Star Citation reads:
Lieutenant Colonel Gordon A. Larson distinguished himself by gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force as an F-105 Aircraft Commander over North Vietnam on 11 March 1967. On that date, Colonel Larson, while leading the largest single force of F-105's ever assembled, dealt severe damage to the largest steel plant in North Vietnam. He led his large force through marginal weather conditions and through the most dense hostile fire ever encountered by pilots of this force. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Colonel Larson has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.