Veteran’s memories will live on forever

T-R PHOTO BY MIKE BURVEE
World War II veteran George Taylor 
reviews a scrapbook of military memories.

T-R PHOTO BY MIKE BURVEE World War II veteran George Taylor reviews a scrapbook of military memories.

Editor’s note: This is the latest in an ongoing series of articles profiling those who have ever served in the U.S. military, be it overseas or stateside. Every Thursday, a new profile will be published in the T-R.

World War II Veteran George Taylor, 92, has never been shot at and has never had to shoot anyone himself. He shipped out to Okinawa shortly after the war was deemed over, and once the island was clear of Japanese forces.

His mission truly began way back in ninth grade, what he learned would have a far greater impact on his future than he ever expected.

Taylor grew up in a family of five, with three other brothers and one sister. His father worked on the railroad, and when one of the station agents ended up retiring, his father encouraged him to try his hand at it.

He did just that, taking the vacant spot. The most important element of his job was learning how to code.

Entering the Military

“During my senior year I knew I wanted to fly,” Taylor said. “I reached out to a Navy recruiter to see if I could get enlisted.”

After completing the necessary tests, Taylor was deemed as fit to join the Navy. The night before he went down to join something shocking happened.

“The president cancelled all enlistments,” Taylor said. “There weren’t enough men who wanted to fight, not enough ground pounders.”

His time did come though, on April 1 that same year, a date he will never forget.

From there he joined 60 other men on his first step to serving their country. Taylor was the only one who was selected to join the Air Force, thanks to his strong background knowledge of code.

After spending some time in Texas with other future Air Force members, he was sent to radio gunner school in Sioux Falls, S.D. This time there were 1,600 men, but once again his coding experience paid off.

“I was the only one selected to go to OCS (officer candidate school),” Taylor said. “That was one of the best memories of my life, and I’ll never forget it.”

After studying up some more on Code at Yale University, Taylor was transferred to Texas, where he became a radar specialist.

Okinawa bound

All of Taylor’s knowledge and what he had learned were finally about to be put to the test. After being named junior officer, he met the rest of his squadron in Seattle, and then shipped out to Okinawa.

The island was the scene of the last Japanese/American battle before America prevailed. Even after the island was deemed safe for Taylor’s communication battalion, the Japanese still had one last trick up their sleeve.

“They had their biggest destroyer headed to us, intending to kill us and all our soldiers.” Taylor said. “Luckily our reconnaissance planes spotted it, and they bombed the hell out of it.

“That was a blessing.”

The story of Taylor and thousands of other Americans could have been cut short if that ship wouldn’t have been sunk.

Hardships still took a hit on Taylor and his men, not killing but crippling them mentally and at times physically.

After recalling one event in particular, Taylor began to become emotional.

“One of my men was working on one of the giant batteries we used for our radar operations,” Taylor recalled. “The battery exploded in his face, I quickly pulled him out to reduce the potential damages.”

Taylor’s quick reactions resulted in only one major injury, battery acid in the eyes. Taylor and some of his nearby group took him to their clean water rations and commenced using it to wash his eyes out.

“We used up all of our water and then transported him to the hospital tent,” Taylor said.

After being released he found out there was no long-term damage done.

“I made a difference in that man’s life, and I will never forget it.” Taylor said, holding back tears.

Lieutenant Life

Once Taylor had come home, he thought he’d never have to serve again. Five years later he was urged to come back with a top secret objective.

He ended up rejoining after being promoted to lieutenant, leading his own group of hand-picked men for his mission. His home for the next several months was Germany, still dangerous with Hitler in power.

His objective simplified to monitoring his team and three radar trucks set up in the German countryside. They had been sent over to join a squadron of B-20 bombers, which could be used to bomb Russia if they made a move.

Nobody but his men and him knew why he was over there, but they knew he was important and treated him as such.

“Whenever I stayed in an English occupied base I was treated special,” Taylor said. “I had someone waiting on me who would cook, clean, do whatever I wanted.”

Taylor finally returned home once more, this time for good. His team never had to execute dropping bombs on Russian targets.

Taylor currently resides in Marshalltown. He tends to relax when he can in his quiet home with his hunting dog at his side.

He may not have scars to prove he was in the war, but his memories will live on forever.

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Do you know a military veteran who should be profiled? Send your suggestions to Editor Jeff Hutton at: jhutton@timesrepublican.com or contact American Legion Post 46 Commander Randy Kessler at: iapost46commander@gmail.com