Pearl Harbor Hero Was 86
Kenneth Taylor's son says his dad answered the call to war on
Sunday, December 7, 1941 still dressed in tuxedo pants from a "very
entertaining" outing the night before. By the end of the day, the
21-year-old Army Air Corps second lieutenant had shrapnel in his
arm, and at least two shot down Japanese Zeros to his credit.
"It was what he was supposed to do, what he was trained to do,
what he had the temperament to do," his son, Kenneth Jr., told the
Tucson (AZ) Citizen. "He didn't feel particularly heroic."
Taylor Sr. and fellow pilot George S. Welch were sleeping in
borrowed officers' quarters when they awoke to the sounds of the
Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Both men hurried in Taylor's
convertible to Wheeler Army Air Field in Oahu, where crews were
busy fueling their Curtiss P-40 Warhawks, and loading them with
ammo. The Army had been caught unaware of the attack; they were
more afraid of sabotage, which is why the planes weren't ready for
Welch and Taylor got into their aircraft "while a major jumped
all over both of them for taking off without orders. He was busy
chewing them out while crews put the ammo on board," said Kenneth
Neither man had ever witnessed an actual shooting war.
Taylor's plane "knocked over the ammunition dolly as he taxied
out. My dad was firing his guns before he was off the ground. He
took off into the tail of the Japanese airplanes."
"This is a fighter pilot's dream," his son added," "Pearl
Harbor's been attacked, and everything out there is a target."
Taylor quickly found himself "in the middle of an attack.
Someone in the rear was attacking him, and he was wounded in the
arm by a shell fragment. His squadron mate shot down the guy who
was on his tail, otherwise he might not have survived that
After receiving first aid, Taylor
mounted up and took to the skies once more. He and Welch are
credited with a total of six downed Japanese aircraft. Taylor has
confirmed hits on two of the planes; two more hits were
unconfirmed. Both his and Welch's actions will forever
live on in the movie "Tora! Tora! Tora!"
You could call them heroes... and the military did, albeit
grudgingly. Welch and Taylor received the Distinguished Service
Cross for their efforts that day... but denied them the Medal of
Honor, since the men took off without orders.
Kenneth Taylor Sr. passed away last week, at the age of 86. He
is survived by his wife, two children and three grandchildren. His
remains will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery.
It is with admiration and respect we say that Kenneth Wilson Sr.
has Gone West, taking flight into battle because it is his duty to
do so... while a major scolds him from the ground.