Ken Taylor: The Reluctant Hero

Book Sample Chapter
Lt. Welch
Medal Efforts
News Clips


Sample book media coverage: (ARMEDZILLA, Connecting America's Military) ("Late Nights with Jim Bohannon" nationaly syndicated radio program, Dec. 6. 2011. Interview starts at 1:43 minutes into the show.) (PBS station TV interview.) (Click on the photos to change them. Tulsa World and Daily Oklahoma, Oklahoma City, Dec. 7, 2011.) (Tucson, AZ area radio stations and Tucson Weekly newspaper.)  (Green Valley News, Green Valley, AZ, Dec. 7, 2011.)  (Salt Lake Deseret News, Feb. 5, 2012.)

Now available at, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and a half dozen other book web sites.

Quote from the Foreword and endorsements.

  "This is an entertaining read that I believe is an important work because it adds to the Pearl Harbor literature a missing dimension -- the story of two men who are usually given only one or two lines in most books but were truly American heroes and who, unlike many on that fateful morning, were not asleep."

     -- From the Foreword by Donald M. Goldstein, Ph.D, Professor Emeritus, University of Pittsburgh and co-author of "At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor," (On the NYT bestseller list for 47 weeks.) "God's Samurai: Lead Pilot at Pearl Harbor" and "Dec. 7, 1941:The Day the Japanese Attacked Pearl Harbor."


     "Meek begins his story a week before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and presents the two pilots as independent, if not uncontrollable, young officers who had the 'chutzpah' to act on their own initiative on that fateful day. The author's colorful portrayal and well drawn characters give vibrancy to an oft-told story."

     -- Dr. George M. Watson Jr., Senior Historian, Air Force Historical Studies.

     "John Martin Meek's 'The Other Pearl Harbor,  the Army Air Corps & its Heroes on Dec. 7, 1941,' is a most exciting, informative and in-depth account of the moment-to-moment events of the terrible Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It makes up a good bit for the poor coverage the Army personnel and facilities have been given before. It should be in all of our high schools."

     --Col. Gail Halvorsen USAF Ret., the famed "Candy Bomber" of the Berlin Airlift.

     "Through 70 years what happened to the Army Air Corps during the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor -- 233 lives lost, some 439 wounded, three bases decimated but brave young pilots who downed a dozen Japanese planes -- mostly disappeared. But Author John Martin Meek through a decade of his own research puts it into perspective with the Navy’s vast and tragic losses."

     -- Astronaut/Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Stafford USAF Ret.


FIRST HEROES--Second Lts. George Welch, left, and Ken Taylor congratulate each other on being recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross after a ceremony Jan. 8, 1942, at Wheeler Field, Hawaii, thus becoming the first decorated heroes of World War II for downing Japanese planes during the Dec. 7, 1941 surprise attack.

   This Web site is about the late B. Gen. Kenneth M. Taylor, USAF Ret., one of the first two designated and decorated heroes of World War II. His medal, the Distinguished Service Cross, was for heroism during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. This year the nation will be observing the 70th anniversary of this surprise, deadly attack on both military and civilians on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. 

   The first officially designated and decorated hero was Taylor's squadron mate, 2nd Lt. George Welch, who later downed 12 more Japanese planes in the South Pacific and was killed in 1954 testing the F-100 for North American Aviation. Because Welch received his commision in the U.S. Army Air Corps a few months prior to his fellow pilot, by military procedures he was decorated just before Taylor on Jan. 8, 1942 during an Army Air Corps medal presentation ceremony at Wheeler Field, Hawaii. But more about this and the extraordinary heroism of these two young pilots later.  

   The purpose of the site is twofold.
   First, it is in support of my efforts for some eight years to get the Army Medals Board to upgrade the Distinguished Service Cross medals awarded to Ken and George to the recogniton they both deserve -- the Congressional Medal of Honor. 
   The second goal is to not let America forget Ken and George, who by official order of the U.S. War Dept., were designated the first two heroes of World War II.
   This is necessary because early on in the war, a factoid emerged giving the "first hero" status to another Army Air Corps pilot whose action was not until Dec. 10 -- three days after Pearl Harbor. Long before the world knew about the other pilot, the U.S. War Dept. on Dec. 13, 1941 announced the Taylor/Welch heroism and that both would be recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross -- second highest military award after the Congressional Medal of Honor.
   As of early December, 2006, the Taylor/Welch story once again emerged in every form of media in stories used around the world after the family announced the general's death on Nov. 25 at an assisted living facility in Tucson, AZ. By Dec. 7, 2007 their heroism was captured on dozens of Internet sites (20 pages of sites on Google alone) and perhaps with the ultimate recognition -- listed in Wikipedia.
                                                                                                            -- John Martin Meek

Ken Taylor

   In "7 DECEMBER 1941 THE AIR FORCE STORY," it lists by name, rank and serial number 233 Army personnel killed and 439 wounded during the attack. Never mind the loss of all those planes, these numbers tell the real tragic story of what happened to the mostly Army Air Corps people that day. And to this day there is no significant memorial to them anywhere on the Island of Oahu.

To the right is the shoulder patch of the U.S. Army Air Corps at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack. Below is Dan Zoernig's painting, "Haleiwa Scramble," depicting Ken Taylor shooting down a Japanese plane among the group he and George Welch spotted near the Marine base at Ewa that apparently were headed for an attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese planes the two pilots shot down that day no doubt saved lives and substantial destruction of U.S. military property. Remember, it took only one bomb to sink the U.S.S. Arizona.

Gen. Taylor died Saturday, Nov. 25, 2006 in Tucson of natural causes.

Click on painting for Dan Zoernig web site.
Dan Zoernig's "Haleiwa Scramble" was inspired by this web site.

Photo courtesy of Touchtone Pictures.
Ben Affleck played Lt. Ken Taylor in the film, "Pearl Harbor."
The Reluctant Hero
   Why do I call Ken Taylor "the reluctant hero?"
   I had known Ken and his wife, "Baby," several years before, at my request, he talked about what happened at Pearl Harbor when I held a dinner in his honor in Washington, DC on the 30th anniversary of the surprise attack by the Japanese.
   As he modestly related his role in repulsing, with fellow pilot George Welch, the overwhelming odds of some 300 Japanese aircraft, he described it something akin to shooting fish in a barrel.
   I remember him saying that as he took off the Japanese planes were flying in facing the sun and all he had to do was aim and start firing.
   Of course I did not know then he was pulling our legs, but have since learned a great deal about the skills he and Welch used to survive two flights above Hawaii that day when they downed several enemy planes and lived to tell about it.
   And, it was some 30 years later before Ken told me a Japanese bullet came within an inch of his head and exploded in the cockpit with one piece going into his left arm. In telling about this close call, he focuses more on the bullet fragments ruining his tux pants which he had pulled on when the Japanese attacked Wheeler Field where he and George were asleep in the officer's quarters.
   But on a much larger scale where the Taylor/Welch heroism has been detailed in books, magazines, old movie newsreels and two major films, with many factoids and errors about what happened versus his own memory of that day, his reluctance as a hero is without question.
   According to Mrs. Taylor, some of this came about because he over the years dodged the media and historians by not taking their calls and correspondence and cooperating with their projects.
   That does not mean he has totally avoided the media limelight. He was a consultant on the filming of the reasonably accurate "Tora! Tora! Tora!" film (1970) and received much national media coverage when Ben Affleck played him in "Pearl Harbor" (2001). Yet while the "Pearl Harbor" movie focused on his heroic role and publicized that it had consulted with several Pearl Harbor survivors, its producers were never in touch with Ken.
   For several years I have been pointing out to the media the evidence that Ken and George were the first two designated and decorated heroes of World War II (George was decorated first because he received his commission a few months before Ken), it seems of no importance to Ken that he since 1954 has been the first living hero and shot down the first planes of that epic struggle from 1941 to 1945
   But, having had my career in public affairs in Chicago, New York and
Washington, DC, Alaska, where the Taylors have lived many years, is not exactly the center of the media universe.
                                                     -- JMM.  
Proof of "First Heroes" Designation
   These are the first few paragraphs of a United Press (UP) story that went out across the country with a Washington, DC dateline on Dec.13, 1941.
   "The Distinguished Service Cross -- highest honor the Army can bestow -- was awarded tonight to two brave young fliers for 'extraordinary heroism in action' during Japan's surprise dawn attack against Hawaii December 7,
   "Honored were 2nd Lieutenants George S. Welch, 23, of Wilmington, Del. and Kenneth M. Taylor of Hominy, Okla., who, between them, shot down six enemy planes in savage aerial fighting over the Island of Oahu
   "They became the first men so honored in World War II. The decorations were announced in Army Communique No.19 which said:
   "'These awards are the first of a number to be given for heroism in Hawaii and the Philippines during the present conflict. The others will be made in the future.
   "'It is the policy of the War Department to award decorations for gallantry in action as promptly as possible.'"
   Further evidence of the first hero designation is a telegram, saved by Ken's mother for a scrapbook on his career, dated Dec. 13 and sent by the UP bureau in Oklahoma City to a newspaper that served the Hominy, OK area, asking for additional details on Ken. (See copy of the telegram at the lower part of this home page.)
   On Sunday, Dec. 14 The Daily Oklahoman, Tulsa World and newspapers across the country carried the story of the Taylor/Welch heroism.
   But months later the media began carrying a factoid living on today that Capt. Colin Kelly was the first hero of the war, even though his heroic act was on Dec. 10, 1941.
   This belittles not just Taylor and Welch, but the 15 Navy men who received the Congressional Medal of Honor and dozens of other heroes decorated for their deeds the day Pearl Harbor was attacked.

Ken when a new 2nd Lt. in the U.S. Army Air Corps.

Ken Taylor and Director Richard Fleischer on set of "Tora! Tora! Tora!"

Five Army Air Corps pilots were credited with downing at least one Japanese aircraft during the Dec. 7, 1941 surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. They are from left, 1st Lt. Lewis M. Sanders, 2nd Lt. Philip M. Rasmussen, 2nd Lt. Kenneth M. Taylor, 2nd Lt. George S. Welch and 2nd Lt. Harry W. Brown posing before a P-36 at Wheeler Field.\

Ken Taylor
Click on photograph to enlarge.

Click on photograph to enlarge.

Distinguished Service Cross
At right is the Distinguished Service Cross, the medal awarded to Ken Taylor and George Welch for heroism during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Ken, wounded during the Dec. 7 aerial combat, later received the Purple Heart. In his scrapbook, there is a certifcate crediting him with shooting down one Japanese plane while based on Guadalcanal. He has said he believes he downed at least one other enemy aircraft before being sent to the States with a broken leg, when someone jumped on top of him in a foxhole during an air raid.

The Army Congressional Medal of Honor Ken Taylor and George Welch should have received.

Ken Taylor

Below is a copy of the telegram sent by the United Press (UP, now UPI) bureau in Oklahoma City to a newspaper serving Hominy, OK, Ken Taylor's home town, asking for information on Ken after UP in Washington, DC sent out the story from the U.S. War Dept. designating Ken and George Welch as the first two heroes of World War II.