for B. Gen. Kenneth Marlar Taylor, USAF Ret.
Born just a year after the end of World War I,
Gen. Ken Taylor became one of the two first designated and decorated heroes of World War II for action during the Japanese
surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
Gen. Taylor passed away of natural causes on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2006, at a long-term care facility in Tucson just a dozen
days before the 65th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Taylor’s birth was on Dec. 23, 1919 in
Enid, OK, the only child of Mr. and Mrs. Joe K. Taylor. A few months after their son’s birth, the Taylors moved to Hominy,
OK, where he was reared and graduated from high school in 1938.
Taylor entered the University of Oklahoma, Norman, as a pre-law student and pledged the Acacia fraternity.
into his studies at OU, Taylor joined the U.S. Army Air Corps and began flight training at the Spartan school for aviation
at Tulsa. Later he was transferred to Brooks Field near San Antonio, where he received his wings and commission as a second
lieutenant in April, 1941.
First Assignment Is To Hawaii
first posted to Wheeler Field near Honolulu, HI to serve with the 47th Pursuit Squadron, commanded by then Maj. Gordon Austin.
The week before
Sunday, Dec. 7, the 47th was moved to Haleiwa Field, an auxiliary air strip about ten miles from Wheeler, for gunnery
practice and the strategic rotation of Army Air Corps aircraft as the U.S. edged closer to war both in the European and Pacific
Most of the
47th squadron personnel were released from duty the weekend of Dec. 6-7. On the evening of Dec. 6 Taylor and George Welch, his friend and fellow pilot, donned their tuxes (required dress for officer’s clubs on Saturday evenings) and partied
in several locations before ending up at the Wheeler club.
At about 3
a.m. the two young pilots went to bed in the officer’s club, and were awakened around 8 a.m. by the sound of planes
flying low overhead and the noise of machine gun fire and explosions. Taylor jumped out of bed and pulled on his tux trousers,
and both he and Welch ran outside where they saw Japanese planes flying low overhead.
ran to get his friend’s Buick, Taylor called Haleiwa and ordered the ground crews to get two P-40s armed and ready for
The two pilots
covered the distance from Wheeler to Haleiwa quickly, part of the time under fire from Japanese aircraft. At the field they
got into their planes and took off immediately.
to Wheeler where the attack had ended. Taylor and Welch continued across Oahu Island, passing a group of B-17 bombers arriving
from the mainland, to the area near the Ewa Marine facility. There, they fell in line with a group of Japanese bombers and
began to shoot them down.
Senior Officers: "Don't go up again!"
expended, both Taylor and Welch landed at Wheeler to rearm with .50 caliber bullets, more powerful than the .30 caliber rounds
they were using on their first flight. During the rearming, senior Wheeler officers came to their location on the edge of
the field and ordered both pilots to disperse their aircraft and not go up again.
Then, a second
wave of Japanese began to attack Wheeler. Welch took off first followed by Taylor, who had to knock ammo carts out of the
way to get his P-40 airborne.
the second flight a Japanese plane got on Taylor’s tail, with one bullet narrowly missing his head and exploding in
the cockpit wounding him. Welch came on the scene and downed the Japanese plane, thus saving Taylor’s life.
Air Force records credit Welch with four kills and Taylor two. But a plaque at Wheeler later credited both Taylor and Welch
with four each.
heroic action on Dec. 7, the U.S. War Dept. in Communiqué No. 19 on Dec. 13, 1941, designated Taylor and Welch as the first
two heroes of World War II. Both were to be awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, highest decoration for combat by the
The two pilots
received the DSC at an all-out ceremony at Wheeler Field on Jan. 8, 1942. Welch, senior to Taylor by a few months, received
his medal first and thus became the first decorated hero of World War II.
At a later ceremony, Taylor was awarded the Purple
Heart for his wound during the attack.
On May 9,
1942, Taylor married Flora Love Morrison of Hennessy, OK, whom he had met when she was visiting her father in Hawaii.
Gets Another Kill in South Pacific
was sent to the South Pacific to fly from Henderson Field on Guadalcanal, and was credited with downing one Japanese aircraft
before being injured during an air raid and sent back to the States.
service during the war, during which time he rose to the rank of major, included command of the 14th Pursuit Squadron
and the 18th Pursuit group.
during the remainder of some 27 years in the U.S. Army Air Corps and U.S. Air Force included command of the P-80 Combat Jet
Squadron, the 4961st Special Weapons Test Group, planner at Headquarters, Deputy Chief of Staff for the Alaskan
Air Command, Director of Operations for the 28th NORAD region in California and long-range planner for the Joint
Staff at the Pentagon during his second of two tours there.
time he flew a number of different Air Force aircraft including the B-29 bomber.
graduated from the Army Staff College in Leavenworth, KS; the Royal Air Force Staff College in England and the Air War College,
Montgomery, AL. He retired as a colonel in the U.S. Air Force while serving at the Pentagon in 1967.
His decorations in addition
to the Distinguished Service Cross and Purple Heart include the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Service Medal, Air Medal, Air
Force Commendation Medal, Achievement Medal and wartime campaign ribbons.
inducted into the Oklahoma Aviation and Space Hall of Fame in 1998.
Air Force service Taylor was Commander of the Alaska Air National Guard and retired as a brigadier general. His son, Ken II,
later retired as a brigadier general from the same position.
his Air Guard retirement, Taylor worked in the insurance industry in Alaska and was a representative of Lloyds of London.
who divide their time between Alaska and Southern Arizona, also have a daughter, Tina, and several grandchildren.