Harry T. Taylor, Marauder Man
558th Bomb Squadron, 387th Bomb Group
A TRIBUTE TO MY FRIEND HARRY T. TAYLOR By Dale F. Studer
This is my story and tribute to a great friend, HARRY T. TAYLOR, one of the 387th Bombardment Group (M)’s early members that arrived at Chipping Ongar, Station 162 in England in June 1943. Harry’s sudden passing, August 6, 2002, was a shock and saddened me greatly. We planned to meet at the reunion of the 387th in Dayton, Ohio, September 18th and I spoke to him about our meeting two days before his death.
This story has a few peculiar events leading to my association with the 387th since I was never a member of the 387th, but was attached to an Airdrome Squadron that was assigned to the Chipping Ongar Airfield. We learned how to service the B-26 aircraft prior to the Normandy invasion.
Ironically, I entered the Army Air Corps at Wright-Patterson (Dayton, Ohio). I was later assigned to a unit at Selfridge Field, Michigan, January 1,1943 which was the 6th Airdrome Squadron. It was my first assignment to a unit in the U. S. Army Air Corps and it was my only assignment for the duration of the war. I was discharged from it December 1, 1945. I knew of only 4 other Airdrome Squadrons in the ETO, the 4th, 64th, 81st and 83rd. There were probably others, but they are unknown to me.
An Airdrome Squadron was kind of a Special Unit in the Air Corps, due to its mission. It has 12 Officers, 1 Warrant Officer and 283 EM, all on non-flying status. No airplanes, but every kind of a specialist of the Army Air Corps, Aircraft Engine Mechanics, Aircraft Mechanics, Parachute Riggers, Norden Bomb Sight Specialist, Armors, 50 Cal., 20mm and Ordnance Bomb Specialists. A HVA Rocket Specialist was present because these rockets were first used in Normandy mounted on P-47’s and P-51’s for knocking out enemy tanks, artillery, railroads, bridges etc. A G-2 Intelligence Section of 1 Officer and 2 EM were assigned, which I was one. Our mission and that of an Airdrome Squadron was to be the advance echelon for air groups and to set up the operations of the ADLS (Advance landing fields) that were immediately constructed on the invasion beaches. The main purpose was to supply the front line fighter aircraft with fuel, ordnance and ammunition for a quick turn around to the front lines so they would not have to return to England for the necessary fuel, ammunition or bombs. Many of these fighter planes flew 8 to 10 sorties in one day. At night they returned to their home base in England. At dawn they returned the next day to give close air support to the front line troops. Our mission continued like this throughout the entire European Campaign and ended near Leipzig, Germany, on the Elbe River, May 8, 1945. We were meeting the Russians when the war ended. The records show we serviced and supplied 12 different fighter groups and 2 British Squadrons during my duty years.
Now back to the 387th at Chipping Ongar, England. We arrived at Station 162, June 6,1943, a few weeks before the first squadron of B-26s of the 387th arrived on June 30,1943. The airfield was still under construction. Our company area was Area 5; this was located just off the road ending at Willingale, where the pub known as the Malster’s Arms was located. I visited it in 1943 and again in 1994! We occupied Area 5, Chipping Ongar for the entire year we were there. Our personnel worked on and serviced the 387th planes during that time as well as being sent off on DS (Detached Services) to other bases for the purpose of gaining experience working on any kind of allied aircraft, mainly P-47, P-51, P-38, P-61, English Spitfires and Mosquitoes. These were the planes that we expected to see landing on our ADLS strips at the beachheads. While at Chipping Ongar, I met and briefly learned to know Harry Taylor, or “Hard Tack Harry”. I do not know how Harry acquired that handle. Harry always appeared to be in control and faced his challenges without hesitation. He told me he flew 67 missions, which is a great tribute to having survived that many missions. I know, as well as you, many of your comrades didn’t survive that many. Some of you may have flown more missions and my hat is off to you for having done so.
I played the Bass Fiddle in the 387lh Base Band at Chipping Ongar. I remember only 2 members of that band, Lt. Jergenson, playing trumpet and if my memory serves me correct he was a Bombardier on a plane called “Double Trouble”, that has some kind of a harrowing experience on a mission. Another band member was Ralph Levy who played saxophone.
After our separation from the 387th in June 1944,1 never heard from anyone from the 387th until May 28, 1994. I kept looking for a reunion notice of a 387th Bombardment Group or anything about the group. I read every Veterans Magazine for the past 50 years and I found nothing about 387th. I have just learned that the 387th didn’t have group reunion meetings until 1994, but only separate squadron reunions prior to that time.
It was May 28,1994 and I read of the 9th Air Force Association’s 50th Anniversary return to England-France on the QE-2 and the D-Day ceremonies in Normandy. I signed up for the trip. My son-in-law, Phillip O’Steen accompanied me on the trip and I was looking forward to my first time return to the invasion area of Utah Beach where we went ashore on June 10, 1944 to set up our Advance Landing Field.
While riding on a bus, going from the Holiday Inn, Crown Plaza, in New York City to the QE-2. We stood up and ask the question to those on the bus, “Is there anyone here that was a member of the 387th Bombardment Group, a B-26 Unit. An individual raised his hand, it was Harry T. Taylor and he was sitting opposite us, just across the aisle!!! I was dumfounded!!! After a brief conversation we both began to remember and recognize each other. We agreed to get together aboard the QE-2 ship. After getting settled aboard ship, Phil and I went to dinner. Entering the dining room, our table was the first table to the left of the entrance door. Who was sitting at our table but Harry T. Taylor. This was not planned!!! It just happened!!! Also at our table was Jack and Rosemary Wier, of Modesto, California (see my memory is not bad yet)! Harry was in his full dress officers uniform. He was so proud to be able to tell us it was his original and it still fit him handsomely. I also had on my full dress uniform and it still fit me. Each night at dinner we wore our uniforms for the QE-2 Atlantic crossing.
Harry and I continued our contact with each other from that time on. In 1997 we returned to England for the dedication of the American Air Force Museum at Duxford, England. It was a memorable trip. I was looking forward to seeing Harry at Dayton, only to learn when President Earl Seagars called me on August 8, 2002 and said that “Hard Tack Harry” had flown into the “wild blue yonder”. Bless you Harry, we hope you had a pleasant flight
P. S. As survivors, we have all been granted a bonus and a charmed life.
Memories of Harry Taylor
From Robert Keller, 558th Squadron Commanding Officer:
During the war years I didn’t really get to know Harry very well. He was not one of the original 558th Squadron cadre, but according to the records, the squadron arrived at Chipping Ongar on June 25, 1943 and Harry joined the 558th the following day. I can’t recall this event or why the squadron was augmented only one day after arriving in England. Maybe someone familiar with the event can explain this. He arrived as a co-pilot and later became an excellent pilot who flew 66 missions. I got to know Harry quite well after the war from all the reunions we attended. He continued flying after the war in his own aircraft, frequently flying to the reunions in his own airplane. You could count on seeing Harry at every squadron reunion. I doubt that he missed a single one - always pleasant and congenial. He will be sorely missed.