Monday, February 16, 2009

About Bill

Bill was born in Los Angeles on August 15, 1925, the only child of William W. Taylor, Sr. and Alice Aten Taylor, formerly of Scranton, Pennsylvania. Bill Sr. was the head of the English Department at Harvard Military School, an exclusive school for boys. Alice was a typical housewife of the era. During Bill’s formative years the family lived at 12928 Bloomfield St., North Hollywood, California in a typical California bungalow style house in a typical neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley.

Bill was an excellent student and he got top grades at Harvard School. He particularly excelled in English as would be expected with his father’s background. He had the dubious distinction of being a student in his father’s English class and earned A’s in the class despite having to work twice as hard as the other students. Bill attended Harvard for six years and spent many hours in military drill and related military subjects. This gave him a great advantage over most of his peers at Camp Abbot.

Following his graduation from Harvard School in June of 1943, Bill enrolled as a freshman at UCLA, where he was recruited to join the Army under the auspices of the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP). ASTP was established in December 1942 to identify, train and educate academically-talented enlisted men as a specialized corp of Army Officers. To qualify for this program Bill had to score 10 points over the score needed to qualify for Officer Candidate School. The plan was for Bill to complete his engineer training at Camp Abbot and then return to UCLA to continue his education as a member of the United States Army. Following the completion of the UCLA course of study Bill expected to go to OCS and ultimately be commissioned an officer. Alas, this was not to be, and Bill ended up in the infantry, as did most ASTP candidates.

Bill Taylor, Jr. left home on Monday, October 4, 1943 for Fort MacArthur. The following day he wrote letter 1 of this collection and we pick up the story from there.


  1. Bill got As in English and his father was the teacher. This explains everything about the quality of the letters.

    After December 1942 the Army and Navy filled almost all their manpower needs through Selective Service (the draft). The services did not accept enlistees unless under certain circumstances, e.g., men aged 17 and women. An inductee could convince his local draft board that he wanted a particular service or wanted to graduate first, but he was drafted. He might go to the Army or the Navy (including the Marines).

    As Greg describes, ASTP pulled out the brighest candidates - for a while.

    My own father, five years older than Bill, enlisted in the Air Corps in April 1942 so that he could fly (and he didn't want to be in the infantry). Air Corps enlistees were then sent home to their day jobs or school to await a letter in the mail. Dad's letter came within a couple months.

  2. As we saw in an earlier letter, Bill was offered an opportunity to go into the Air Corps but turned it down because he thought that the ASTP program was "more practical". Boy, was he wrong!!!

    David, how did your father's decision to enlist in the Air Corps turn out? Did he fly?

  3. My father boasted that World War II was "the greatest vacation I ever had." Despite this he admitted to times when "s*** was crawling up my backbone."

    Dad went through preflight training at Kelly Field, then to a RAF training school in Oklahoma with some other USAAC cadets. They got their wings - including the right to wear RAF wings - in April '43. Dad went on to fly for the Air Transport Command, transports and ferrying of everything from B-24s to P-51s. He was all over the states.

    He went overseas in the summer of '44 to fly C-46s in Africa, then to India to fly the Hump until the spring of '45. Back at home, he transported returning servicemen all over the west in C-47s. He was discharged in February '46.

    In the 50s he joined the California National Guard and flew O-1 Bird Dogs, U-6 Beavers, CH-34s, and Hueys until he reached mandatory retirement. He passed away in 2005.

  4. Wow! Your dad's decision to join the Air Corps was truly a life changing event. What an array of aircraft he flew! When you refer to flying "the Hump" you mean the Himalayas. It must have been quite an adventure to make that flight in 1945. In fact, his whole military career was an adventure. Bill had one "hellova" adventure too. I have to wonder what would have happened had he accepted the chance for Air Corps. We will never know, but what he did as an infantryman is well documented.

  5. The Hump was not technically the Himalayas although that's close enough. From Assam in India the air routes to China ran southeast rather than north. They had to cross something like fourteen mountain ranges and the Irrawaddy Plain. The crews still had to fly at altitudes requiring oxygen.

    The main terminus for The Hump in China was Kunming with other trips to the Kumintang capital at Chongqing (Chungking then), the B-29 base at Luliang, and Chengdu.

    Wikipidea has a good article on The Hump.

  6. Thanks for the correction on "The Hump". One of my hobbies is flying Microsoft Flight Simulator. I think I'll take the DC-3 for a flight across the Hump as you describe it. I don't have a B-29 or comparable military aircraft or I'd fly that. I'll post a report here on the flight.


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