William Warren Taylor
U.S. Army, 86th Infantry Division, 343rd Regiment
World War II (1943 – 1945)
European Theatre & Pacific – Bronze Star Recipient
William Warren Taylor was born on August 25, 1925. He is a native to Plainfield, New Jersey, and after spending the first seventeen summers of his life on Nantucket Island, he is well acquainted with the area. Seated in front of a photo of Neil Armstrong’s iconic first steps on the Moon, Taylor’s involvement in the military is anything but a novelty with his family’s history. His father, a Naval Academy graduate, and his brother, a veteran from the Navy, both reacted with “no problem” when Warren expressed interest in joining the army at the young age of seventeen. Enlisting because he wanted to go to college, Taylor went on to basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia and became a scout.
His involvement in World War II began when he was assigned to the Virginia Military Institute. He was there only one quarter, and served with the rank of a private. He took a civil engineering class and lived as a “rat” in the barracks. To get a break from school, he visited his girlfriend who lived right near VMI. He describes the morale of his fellow students as “very good. We were all college kids. Everybody in my group had gone to college, but only for a short period of time so they were all very young. We were all 18 and 19 years old.”
Despite never being severely injured during war, Taylor recalls a close encounter: “A German Tiger tank laid an 88 mm shell about 35 feet from me, and I was holding onto the heels of another guy, and he was killed. A piece of shrapnel went right through his helmet and killed him. The only thing that happened to me was I couldn’t hear for about a month.”
Being a very gregarious individual, Taylor made many friends while away from home. While delighting in the humorous events of his service, he also witnessed many somber events. Required to collect a pilot’s body from the top of Mount Pinatubo, Taylor recall’s his operation in a blasé manner: “My immediate commander was up by a military liaison plane which was nothing but a Piper Cub, and they were dropping leaflets to the Japanese up there, and they got shot down. My principal officer was able to get out and float down a stream and a few natives picked him up and took him to the hospital. He gave me instructions as how to get up to the top of the mountain to pick up the bodies. It took us two weeks to go up and bring the body back. I think that’s the main reason that I got my Bronze Star.”
Taylor’s escapade during World War II is very admirable. He served with bravery that today is rare in seventeen year olds. He did his job with valor and witnessed the great cruelties of war while also treasuring the friends he made and the great experiences he had. Looking back at the war, Taylor advises young students to “make sure you go to college”. Currently living with his wife, Norma, in Marin County, Taylor serves to remind us that “we should never have another war”. William Warren Taylor is a great example of an individual who acted with gallantry and motivated themselves through hard times. Though deserving of the Bronze Star, Taylor’s attitude deserves another award on its own.
Interview by Kiersten Hosie on July 15, 2011.