Kenneth Marlar Taylor (December 23, 1919 – November 25, 2006) was a new United States Army Air Forces Second Lieutenant pilot stationed at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941. Along with his fellow pilot and friend George Welch, they got airborne while under fire, and Taylor shot down four Japanese dive bombers. Taylor was injured during the incident and received several aw
ards for his efforts, including the Distinguished Service Cross and the Purple Heart.
Taylor later commanded several squadrons while stationed in the United States and elsewhere, and served for 27 years of active duty. He joined the Alaska Air National Guard until 1971 and worked in the insurance industry before retiring in 1985. His Pearl Harbor experience was portrayed in the 1970 film Tora! Tora! Tora!. Taylor died of hernia complications in November 2006 and is buried at the Arlington National Cemetery.
Prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Taylor spent the night before playing poker and dancing at the officers' club at Wheeler with fellow pilot George Welch, and did not go to sleep until 6:30 a.m. local time. Taylor and Welch awoke less than an hour and a half later at 7:55 a.m. to the sounds of low-flying planes, machine-gun fire, and explosions. Lt. Taylor quickly put on his tuxedo pants from the night before and called Haleiwa Auxiliary Air Field, where eighteen P-40B fighters were located. Without orders, he told the ground crews to get two P-40s armed and ready for takeoff. The new Buick he drove was strafed by Japanese aircraft as the two pilots sped the 10 miles (16 km) to Haleiwa; Taylor at times reached speeds of 100 mph (Template:Convert/kmh). At the airstrip, they climbed into their Curtiss P-40B Warhawk fighters, which were fueled but armed with only .30 cal Browning ammo.
After they took off, they headed towards Barber's Point at the southwest tip of Oahu, and initially saw an unarmed group of American B-17 Flying Fortress bombers arriving from the mainland United States. They soon arrived at Ewa Mooring Mast Field, which was being strafed by twelve Nakajima B5N "Kate" torpedo dive bombers of the second Japanese attack wave. Although the two pilots were outnumbered six-to-one, they immediately began firing on the bombers. Taylor shot down two dive bombers and was able to damage another (the third damaged aircraft was considered Taylor's first probable kill). When both pilots ran out of ammunition, they headed for Wheeler Field to get additional .50 cal ammunition, since Haleiwa did not carry any. As he landed around 8:40 a.m., he had to avoid friendly anti-aircraft and ground fire. Once he was on the ground, several officers told Taylor and Welch to leave the airplanes, but the two pilots were able to convince the officers into allowing them to keep fighting.
While his plane was being reloaded with the .50 cal, a flight of dive bombers began strafing Wheeler. Welch took off again (since he had landed a few minutes before Taylor and was already reloaded). The men who were loading the ammunition on Taylor's plane left the ammunition boxes on his wing as they scattered to get away from the bombers. Taylor quickly took off, jumping over an armament dolly and the ammunition boxes fell off of his plane's wing. Both pilots realized that if they took off away from the incoming aircraft they would become targets once they were airborne, so both headed directly towards the bombers at take-off. Additionally, if the low-flying bombers attempted to fire at the grounded P-40s at their current elevation, they would risk crashing. Taylor used this hindrance to his advantage and began immediately firing on the enemy aircraft as he took off, and performed a chandelle.
Taylor headed for a group of enemy aircraft, and due to a combination of clouds and smoke, he unintentionally entered the middle of the formation of seven or eight A6M Zeros. A Japanese rear-gunner fired at Taylor's aircraft and one of the bullets came within an inch of Taylor's head and exploded in the cockpit. One piece went through his left arm and shrapnel entered his leg. Taylor reflected on the injuries in a 2001 interview, saying "It was of no consequence; it just scared the hell out of me for a minute." A few years after the interview, Taylor received from his crew chief two other slugs that had been found behind his seat. Welch shot down the aircraft that had injured Taylor, and Taylor damaged another aircraft (his second probable kill) before pulling away to assist Welch with a A6M Zero. The Zero and the rest of its formation left to return to their carriers as Taylor neared Welch. Taylor continued to fire on several enemy aircraft until he ran out of ammunition. Both pilots headed back to Haleiwa. After landing and driving back to Wheeler, Taylor and Welch passed by their squadron commander, Major Gordon H. Austin, who noticed that they were wearing their tuxedo attire. Unaware of their earlier dogfights, he shouted at the two men, saying "Get back to Haleiwa! You know there's a war on?" The two pilots explained what they had done, and the commander thanked them. In a 2003 interview, Taylor reflected on his actions: "I wasn't in the least bit terrified, and let me tell you why: I was too young and too stupid to realize that I was in a lot of danger."Read More
2LT Kenneth Marlar Taylor flew a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk and Capt C.F. (Nick) Necrason flew a B-17 at Pearl Harbor. The B-17 Necrason was flying into Pearl Harbor during attack had no ammunition and he landed it on the golf course on base. The AKNG Museum has his steering wheel from that B-17.
Aerial view of the U.S. Naval Operating Base, Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii (USA), looking southwest on 30 October 1941. Ford Island Naval Air Station is in the center, with the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard just beyond it, across the channel. The airfield in the upper left-center is the U.S. Army's Hickam Field.
Planes and hangars burning at Wheeler Field during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941.
Photograph from a Japanese plane of Battleship Row at the beginning of the attack. The explosion in the center is a torpedo strike on the USS Oklahoma. Two attacking Japanese planes can be seen: one over the USS Neosho and one over the Naval Yard.
A6M2 on Carrier Akagi 1941
B-17 Hickum Field December 7, 1941
LA December 8, 1941
An Imperial Japanese Navy Mitsubishi A6M2 "Zero" fighter on the aircraft carrier Akagi during the Pearl Harbor attack mission.
A burned U.S. Army Air Forces Boeing B-17C Flying Fortress (s/n 40-2074) rests near Hangar 5, Hickam Field, Oahu, Hawaii (USA), on 7 December 1941. It was flown to Hickam by Captain Raymond T. Swenson from California and arrived during the attack. On its final approach, the aircraft’s magnesium flare box was hit by Japanese strafing and ignited. The burning plane separated upon landing. The crew survived the crash, but a flight surgeon was killed by strafing as he ran from the burning wreck.