Alaska editorial: Honoring a Pearl Harbor hero, longtime Alaskan

Posted: Sunday, December 10, 2006

The following editorial first appeared in the Voice of the Times:

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His friends called him Ken, his wife called him Kenneth, and Americans everywhere who knew of his valor in combat called him one of this nation's great heroes of World War II. He was Brig. Gen. Kenneth M. Taylor Sr., an Alaskan who wore his military record with a modesty so unassuming that those not familiar with his life could ever guess the magnitude of his service to his country.

He was an Army Air Corps second lieutenant when Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor at 7:55 a.m. on Dec. 7, 1941, a surprise assault that plunged this nation into World War II. As the attack began, Taylor and one of his airman buddies, 2nd Lt. George Welch, got their propeller-driven P-40 fighters in the air and were the first American pilots to engage Japanese dive-bombers and torpedo planes amid blazing machine guns and explosions from the ground and sea. Taylor was credited with shooting down four of the attacking Japanese aircraft.

For his valor that day, Taylor received the nation's second highest military decoration, the Distinguished Service Cross, as well as a Purple Heart for injuries he received during the intense action.

Taylor died last Nov. 25 in Tucson, Ariz., 12 days before the 65th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor - and just a month shy of his 87th birthday on Dec. 23. In recent years, he and his wife Flora, known to friends as Baby, spent most of the winter months in Arizona - but Anchorage remained their permanent home.

This World War II hero was an Alaska treasure.

More than that, he was a member of what has been called America's greatest generation - young men from every walk of life who took up arms in defense of freedom in a war fought around the world.

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