Welton Taylor
November 12, 1919 – November 1, 2012

In a fascinating interview with the Library of Congress as part of the Veterans History Project, Taylor describes his World War II experiences in detail. In it, Taylor talks about the advanced liaison-pilot training he received at Fort Sill, Okla. This training likely was very similar to the type that Horace Johnson also received. During the war, liaison pilots wore wings that bore an “L” in the center (see photo). And as Taylor’s testimony shows, a lot went into the winning of that “L.”

The Liaison Pilot badge was a U.S. Army Air Forces qualification badge that was issued during World War II. Like the badge for Glider Pilot (which bore a “G”), the Liaison Pilot badge bore an “L” to denote the wearer’s specialization. International Military Antiques photo.

Welton I. Taylor graduated from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in 1941 and received his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Field Artillery upon graduation. Called to active duty 28 days later, he began his service with the 31st Field Artillery Training Battalion at Fort Sill, OK, transferred to the 184th Field Artillery Regiment at Fort Custer, MI, following the attack on Pearl Harbor, then became only the second African-American to train as a liaison pilot at the Second Army Air Force Liaison Training Detachment in Pittsburg, KS. Upon graduation from the Pittsburg flight school, Taylor returned to Fort Sill to complete Advanced Flight Training, then deployed to the South Pacific with the 93rd Infantry Division, 596th Field Artillery Battalion. He flew liaison missions on the islands of Guadalcanal, New Guinea, Mono, and Morotai from 1943 to the end of the war.

In 1945, Taylor returned to the University of Illinois to pursue his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in bacteriology on the G.I. bill. Over a stellar career that spanned the next fifty years, he taught microbiology at the medical schools of both the University of Illinois and Northwestern University, did ground-breaking research on the prevention of bacteriological contamination in the nation’s food supply, helped France and Britain eradicate Salmonella in their imported foods, became Microbiologist-in-Chief at Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital, and served as consulting microbiologist at twelve other Chicago-area hospitals. In the process, he obtained four patents, published forty articles in scientific journals, invented a product still used by laboratories worldwide to certify foods Salmonella-free, and had a bacterium named in his honor by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta in 1985.

In 2005, Maj. Taylor was invited to join Chicago’s chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. in recognition of his having served with fourteen Tuskegee-trained liaison pilots in the 93rd Infantry Division. Taylor thus returned to his lifelong passion–flying–at the age of 85, and for the next seven years, helped his fellow pilots introduce inner-city children to the joys and challenges of flight and educated scores of corporate, civic, and academic groups on the triumphs and frustrations of the Tuskegee Airmen and other African American heroes of WWII.

In July of 2012, Maj. Taylor unveiled his long-awaited history and memoir, Two Steps from Glory, at the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture 2012 in Oshkosh, WI. That would be his final mission: he passed three months later on November 1st—just eleven days shy of his 93rd birthday—having given a lifetime of service to his family, his country, and the world.

Sources:
The History Makers
Booklife.com
taichicago.org
University of North Dakota

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