Norman man represents last of the greatest

Thursday, September 11th 2008, 8:07 pm
By: News 9

By Alex Cameron, NEWS 9

NORMAN, Okla. -- It's been more than six decades since he flew his last mission, but that doesn't make what one Norman man did in the Second World War any less remarkable.

In the Second World War, B-24 bombers dropped more than 630,000 tons of bombs and played a critical role in the Allied victory.

The B-24 Liberators, as they were called, had 12-man crews and young Archie Taylor, from Cheyenne Valley, in Major County, was one in a very special crew.

"Well, our bombardier was very good at spotting where the targets were and pulling the trigger at just the right time," Taylor said.

And because of that, army brass quickly made them a lead crew, meaning they were the lead plane in the formation.

"Which usually the anti-aircraft guns usually focused on that lead plane, so we got hit quite a bit," Taylor said.

At 83-years-old, Taylor has a gift for understatement. "Quite a bit" barely describes how much Taylor's and other 8th Air Force crews were hit.

"We went through a lot of missions where the flak was so thick, if it had held you up, you could've walked on it," Taylor said.

German anti-aircraft fire, or flak, was the biggest threat and as a waist-gunner, Taylor was particularly vulnerable.

"We did have a piece of flak come through right above my head and cut one of the control cables in half, and hit me on the head, I had a steel helmet on, but hit me on the head and bent my helmet," Taylor said.

Then there was the mission that earned Taylor and his crew the Distinguished Flying Cross. Their plane, he says, was hit more than 100 times, lost two engines, had no flaps and no brakes.

"And, we had a hole in one of the tailfins that was big enough that a man could have jumped through it," Taylor said.

His plane limping home, Taylor prayed silently and put his hopes on a long runway and a couple of parachutes.

"That's all the brakes that we had was two parachutes on both sides...we got down all right, we crash-landed, but we go down all right," Taylor.

Incredibly, in 30 missions, most as the lead plane, all under some duress, neither Taylor nor any in his crew was ever seriously hurt.

But they inflicted plenty on the enemy, taking out rail yards, bridges, weapons plants and other infrastructure critical to the Nazi war machine.

"Up until a certain time, Germany was winning the war, and I believe through all this bombing, it interrupted their production process enough that the war started to change," Taylor said.

After the war, Taylor retuned to northeast Oklahoma, became a teacher and coach, and later a minister. He says faith has always been a big part of his life and believes it played a big part in preserving his life, when death so frequently stared him in the face.

"Well, I attribute it to my faith, probably more than anything, but, luck might have had something to do with it too, ya know," Taylor said.