Veteran Salute: From Strother Air Field to WWII

Veteran Salute

WINFIELD, Kan. (KSNW) – The son of a WWI veteran was drafted by the Army during WWII.

The country needed replacements to go overseas and Bill Taylor was one of those soldiers.

Taylor said they were told they’d be in the Army for one year, but months later Pearl Harbor was attacked.

“I can barely remember, that I was starting to lose my hair and the photographer said, well I will just keep the bright lights off your head,” WWII Veteran Bill Taylor said.

It’s been just a few years since this jokester was drafted.

Taylor landed at Strother Army Air Field in Winfield as a medic.

The place was at one time 4,300 strong and was where many pilots took their advanced flying training.

“They’d have one class of cadets, and when they reached halfway through their training, they started another class behind them,” Taylor said.

Taylor said he was very comfortable in Winfield when the infantry came calling.

“It was a different life altogether,” Taylor said.

He said the guys were all having a good laugh in Germany until they met the hospital train.

“It was just full of guys, some of them were blind, their heads were completely covered, some with a broken leg which would be in traction, and the hilarity stopped,” Taylor said. “We were going up to take their place because the war was still on.”

That’s why Taylor was tasked with leading about 200 men in a Replacement Depot.

They were drafted and sent overseas because so many men had been killed in action or wounded.

“After they surrendered, we learned that Japan had such elaborate defenses that we might have lost another half a million men invading Japan,” Taylor said.

He said when the war ended the troops were told to fall out for a parade the next day.

“We went down this hill and were turning left, and I glanced back up and here are about, I don’t know, I figure five or 10,000 men coming four abreast down that hill, and it was pretty impressive to see all that,” Taylor said.

He said his men would go on to guard a hospital in Germany.

“These little German children would come over and just hang around us and we would give them, if we had something, we would give them something to eat,” Taylor said.

He said food was scarce, and although he had translated plenty of German for his whole company, his conversations with the children were a little rocky.

Taylor said he once tried to ask a little girl her name, but he was actually asking her informal German, rather than conversational German. He said his mistake gave the children a good laugh.

The Wisconsin native would eventually make his way back to Winfield safely.

“I went down to the Veteran Service Office, and they said well let’s take you down to the newspaper,” Taylor said.

That lead to a longtime career as the Managing Editor of the Winfield Daily Courier.

A friend of Taylor’s Dad, who was also in WWI, told him to learn to type when he was young so he would always land a good job in the Army.

That skill paid off in service and beyond, as he was with the Winfield Courier for 37 years.

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