The day before he turned 18 in 1943, Alan Taylor joined the United States Navy and served his country for 33 months during World War II. The now 93-year-old took some time this past Veterans Day holiday to reminisce about his time spent serving his country and what he did after. The local veteran moved to Northern California many years ago and currently resides just outside Riverbank in Modesto.
Taylor grew up in Southern California and after joining the Navy he spent five weeks in boot camp in San Diego, had two weeks of leave and then was transported to New Caledonia where he was picked up by the USS Philip, a Fletcher class destroyer named for Rear Admiral John W. Philip.
“I was put into combat as soon as I got overseas,” said Taylor. “Being in combat affected everybody a little different. I was on a machine gun back between two five inch guns and so I got to see everything that went on. I was sitting up high on the ship where I could see everything.”
During the Solomon Islands campaign the USS Philips endured several enemy raids from the Japanese where the anti-aircraft gun crews on the ship manned their stations to shoot down the enemy bombers.
“One of the first things that happened after I came aboard was a dive bomber that came in high and dropped a bomb that missed us but landed close to the ship,” added Taylor. “It was close enough that I got wet. I thought a water pipe had broken because I didn’t see the plane. There were quite a few incidents like that.”
Another moment Taylor recalled on the Solomon Islands was seeing a ship on the radar that they wanted to catch. So they started heading towards it and then they stopped, turned around and went back. They found out that they had taken inventory of the ammunition and they decided that they did not have enough ammunition to battle with the ship so they backed off.
The Philippines was another stop that the USS Philip made where they joined a force around a resupply chain traveling from Leyte to Mindoro. The convoy was attacked with frequent raids by suicide bombers also known as kamikaze planes during the trip.
“We were in the Philippines and we had a twin engine bomber come over the horizon about 50 feet off the water coming straight at us,” expressed Taylor. “Most of those were kamikaze suicide planes. I was the pointer on the gun and I had to fire it. We had a whole crew there, about seven people total; anyway we fired about 20 rounds at him. My gun quit firing about halfway in.”
Looking around the ship Taylor noticed that the two first loaders were hunched over and there were others that were gone. The plane kept heading straight for them and when he was close enough to them he dropped the bomb. He missed. He dropped it too soon, pulled up and barely cleared the ship. He was so close Taylor recalls seeing hatch marks on the side of the cockpit and that the plane had white sidewall tires.
Taylor was positioned between two guns on the ship which has affected his hearing. At the time he did not have protective headgear but they did give him a handful of cotton to stuff in his ears.
Although Taylor is glad that he served his country and proud of his service he did not want to make it a career. Once he was discharged he went back to southern California where he helped his father working with horses. Taylor had been breaking horses since he was a kid.
He dabbled in construction and mechanics. He assembled flat head Ford engines for some time and got married when he was 25. After flying a plane through the valley and scoping out a few places they decided to move to Northern California.
Currently Taylor has a machine shop in Modesto and his son runs Taylor Automotive where they work on antique engines in Riverbank. He actively supports American Veterans First in Riverbank and has made a few donations to help out local veterans.