CADILLAC — There used to be a large farm between Cobb and S. Carmel streets, just about where the Cobb Street Pharmacy stands.
That’s where World War II veteran John (Ernie) Ernest Taylor Jr. grew up.
Taylor, who died in 1990, was a naval lieutenant stationed in Pearl Harbor when the war started. Assigned to a fleet tug, he was out of port, towing a string of supply barges from Midway Island to Pearl Harbor when it was attacked.
When he came into port a few days later, he was an eye witness to the carnage.
“I can remember him saying it was a terrible mess,‘ said his son, Cadillac resident John Taylor, a 72-year-old Cadillac graduate. “He really didn’t talk about it ... the only thing I recall him saying about World War II was that they once had a Japanese kamikaze plane just miss his ship, hit a boom or mast on the ship next to them and crash into the water when they were tied up in port.‘
Taylor was an engineering student at Michigan State when rumors of war began to spread. A family friend advised him to join the Navy. He enlisted and was admitted to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He graduated in April, 1941 and on May 8 he received orders to report to Hawaii for service on the fleet tug, USS Sonoma.
As he said goodbye to his family, he and his high school sweetheart, Helen Marie Ziegler, talked about dating other people.
“That didn’t last long,‘ John said. “Dad mailed her an engagement ring with a proposal from Hawaii.‘
They planned to get married in Hawaii in September of 1942 and live on base.
But Taylor didn’t get a furlough until 1944 after two straight years of sea duty. He came home for their March 8 wedding. They hadn’t seen each other in three years.
“He was the first guy to come back to Cadillac that wasn’t wounded,‘ John said. “So when they had their wedding in the First Presbyterian Church the whole place was full, even the balcony. Dad nearly keeled over when he came through the side door.‘
Friends all chipped in their ration coupons to have enough ingredients for a wedding cake.
Taylor then received additional training on the west coast and was assigned to a new attack transport ship, the USS Cottel and headed back to the South Pacific.
“Another thing Dad mentioned was that they deployed troops from the USS Cottel, probably as part of the liberation of the Philippines,‘ said John. “He said they were closer to shore and the battleships were further offshore. The battleships had their big guns aimed towards the shore and were firing over them ... how impressive it was to see and how you could hear the huge shells when they went overhead.‘
Home from the war
Taylor was discharged in 1945 and in 1947 he was appointed the first commanding officer of the Naval Reserve Station in Cadillac. He worked for Kysor Industrial as a draftsman engineer.
“He was proud of his service,‘ John said. “He had 25 years of service and retired as a Lt. commander.‘