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James Murray Taylor June 23, 1922 — June 5, 2019

Jun 13, 2019
James "Buddy" Taylor

On June 5, the day before the 75th anniversary of D-Day, a former United States Air Force pilot and POW died. James Murray Taylor was 96.

James Murray Taylor was born in Grand Junction, Tenn., on June 23, 1922 to Murray and Lavergne Stroup Taylor.

Familiarily known as Buddy, he graduated from high school in 1940, then attended University of Tennessee Junior College at Martin as a freshman for just that year.

On December 7, 1941 Japan launched a surprise attack on the United States Pearl Harbor Naval bases of Hawaii. James left Martin and went to work in Memphis at Chicago & Southern Air Lines. He then went to work for Fisher and Memphis aircraft division of General Motors which during the war produced engine parts and wing sections parts for the B-25 bomber.

While James was working there, a man told James to sign up for the cadets. James  asked,”“What’s that?”” The man explained that the cadet is where the Air Force got its pilots. James signed up.

James was sworn in on September 16,1942. He was called into active duty March 10, 1943, assigned to Ocala, Fla., (Taylor Field), where he completed solo hours in military training aircraft PT-17 along with additional hours in a P-40 Warhawk.

James was then sent to Camp Patrick Henry in Virginia, a staging and embarkation area. He then embarked from Virginia and was assigned to the 23rd fighter group, which was part of the 75th fighter squadron.

James served in China Burma Theater where he was a member of Tex Hill’s Fighter Squadron, The Flying Tiger Sharks.”He flew the P-40 and the P-51 Mustang. Most of his missions consisted of destroying ground targets — troops, trains, supply depots and sea vessels.

On the morning of November 11, 1944 Lt. James M. Taylor, Jr. took off in his P-51 Mustang heading toward Hengyang, China. He completed two successful strafing runs. On his third, his aircraft’s engine failed. James bailed out at a mere 400 feet.

He was subsequently captured. Japanese soldiers tied him to a tree and began to dig his grave. Suddenly, the soldiers untied him, and took him away from the would-be grave.

What followed was imprisonment, solitary confinement and reduced rations. In late May, 1945 Taylor began his last journey as a prisoner of war. He was handed over to the U. S. Army on September 11, 1945, some ten months after he was captured.

Buddy was born and raised in Grand Junction, Tenn., and called this his home for a lifetime except for his time involved in WW II.

He has participated in numerous activities supporting his hometown for which he was extremely proud. He was looked upon as Grand Junction’s war hero and was known and loved by scores of friends and admirers.

When the effort to build the National Bird Dog Museum and the Field Trial Hall of Fame in Grand Junction, Buddy was one of the first to lend a valuable hand and volunteer effort to support that activity. He lent many of his photographic skills as well as his participation in significant fund-raising efforts. He took on numerous other tasks to give the Bird Dog Foundation the success it has attained in supporting its mission.

He was a true ambassador for Grand Junction in supporting the numerous field trial activities that take place in the area including the annual National Field Trial Championship at nearby Ames Plantation.

Buddy is survived by his wife, Sharon, sons Jim and Mark, several grandchildren and a great granddaughter. He was preceded in death by his parents, his first wife Lee, a sister and son Steve.

Funeral service was held in St. John Orthodox Church on Saturday, June 8, where Buddy had been a member for many years. Interment with full military graveside honors were held at the Grand Junction Cemetery with an impressive United States Air Force four-plane flyover.

May this WW II hero rest in peace.

Captain Gary Lockee, LaGrange, Tenn.

 

[ A sincere public “thank you” to all who have served our country in the United States military. Portions of this tribute to Buddy Taylor were from an earlier interview with Buddy.]

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