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A Picture from History: George Welch & Kenneth Taylor

We take a look at two American pilots who managed to take to the air and face off against the Japanese during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
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    Being stationed in Hawaii was a treat — the weather was gorgeous, and food was terrific.

    For two 2nd Lieutenant pilots, Kenneth M. Taylor and George Welch, the night of Dec. 6, 1941, was spent enjoying what the island had to offer…a Christmas dinner, a dance party, and then an all-night poker game at Waikiki.

    Kenneth Taylor & George Welch
    Kenneth Taylor & George Welch

    But the following day would see the end of fun and the start of war…

    A Day of Infamy

    At 7:51 AM on Dec. 7, 1941, the two men realized the U.S. was under attack.

    With enemy planes overhead and the sound of machine guns and explosions in the distance, the two decided it was time to act.

    USS Shaw Exploding at Pearl Harbor
    USS Shaw Exploding at Pearl Harbor

    Learning that the fighter planes at two nearby airstrips had largely been destroyed, the quick-thinking Welch called the Haleiwa Fighter Strip as Taylor revved up a Buick.

    Haleiwa was largely spared, and so Welch orders them to get two Curtiss P-40B Tomahawk fighters prepped for takeoff. 

    Curtiss P-40B Tomahawk
    Curtiss P-40B Tomahawk (Photo: Alan Wilson)

    The duo raced for Haleiwa, 11 miles away, reaching speeds of up to 100mph.

    When they arrived, the planes were fueled but hadn’t been fully armed. But there was no time to spare.

    Join the Fight

    They hopped into their planes and took off into the air, attracting gunfire as soon as they hit the skies.

    Taylor and Welch were two of five American pilots that made it into the air…fighting against 200-300 Japanese planes.

    Burning ships at Pearl Harbor
    Burning ships at Pearl Harbor

    With nothing other than their .30-caliber machine guns, the pair shot down two Aichi D3A Val dive bombers attacking Ewa Mooring Mast Field. 

    Taylor took a bullet to the arm and shrapnel to the leg. Welch had his plane shot by an enemy tail gunner. Yet they fought on. 

    Aichi D3A Type 99
    Aichi D3A Type 99

    A Second Round

    The two men emptied their machine guns into targets but were forced to land for more ammunition.

    As their planes were reloaded, this time with .50-cal ammunition, a senior officer argued with Taylor that he had taken off without permission. The officer grounded the two.

    A Japanese Navy Mitsubishi A6M2 “Zero” fighter (tail code A1-108) takes off from the aircraft carrier Akagi, on its way to attack Pearl Harbor.

    Taylor and Welch ignored the orders, though, and headed to the skies once more.

    As the men engaged enemy aircraft, a Mitsubishi Zero tailed Taylor. Just then Welch arrived and shot the Zero down, saving Taylor’s life.

    Third Round

    The men downed more enemy planes until they were forced to land again to restock ammo.

    They reloaded and went a third time into the skies to fight off the enemy, but the raid against Pearl Harbor was over. The Japanese returned to their carriers, and both Taylor and Welch did all they could.

    Welch and Taylor (Photo: U.S. Army Signal Corps collection)

    Welch would go on to be nominated for the Medal of Honor but was denied because he took off to fight the enemy without permission

    This is a new style of article for Pew Pew Tactical, if you liked it — let us know in the comments! If you didn’t enjoy it…well phooey. To catch up on previous Pictures from History, click on over to our History Category.

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    7 Leave a Reply

    • Commenter Avatar
      Steve Sherridon

      Great article -keep 'em coming!
      The irony and stupidity of having to rely on an idiot of a superior officer....
      I just watched a clip of a commander of the British forces who landed on the Falkland islands who proudly said to the camera that he secretly chose the landing sight to avoid certain areas so as to protect the native penguins. In his mind the penguins were more important than the lives of his brave men. Idiot.

      September 12, 2022 4:48 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Andrew

      I enjoy the history from the articles. Please keep bringing us more.

      September 11, 2022 3:31 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Mark

      I wonder if the two pilots in the movie Pearl Harbor were developed by the story of the two valiant pilots. I am always humbled by our ancestors courage and faithfulness to go into harms way for their country.

      September 10, 2022 8:06 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      motomike

      Incredible Valor. They most assuredly saved many sailors that horrible day. They should have both won medals.

      September 9, 2022 10:33 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      James

      Those guys had nuts tucked into their socks. That would've been wild to see.

      September 9, 2022 1:17 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Mike

      Just about the time you think that the current crop of leaders have a lock on stupidity we find that stupidity was in full swing in the '40's. Needing permission to fight the people trying to kill you, almost sounds like current affairs, not a history lesson. Kudos to the people who fought on. Great article

      September 9, 2022 11:18 am
      • Commenter Avatar
        Allan Nelson

        What Mike said.

        September 9, 2022 2:09 pm
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