Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day - Honoring 1st Lt. Orin Taylor

“SERVED WITH RANGERS – Lt. Orin E. Taylor, son of William R. Taylor, was killed in action in Italy, January 31, 1944, according to information received here from the war department. Lieutenant Taylor was a graduate of Lawrence high school and had been overseas about a year.”

This clipping, saved by my grandmother from an unidentified Kansas newspaper, doesn’t begin to tell the story of Orin’s life or his death. Even before I became interested in genealogy, I was intrigued by the family stories about my mother's cousin who was killed in World War II.  

Orin Edward Taylor was born on 13 Nov 1919 in Leavenworth County, Kansas. His parents, William Robert “Bill” Taylor and Nellie Frances Ready, had been married there on 21 Mar 1917. Orin and his younger brother, Verne, grew up in Easton Township near Kansas City.

Orin enlisted in the U. S. Army on 1 Apr 1941 at Ft. Leavenworth. According to his enlistment record, he had attended one year of college and worked as an automobile service man since graduating from high school. One thing Orin had never done was meet his paternal grandfather and the rest of his father’s family from Kentucky.

Bill Taylor was born in Rockcastle County, Kentucky but moved to Kansas with his mother and her family after his parents divorced when he was very young. Growing up, Bill believed his father was dead. That's what his mother had told him but just before she died she told Bill the truth – his father was alive and living in Mt. Vernon, Kentucky. By the time Orin joined the Army, Bill had been making yearly trips to Kentucky to visit his father and other family for about 10 years but Orin had never gone with him. (You can read Bill’s story in a previous post – The Long Lost Relative.)

Orin with a few Kentucky relatives
(including my mother - young girl in front)
For whatever reason, Orin decided he wanted to meet the grandfather he had never known and the rest of his father’s family before reporting for duty. He made the trip alone from Kansas to Kentucky where his grandfather, John Taylor, and the rest of the family welcomed him just as they had his father 10 years earlier. I have heard stories about Orin’s visit all my life and, no matter who was telling the story, it was always clear that everyone fell in love with him on that short visit. Even though the United States hadn't yet entered World War II when Orin enlisted in the Army, I've often wondered if he made that trip because he had some premonition that he wouldn't have another chance to meet them.

Without Orin's service record, it's impossible to know where he spent most of his time in the Army. By the time the 4th Ranger Battalion went ashore near Anzio, Italy on 22 January 1944, he was a 1st Lieutenant serving as one of two Platoon Leaders in Company E. Orin was killed nine days later.

The location of this photo is unknown.
 It's almost certainly not from Anzio.

Orin was buried in Ft. Leavenworth National Cemetery.

[Headstone photos courtesy of Find A Grave volunteers, Ed n Edna Lane, who several years ago not only filled my request by taking and posting photos of Orin's headstone but also e-mailed me copies of the photos.]

See the U. S. Army Center of Military History site's Anzio 1944 page for more information about the Ranger's operation at Anzio.


  1. You've made it so very clear how keenly your family felt his loss. Beautifully, beautifully done.