A lot of books, web sites and articles about wwII tell the stories about the men who survived the war. The ones who never came home again were not able to tell their story. Young men who never had the opportunity to marry, have a family, raise kids and tell their story to their grandchildren. Like Bill Guarnere (Easy Company) once said: "Those were the real heroes".

Lester Taylor was one of those many brave men who were killed in action during their fight for our freedom. 58 years later I got in contact with his sister Betty who lives in Texas now. Betty was only 5 years old when her brother was killed. She never really knew him and the only thing she remembers vividly is the way he threw her in the air to catch her again. Like big brothers do with little sisters.

As a tribute to Lester and his family, who paid the ultimate price for our free Europe, I made these pages. To tell the story of a family who lost their son and brother in a country, far away from home. In them I want to honor every family who lost a relative to give back our freedom.

Some might say it has been a long time ago and they don't even think about it anymore, but living in freedom is a very precious thing. It's often said fast and everybody says it once in a while, maybe without realizing what it means. I think since Sept.11 2001 everybody in the world has a reason to think about this.

We will never forget!

lester taylor

"A lady by the name of Theodora Vogels wrote to my family for five years after the war. She kept flowers on my brother's grave in Holland. I still have and cherish little wooden shoes she sent especially for me at that time. His body was returned to Tennessee, USA, in April 1948. Sadly, we never heard from her after that time. I am so grateful also to those men and women who fought for your freedom and mine. I was five years old at the time of my brother's death and he has been my hero all these years and will continue to be so."

Through this little note I got in contact with Lester Taylor's sister Betty. She visited my web site(after a tip from my friend Steph Leenhouwers) and found out that I was living just a few miles from the spot where her brother was killed in action. It brought back the memories of her brother and history started living again. Who was Theodora Vogels? Was she still living? Questions, questions.....Betty send me a photo of Theodora Vogels and I added a newspaper advertising(see next pages) in an Eindhoven newspaper to look for her. The very evening I got in contact with Theodora's sister who is still living a few yards from the well known Son bridge (book "Band of Brothers") Dora however, passed away a few years ago. That's how this story started. In the next pages you can read about Lester and his family. One of the many families that lost one or more beloved sons. How many people are living now, so many years after W.W.II, thinking each day of their brothers who never returned?

Lester's' parents: William and Bertha, photo made in about 1950. Lester was born in Texas in a family of 9. They had those 4 beautiful girls, then surprise! along came Betty.
"Always felt as if I had many Mothers!!! Was nice to be the young one and spoiled...." The picture was made in 1941. 58 years later Betty wrote me.
Above right photo 1960: Center Front: Gene, died 1993, On the right front: Verda, died 1972. From the left, Carl, died 1981, Dad William, died 1961, Mother Bertha, died 1983, Betty, Fleda, Ruby, In the back upper right, Lola, died 1988. (She received the letters from Lester's buddies) see next pages.
The picture above left probably was taken in the summer of 1944. On the left is Lola, now deceased. Next is Ruby, eldest sister in the family. Next in dark dress is Lester's wife, Dewitt. They were married only a short time just before Lester had to go into war.They had no children. On the right Fleda. Selma, shot the photo. Betty is in the front again.

Above middle and right:
lst Lt. Selma V. Taylor (Gisriel)
U.S. Army Nurse Corp. (A.N.C.)
4th Service Command, 1945 - 1946
Her basic training was at Camp Rucker, Alabama. She then served at Ft. Lewis, Washington.

She received the WWII Victory Medal.
She worked as a nurse in California after the war. In Lester's letters in 1944, he encourages her to continue in school and get the nurse training. Betty thinks when Lester was killed in action, she may have been motivated to join the Army.
She had a long career as a nurse, was married to Richard Gisriel, now deceased, and currently (2006) lives in an Assisted Living apartment near her 2 daughters and 1 son in the Atlanta area.
Idi Amin's plane

Carl Taylor (above) was a corporate pilot. His career covered 30-something years and the world.He had several "adventures", maybe none to compare with this one. Betty remembers hearing that he piloted planes for people like John F. Kennedy in Wisconsin during his presidential campaign, for Actress Elizabeth Taylor when she was married to Senator John Warner. And, also for the Pro-basketball team, Lakers, way back before they moved to California. The family had a scare when he piloted with the Lakers...They heard one day in early 60's, that their plane had crash-landed in a cornfield in Iowa. Knowing he was their pilot at the time, they were really scared!! But, turns out, he was sick and stayed in New York City that day and his co-pilot had taken the flight. No serious injuries in the crash landing and Carl got to go and fly the plane out of the cornfield!! He commented that it was harder to fly the plane out than the landing might have been!! Sadly, Carl's career and life ended in April 1981, just 5 years after the Idi Amin incident, when the plane with he and two businessmen crashed on landing approach near the Alpena, Michigan airport. He is buried in the Ft. Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis, MN.
Carl Taylor was the pilot who flew Idi Amin's president's Westwind jet back to it's Israeli builders. Carl was at the Uganda airport when Idi Amin came to the airport on a bicycle to meet them. This was just 2 months after the 4th of July Israeli raid on Entebbe to free more than 100 hostages from an Air France jet that was hijacked.

The left picture is made at Uganda Airport by Carl Taylor. The right picture shows Amin's plane with Carl Taylor (left) at Cyprus en route to Lod, Israel.

See also the complete story.

Now you have met Lester A. Taylor's family meet Lester and read his story on the next pages.

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pictures on this page courtesy Betty Taylor.

© Peter van de Wal