By J.D. ARCH
PFC Reuben E. Taylor, an EBCI tribal member, reported for Basic Training at 16 years of age to Ft. Bragg on Aug. 13, 1942. His basic training cycle was completed at Ft. McClellan, Ala. Then, for his initial paratroop training, he reported to Ft. Benning, Ga., which lead to his being assigned to the newly formed 82nd Airborne Division at Ft. Polk, La.
In 1943, his unit boarded troop transports and set sail for England enduring repeated German U-Boat attack alerts. His unit was deployed to Casablanca, North Africa for combat operations and then returned to England for training for the invasion of Europe known as D-Day, the assault on fortress Europe.
On Sept. 17, 1944, PFC Taylor and his unit boarded planes in England bound for drop zones in Nazi-occupied Holland for “Operation Market Garden.” The 82nd Airborne division air dropped in the Nijmegen Area of operations, and after 73 days of combat, PFC Taylor and his unit were successful in securing the town and surrounding area.
On Dec. 16, 1944, PFC Taylor and his unit were deployed in the vicinity of Werbomont for the “Battle of the Bulge.”
PFC Taylor stated, “The Bulge, Christmas Eve 1944, we were stuck in the freezing weather, thousands of miles from home. We were being shelled nightly from German 88’s that made it impossible to get any rest. Our machine gunners were dead tired. After witnessing the horrors of war, as friends were blown away, we were near exhaustion both mentally and physically. Sixteen days in the Battle of the Bulge was worse than 73 days in Holland.”
PFC Taylor left Europe at war’s end and returned to the states. Two years later, he separated from military service and returned home to Cherokee.
PFC Taylor stated, “For myself, as well as all those others in the 82nd Airborne Division who remember the roar of planes at night, the instant when the warning light flashes on, and the magnificence of the night skies full of swaying parachutes, I want to say this: we hope with all our hearts that there will always be an 82nd Airborne division. If you can know that somewhere young men will dare the challenge to stand up, hook up, and know that moment of pride and strength which is its reward, then a part of us will always be alive.”
PFC Taylor has been awarded the following medals: Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal WWII, Europe-Africa-Middle East Medal WWII, Victory Medal WWII, WWII Occupation Medal – Army, National Defense Service Medal, French Croix de Guerre WWII, and the Presidential Unit Citation with OLC.