A Picture from History: George Welch & Kenneth Taylor By: Aden Tate

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Being stationed in Hawaii was a treat — the weather was gorgeous, and food was terrific.

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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.