John Tayloe

I became acquainted with John Tayloe when I met him as another participant in the 2005 tour to Barth, Germany, for the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Stalag Luft I.  We were reunited in 2006 when, prior to joining us in Berlin, he had spent a few days in Amsterdam retracing his journey through that area 60 years after he had parachuted out of his doomed B-17.  What a special occasion for him and he was so thrilled to tell us about it!  He was treated like a king!  I was enthralled with his story, being aware of his WWII experience from talking with him in 2005 and in phone conversations since then, and was so anxious to hear everything that he shared about his events of the last few days! 

Sergeant John Tayloe was a member of the 710th Bomb Squadron of the 447th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force flying from Rattlseden Base, Station 126, in England.  John flew as bombardier on the 10-man crew with Lt. Edward Welling Stull as pilot, on March 22, 1944.  The crew joined formation with 287 planes flying toward Berlin to bomb an aircraft factory.  After dropping their bombs they were heading back to England when they were hit by flak, a common occurrence during those days!  Five crew members bailed out and John, with four others stayed with the plane hoping to reach England, until they, too, were forced to jump over Amsterdam.

John  landed in the meadow behind the Post Office in Ilpendam and was later arrested by the Germans.  Truus Jonk worked in the Post office in Ilpendam and when she saw the American airman walking down the main street accompanied by two Germans, she quickly shut the Post Office door.  She decided to approach the prisoner and one of the Germans, embracing them.  She started a conversation with John wanting to obtain his name and number.  John told how hearing her speak English and talking with her gave him hope.  She wrote a letter to John’s parents advising them of his arrest.  His parents were grateful and it was the beginning of a long friendship.

John’s return to Amsterdam 60 years later was an incredible experience for him.  He was taken to the area where he landed in the meadow and he was amazed at how open it still was.  He walked the route that he had when he was arrested.  The Post Office is no longer there.  It was so special for him to return to his past and the memories came flooding back.  He was in Amsterdam for the first time since he was imprisoned there for a week in 1944!!  John was led down the street to the space once occupied by the Saint Alfons School where John’s bomber had crashed on March 22nd.  John’s guide was also witness to the crash at 6 years of age.  John mentioned that he didn’t even see his B-17 crash and he heard later, from a pilot that he was imprisoned with, that it crashed into a school.

An amazing factor in John’s story is that Anne Frank lived only 500 meters from where a
German Kriegsmarine warship lay for engine servicing and it shot at the crippled B-17.  On Thursday, March 23, 1944, Anne wrote the following in her diary about the incident:

“Dear Kitty, a plane crashed closeby yesterday.  The occupants jumped in time and landed by parachute.  The plane crashed on a school in which there were no children.  There was only a small fire and a few deaths.  The Germans shot terribly at the descending airmen.  The Amsterdammers who were watching were up in arms about such a cowardly deed.  We, I mean the ladies, were shocked to pieces, I detest shooting.”

John commented on how he realized at the moment that he read this entry in the book that he had become a part of history.

I felt so honored to know John and we became good friends spending time together throughout the tours in  2005, 2006 and 2007.  He was so interesting to talk to and this story was just astonishing to me to think that Anne Frank had written about his plane in her famous diary!  John was quite amazed as well.  He had such a wonderful experience in Amsterdam and was now going to recall more memories of his days as a POW together with our group.  How fortunate we were to share these days and memories!

John Tayloe is one prisoner of war who had good memories of camp life.  I found it rather surprising when he would tell me this.  He was assigned to the mess hall so he never went hungry and that would be a big deal.  One story that John told of was when they would combine fruit that they couldn’t use in an old sauerkraut crock.  It would ferment into a rather potent drink.  They used copper piping and Red Cross tins in building a still, producing a rather good whiskey.  It was also enjoyed by the German guards who had helped in making the still.

John passed away on February 6, 2008 at the family home in Needles, CA, after a very brief setback from a stroke. John was buried with full military honors, provided by the United States Air Force, which included an Honor Guard flag folding, Bugler playing “taps,” a 21-gun rifle salute, and an Air Force flyover of a B-1 Strategic Bomber.

I was very saddened to learn of the loss of my friend and put my memories of him in poem form sending it to his son as well as to others who traveled with us on our tours through the areas of his past.

A Loving Tribute to John Tayloe

Written in his memory by his friend, Candy Brown, having met him on our trips as I retraced my father’s past in May, 2005; September 2006 and September 2007. He will be sadly missed.

My first meeting with John – such a fascinating story that he told.
Of being shot down; I listened intently as the events would unfold.
How amazing he had returned to Amsterdam – to the crash site.
To learn that Anne Frank upon witnessing it, in her diary did write.
He was thrilled to tell about the welcoming that he was provided
His words spoken so calmly but you knew he was excited.
His memories of his past were so absolutely clear
I made sure in the crowd that he was always near.
I treasured the memories that with us he would share.
Our trips together were so interesting because he was there.
He was remarkable and welcomed a frequent interview
He would put great thought into all he’d say and do.
If anyone had a question that he could answer he surely would
In the unlikely case he didn’t know-he’d refer you to who could.
I’ll always remember the first year that I met yours and our “dad”
I was alone and thought that if I could help him he’d be glad.
Little did I know how capable and with what energy he was filled
He became my leader and with his expert guidance I was thrilled.
He could get to anywhere and figure out the way back.
Whenever I was with him I knew I was on the right track.
If we went looking for souvenirs, he knew the perfect type to pick.
He was such a great thinker and his response was oh so quick.
He seemed so quiet and on first impression you’d think he’s shy
But after a day or two recalling those thoughts you’d wonder why.
He evoked so lucidly the layout and his place in Stalag Luft One
And he could recount stories that made his time there seem fun.
He told of the klim cans and the soap molds they would craft
And recalling ingredients in the moonshine, he’d make you laugh.
He’d walk the campsite grounds envisioning what was where
And he’d repeat his cookhouse stories to all of us who were there.
I know from listening, whatever his role he’d have been the best
But he so enjoyed the cooking his expertise shining above the rest.
Devotion and love of his church in conversation was well known
His heartfelt dedication as he talked of it truly shown.
Still taking classes he never quit learning in all the days of his life.
So visible the grand husband he was as he’d speak of his late wife.
He was proud of his family and was so positive as all could see.
He never complained about anything-he was as we all should be.
John was one of the most fascinating people that I’ve ever met
He has provided me cherished memories that I will never forget.