December 21, 2006
After reading your above-mentioned piece in the Daily Journal, it brought to my mind a gentleman very important to me. Carl Taylor (1908-1984) was my father-in-law who served on the Intrepid 1943-1945. I met him when I started dating his daughter, now my wife, in the last part of 1957. Carl was an Irishman, as I am. Carl was 33 years my senior. We came from the same background, Central Kentucky. An area where cash was hard to obtain in the early part of the Twentieth Century. Carl could certainly be called a workaholic, some mental health practitioners might consider him an alcoholic with some anger management problems that come with that type of character. I consider myself to have the same temperament.When Carl and I were together we were working hard, drinking hard, or playing hard. After two shots of cheap Kentucky bourbon, Carl began the stories. One of my father-in-law’s stories of his early adulthood was trying to obtain a little cash to entertain the ladies and I suppose to buy a little moonshine. He started a little trapping line. Furs had some cash value in the 1920s. One morning he came upon one of his traps that held a skunk that was solid black except a small triangle of white on it’s head. (Carl had a name for that skunk which I have forgotten). The fur from that was worth seven dollars. The animal was not dead, and about to escape the trap. Carl did not want to shoot the animal. A hole in the fur would reduce the value to very little. Carl jumped into the water and had a fight to the death with the skunk. Need I say more about Carl’s working habits?
At nineteen Carl moved to Louisville and worked in a very high-class restaurant (Childs) working as food servant in the kitchen. Carl loved this work. All things came to an end when the restaurant did not last through the depression. Carl talked often about his years at the restaurant. Mostly it was about his off hours in the bars and speak easyies. One of Carl’s stories that lived with him the rest of his life was one night in 1937 in a bar in Louisville a brawl broke out and Carl squared off with one man. Unbeknownst to Carl the other man had put a single edge razor blade between his fingers. Carl left the brawl with the back of his hands very badly cut. I do not think he got any medical attention for the injuries.
Carl worked at several different industrial jobs like Reynolds Aluminum, a munitions plant that I cannot remember. I think Carl preferred the food service work. But to Carl work was work and it had to be done. Last of 1941 the big war began. Carl was 33 years old and preferred not go. A decision to get married and have a child may have been an effort to obtain a deferment. That was very short lived. Working at the munitions gave him a deferment for a short time also, but sometime in 1943 he got a call to serve his country in a different way. Upon finishing him physical examination, which he passed, he was given an option to go to the Army or Navy. The reason for the option was obscure to him. His decision was simple; his other three brothers were already in the military service two in army one in navy. He said he would just even things up with two in both branches of service. Carl lost his youngest brother in France in 1944.
I have no memory of Carl’s recount of his service in the Navy or on the Intrepid until the torpedo hit. Carl was in the “the Crow Nest” as a Spotter (I think that is what it is called). Your statement about your ship’s escort of the Intrepid to Pearl Harbor was as I recount Carl’s memory. However minimal repairs were made there, and then they continued on to San Francisco. They returned to San Francisco after each incident. My memory of Carl’s recount of one those trips across the Pacific is they had neither escort nor no defense and they could only get up to a speed of four knots. Fear was throughout the crew.
Carl’s did not recount much about the torpedo hit. The two Kamikazes he would never let you forget. The first one of the Kamikazes slid across the flight deck. * Very shortly the second somehow hit in a manner it went into the hanger deck just below the flight deck where all of the planes were sitting fueled and ready to go were hit. This caused an explosion and a fire the commanders** thought would sink the ship. Carl states there was a command to jump ship. Shortly remanded when the ship was turned and the wind blew the fire where the servicemen could fight the fire and it became manageable. Of course Carl was in the “Crow’s Nest” doing his job. He was turned in the opposite direction from the blast and trying to spot other Kamikazes. This was another example of Carl doing his job. The blast singed the hair on the backside of head. This was the only thing close to an injury while on duty in the Navy.
His fellow serviceman who was turned other way was not so lucky. He was blinded by the blast. Carl’s duty then was to get the blinded serviceman to the aid station. Carl was taking the blind man down the ladder and Carl tripped and got his foot hung on something and he could not get straightened up. Carl’s recount of this was laughable and I cannot remember all of it, but he did get the blinded to the aid station and helped fight the fire.
The Intrepid did get repaired and returned to the Pacific for more wartime duty but Carl never told me much about that.
After the war was over, the Intrepid retuned to San Francisco. Carl returned to the bars. One night a Navy Police Officer thought Carl’s behavior was outside the bounds of a Navy Serviceman and took him to the brig. The next AM Carl was taken in front of some Navy Judicial person and the Navy policeman was giving his account of Carl’s misbehavior. Carl replied, “That is a damn lie”. The Navy policeman grabbed Carl’s arm and twisted it hard, then released. Whatever happened Carl could not move his fingers. Carl was taken to the hospital and stayed a couple of months. Most doctors determined Carl’s old injuries of eight years previous where disturbed in a negative way and he was left unable to use his right hand. He left the hospital able to use his fingers minimally. Upon being discharged from the Navy, Carl was asked if he got his injuries over there fighting. Carl replied, “Damn right”. He left the Navy with a pension for the rest of his life. I never thought Carl had Post Dramatic Stress Syndrome, but my wife did.
After his discharge he returned to a farm with his family near his father-in-law. He went to the Veterans Farm work classes for three years. He stayed on the farm for a total of six years, and then got a food service job at the Ireland Army hospital at Fort Knox, KY. Carl’s dedication to service can be described by the way it ended. Carl was in a car accident and his leg was broken. Carl was drinking, but the accident was not his fault, a perfect example of my thoughts ,look here, When this happened he had over 1700 hrs of sick time and 240 hours of personal. This took him to retirement age of 65.
Carl was a man who served, served and served whether it was his country, his employer, or his family. He never backed up to the pay window. My memories of Carl were that of kindness. Our misunderstandings were few and forgotten by me for sure and certainly by Carl before his death.
One of the most memorable times I remember about Carl was when we were together sometime in the late 60s. He, Chuck, and I were planning to go to a picnic in another county where alcohol was sold legally. Carl came to me and said in the kindest manner, ” We had better let Chuck drive, you and I don’t have very much sense when we drink”. I agreed without words. As my memory serves me that is a direct quote.
Harold W. Ard
* My Father-in-law stated that over 200 Kamikazes were sent out that day. Their main target was the aircraft carriers, which were sailing in the middle of the fleet. Carl said the first Kamikazes side across a gun in placement, which one man was cut in half. Many did not want to serve in that gun in placement any more. Many would say, “You know what happened on number nine.”
Another thought Carl talked about was the first Kamikaze was in his cockpit all clothes in tack. Those who saw him thought he might have been a trained pilot leading 200 plus Kamikazes. His medals and dress indicated such.
**Carl said the Fleet Commander was on the Intrepid