PFC Joseph E. Taylor, Jr.
Tracy Turner of Suffolk, Virginia is looking for anyone who knew or may have information concerning his uncle, PFC Joseph Edgar Taylor, Jr. of the 29th Division. PFC Taylor was in “A” Company of the 115th Regiment and was KIA on July 11, 1944 in the drive on St. Lo, France. Tracy is anxiously looking for anyone who can help him with more information about his uncle and the battle in which he was killed.
Tracy sent us a letter with the following information regarding his uncle, PFC Taylor. We hope this letter will stir a memory and allow Tracy to find someone who can be of assistance. Thanks, Tracy for sharing this story with us, and we wish you the best of luck in your search.
Joseph Edgar Taylor, Jr. was born in Nansemond County, Virginia (now the city of Suffolk, Virginia) on March 21, 1924. After graduating from Holland High School in 1941 he was drafted by the Army in 1942. Uncle Joe reported to Camp Shelby, Mississippi for basic training and was assigned to the 69th division, 272nd Infantry Regiment, Company E. Upon completion of basic training in 1943, the Army sent him to Camp Meade, Maryland and then briefly to New York City. He was reassigned to the 29th division, 115th Infantry Regiment, Company A during this period. In late 1943 or early 1944 he left New York on a two week voyage to Wales. PFC Guy S. Stewart met Uncle Joe during the voyage and stayed with him until his death. The remainder of this story is based on Mr. Stewart’s letters after the war to my late grandmother and a letter and conversations I had with him in 1992. My notes indicate they trained in Plymouth, England near the “Command” headquarters from early 1944 to June 1944. Unfortunately, I do not know the exact Command (i.e.: British, American, Allied, etc.). Mr. Stewart and Uncle Joe crossed the English Channel on the same ship. They arrived in France several days after D-Day (possibly June 16, 1944). Mr. Stewart and Uncle Joe were placed in machine gun and rifle platoons, respectively.
On July 10, 1944, Company A was five to six miles inland from Omaha Beach. This is French hedgerow country and approximately fifteen miles from St. Lo. The Germans launched a counterattack during the night. They successfully surrounded Mr. Stewart’s machine gun platoon, Uncle Joe’s and another rifle platoon. During the night of July 10/11 a fierce battle took place. Mr. Stewart said rockets (I assume German 88s), mortars and machine gun fire was non stop. Company A managed to halt the German advance toward dawn on July 11, 1944. The Americans planned a counterattack for 11:00 am. Company D sent a water cooled machine gunner to provide cover. A German sniper shot him in the head as he began to set up his tripod. This solider was only a few yards from Mr. Stewart. Uncle Joe came over to Mr. Stewart’s foxhole and said Mr. Stewart would never see him alive again. As they were shaking hands, the order came for the attack to begin. Uncle Joe and forty nine other riflemen jumped over the hedgerow and charged toward the Germans in the next hedgerow. The American and German positions were about 100 yards apart. The Germans were completely dug in and had Burp machine guns trained on the range between the two positions. Instantly, the Germans responded with strong machine gun fire. Uncle Joe and forty seven other soldiers were killed before they even reached the German hedgerow. Just two of the fifty men survived the attack. Company A remained in the same hedgerow during the night of July 11/12. They advanced around (not through!) the German hedgerow the next day. This is when Mr. Stewart saw Uncle Joe’s body. He believed Uncle Joe suffered very little and was killed instantly.
Mr. Stewart told me this attack was foolish and that the field officer strongly objected to it. However, the order came from Headquarters so there was no choice. Post 5 in Norfolk, Virginia has a copy of the 29th division’s summary of its actions during 1944 and 1945. This summary is the original from the time period and indicates attacks on “Hill D” overlooking St. Lo were made on July 11, 1944. I plan to investigate this lead to determine who the officers were, what the overall objective was and anything else relating to Uncle Joe’s death. Also, I met a local historian that said the National Archives in Washington, D.C. have the daily battle reports for every division. I hope somewhere a report exists that further explains the events of July 11, 1944. As I finish writing this letter, it is impossible to believe this event actually happened. I have numerous letters that you might find interesting. I even have one from Uncle Joe dated July 6, 1944 written in the field on top of his canteen! Please accept my family’s sincere gratitude for posting Uncle Joe’s story and photograph. If anyone knew him or recalls the events of July 10 – 11, 1944 please have them call, email or write me.
Vernon T. Turner
128 Winterview Drive
Suffolk, Virginia 23434