Robert Taylor: World War II hero, Air Force chaplain, and Baylor alumnus
If you’ve walked the Baylor campus, you’ve likely walked through Founders Mall, admiring the beautiful flower beds, the idyllic green and gold swings, and the majesty of Pat Neff Hall. But have you ever stopped inside the Ring of Honor there and learned about the three Baylor alumni veterans it honors?
After graduating from Baylor in 1933, Taylor went on to seminary at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, then served as pastor of South Fort Worth Baptist Church. In Sept. 1940, Taylor entered the military as a chaplain, and when the United States officially entered World War II 14 months later, he was transferred to the front lines on the Bataan Peninsula.
When U.S. forces there were forced to surrender, Taylor was one of tens of thousands of American soldiers forced to march miles through intense heat (and through harsh treatment by Japanese guards) in what has become known as the Bataan Death March. Following the march, Taylor (and countless others) were imprisoned for 3.5 years in Japanese prison camps; during this time, he served as the prison camp’s unofficial chaplain, ministering to more than 10,000 patients — continually encouraging and inspiring them, and even smuggling in medical supplies, an offense punishable by death.
Thanks to Taylor, the death rate among patients drastically declined. But his plan was discovered, and he faced severe torture and punishment, including being placed for 14 weeks inside a 4-foot by 4-foot hot box made of tin and bamboo shafts where he was unable to lay down or stand up. It’s said that once he came out, he used it as an opportunity to rekindle the spirits of fellow prisoners, saying, “If you could turn me inside out and look at my heart, you would see a man who still believes in the power of God. I’m going to live, and you are too, because God is going to give us strength.”
Finally freed in 1945, Taylor returned to work in the U.S. as an Army Air Force chaplain. In 1962, he was promoted to major general and named Air Force chief of chaplains. As the senior chaplain for the entire U.S. Air Force, Taylor was the top advisor on religious issues to the Air Force chief of staff. He retired in 1966, and passed away in 1997 at age 87.
For his bravery in action during the Battle of Bataan, Taylor was awarded the Silver Star. On Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, the Taylor Chapel is named after him in honor and remembrance of his legacy. And in 2004, Baylor posthumously awarded him the inaugural Chaplain Robert P. Taylor Award, honoring Baylor war heroes — an award that to this day has not yet merited another recipient.
[Interested in more of Taylor’s story? Check out Days of Anguish, Days of Hope, by Bill Keith.]
Sic ’em, Chaplain Maj. Gen. Taylor!
You might also like:
* Col. Althea Williams: Once one of the Army’s highest-ranking women — and a Baylor alumna (Aug. 2018)
* 7 Baylor alumni added to Waco Vietnam Veterans Memorial (May 2018)
* Hattie Brantley: Former Army nurse & prisoner of war — and a Baylor alumna (Nov. 2017)