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Pearl Harbor vet who saved dozens honored during Legion tribute

Pearl Harbor vet who saved dozens honored during Legion tribute

Veteran

 

Pearl Harbor Army veteran Alvis Taylor, 92, of Davenport wiped away a tear as his wife, Sharon, stood by his side.

“I don’t deserve this,” he said during his recognition Sunday afternoon at the Milan American Legion, 515 1st Ave. W.

Dozens of soldiers and sailors who survived because of Taylor’s actions would disagree.

Taylor was the only Pearl Harbor veteran on hand Sunday at the legion’s annual Pearl Harbor remembrance. “We’re here to remember Pearl Harbor,” said Milan Legion Adjutant Norm Dunlap. “We must not forget it, and we must not let anyone else forget it.”

The attack is a reminder of “underestimating threats to peace and world stability,” he said.

The Japanese bombing of the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Dunlap said, was “the terrible price our nation once paid for a lack of vigilance.” During the two waves of bombing, about 2,400 American sailors and Marines perished, and almost 1,200 were injured, he said.

“Al Taylor was one of the men who saw and lived through that day,” Dunlap said.

On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed the U.S. Navy fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Taylor was stationed with the Army. He was serving as a medic when he saw the planes come in — they were so low he could see the Japanese pilots inside.

He coordinated dozens of ambulances that took the wounded to hospitals. Taylor was subjected to enemy fire when he accompanied the ambulances, but he managed to escape injury.

His commanding officer, he said, was a brain surgeon who treated 19 men after the attack. “All 19 survived,” Taylor said.

“We always recall those who lost their lives in the sneak attack,” Dunlap said. He led the other Legionnaires in a standing salute to Taylor, who joined the other 25 people in a lunch that included chipped beef on toast, a common meal served to those in the military.

Among the diners was Ike McCleeary, 86, of Moline, a Korean War Navy veteran who is a member of the legion. He is concerned about younger veterans who may not receive the care they need upon their return home.

“When we got hurt, we could go the (Veterans Affairs) hospital, and they took care of us,” McCleeary said.

He was disappointed at the small turnout Sunday. “People don’t care anymore,” he said.

Enjoying her “shingle” on a neighboring table was Cheri Stanton, senior vice commander of the American Legion Department of Illinois.

“I love history,” said Navy veteran Stanton, who taught school in Monmouth. “This is a part of history. There should be schoolkids here.”

Younger children, she said, “don’t know the background we had when we were going to school. They need to teach more history in the schools,” she said. She added that patriotism should be part of the curriculum, too.

Navy veteran Eldon Baxter, who served aboard the USS West Virginia, is another Quad-City area Pearl Harbor veteran who served in the Navy. He was not able to attend the observance Sunday because of poor health, Dunlap said.

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