WAR LETTERS: DEATH - 1945 China Sea


Nebraska Public Radio and the Legacy Project received letters
written by soldiers who had seen fellow soldiers die or, in one instance,
were writing about the first visit to the grave site of a loved one.

1945 China Sea

Lieutenant Edwin L. Taylor was a medical officer in World War II. He was wounded in action on December 12, 1945 and died the following day. His widow, Evelyn, who lives in York, Nebraska, received this letter from a colleague who was on board ship with Dr. Taylor. The letter was sent to us by a family friend, who says,

"It was interesting to me that when Evelyn and I went through his things, at the bottom of the footlocker in the original mailing box, with the address label and packaging intact, was Ed's Purple Heart, unopened over 50 years. Evelyn states that she knew what it was, but she couldn't bring herself to open it. We packaged it up with some other things and sent them to her grandkids."

April 10, 1945
Letter from Glendal T. Harper
to the widow of Medical Officer Lieutenant Edwin L. Taylor

April 10, 1945

My dear Mrs. Taylor,

I have just received your letter of March 14 and will endeavor, within my limitations, to fulfill your request. The task as all such must be, is difficult but certainly not unpleasant in so far as it may in some slight way ease your burden.

To start at the beginning, Dr. Taylor reported aboard the latter part of November as our regularly assigned medical officer. His cheery disposition and love of talk made him an easy companion and friend aboard ship. His recent experience with MTBs lent a certain amount of mystery to him as most of us were untried in battle.

On an evening or in spare moments, which in December were many, we spent many long hours of shooting the bull and downing coffee. His greatest pleasure out here seemed to be dallying with the tidbits and delicacies which you seemed to provide continuously - and drinking endless cups of coffee well interspersed with conversation.

At these times inevitably the talk would at one time another turn around you and your son — of his hopes, plans, dreams — of the little problems of the past, of child-raising, and without fail, his beaming pride in his son and confidence in your training and rearing him that he might be a better man than most.

We argued over details, mingled remembrances both sad and gay, sedate and racy, for he did enjoy life and the living thereof.

From time to time, though, he cast a sort of premonition of things to come. His duty he knew, and there was never any shirking or fear in performing it. Somehow, there seemed to be the feeling that luck had too long been on his side and that this was the time. Often he spoke of premonitions in his family - which may have contributed to that impression. He knew our mission and knew the dangers involved; he was not afraid, but he wasn't sure of returning. Just before we sailed he insisted on getting off a power of attorney to you, something which he had delayed for a long, long time.

We had been underway for some days, had passed dangerously close to enemy shores, had had numerous alerts. Nevertheless, it wasn't until the day before we were to arrive at the far beach that any serious attacks were made. During the day of January 12 there were alerts, several bodies reported around and about us. The air patrol managed to keep all except a few snoopers away. About 1815 we were alerted and went to general quarters, securing a few minutes later, but standing by for evening quarters.

Six Jap planes appeared, coming from Manila, about seventy miles to the southeast. They circled and started their runs. For some unknown reason, three of them decided to pick on the LST 778 - all the ships in the very large convoy were firing, throwing an umbrella of tracers into the already colorful sky of the China Sea. One plane was brought down about twenty feet from our starboard side with fortunately very little damage to us. Two others crashed nearby in flames.

Shortly after the first plane crashed, it was reported to me that Dr. Taylor had been seriously wounded by shrapnel. He was standing on the bridge deck almost directly below me. The assigned stretcher bearers placed him in a stretcher and removed him to the wardroom which is our main battle dressing station. He personally directed this, having only momentarily lost consciousness, if at all.

That he was cognizant of his own condition was too evident to inquire about. He knew that only a near miracle could save him. His legs were paralyzed, multiple shrapnel wounds in the chest, abdomen and back with clear evidence of internal hemorrhage.

He spoke of you and your son with neither sadness nor worry. He would miss you and knew that you would miss him. There seemed to be in his mind a picture of peace and untold happiness which he would not destroy for temporary reality because he felt that in you his son would find everything which he desired that his and your son should have. That he loved you deeply, you know so much better than I could ever know; that he was sorry to leave you was a pure sorrow of parting unembittered by worry or concern. That he could leave life without bitterness or hysteria was the highest tribute that could be paid to his love for you, confidence in you, and esteem for you.

Finally, he requested that I write you but all that he had to say was, "Good-bye." He said you could take care of all else.

Blood transfusions were given during the night; a doctor came on board early the next morning. Dr. Taylor was either unconscious or heavily doped at all times after about 0300 on the 13th when his veins collapsed. We were unable to transfer him to a hospital ship until about 1600 on the 13th. He died on the x-ray table a little after 1700 on the 13th.

Dr. Causey of the LST 705, San Francisco was the doctor who came aboard on the morning of the 13th. Lt. Fife spent an almost continuous 18 hours at his side and was responsible for his still being alive when adequate medical aid was at hand.

The autopsy revealed that in addition to the above wounds a 50-caliber shell had exploded in the vicinity of his kidneys. Further findings were a fractured spine, perforated bladder and kidney, multiple perforations of the intestines.

Near the little town of Lingagen, looking out towards the wide gulf whose endless breakers roll on the white shores, palm fringed and spotted here and there with the palm-shroud huts of fishermen, lies your husband with many other brave men. They died not that we should sorrow for them, but receive strength from their sacrifice and devotion to make of this world for those who remain behind them that valley of contentment which they always hoped to find here.

This has been muddled and crude but perhaps somehow some few words here or there may be the answer which you wish. I do hope that his things have arrived. We tried to include everything which wouldn't spoil. Some Christmas packages since received have been turned over to welfare. Some were in bad shape; others I felt you would not mind our keeping. The little candles decorate our table on festive occasions — a gentle reminder of one absent.

Glendal T. Harper



1945 China Sea          1918 France
1940s Philippines          1945 Okinawa