Robert Taylor, Veteran (Part 2)

A Hero On Screen and Off

Given his age when World War II broke out, Robert Taylor could have spent the war selling war bonds and making movies supporting the Allies.  He didn’t.  Mr. Taylor volunteered for the Navy and wanted to serve in combat.  His deployment was delayed by the filming of “Song of Russia” and he was too old for combat.  Nonetheless he served to the best of his ability.  When the Korean war began, Robert Taylor again indicated his willingness to serve but by this time he was way past the age limit for pilots.

Lyndon Johnson, center; Jack Dempsey, third from left; Robert Taylor, second from right during a War Bonds tour.

The following excerpt is from the web site Together We Served

With the arrival of World War II, Taylor entered in the U.S. Navy where he served under his given name of Spangler Arlington Brugh. In 1943, at the age of 32, he enlisted in the Naval Air Corps; was commissioned as a lieutenant but was deemed to old for active/overseas service. As USNR, he became a flight instructor for the Naval Air Transport division and served from 1943 to 1945.

He contributed greatly to the war effort, serving as a flying instructor and narrating the 1944 documentary “The Fighting Lady”. He also directed 17 United States Navy training films during World War II. (emphasis mine)

Receiving his wings. Left: Commander Paul E. Gillespie; Center Captain Dixie Kiefen, hero of the Battle of Midway.

His flying interest emerged after the movie Flight Command (1940), when he bought a single-engine plane and took lessons for a pilot’s license. After World War II –MGM bought him a twin-engine Beechcraft which he flew regularly until the early 1960s. He was also an avid skeet-shooter.

This is from Memories of Training” by Captain Matt Portz, USNR (Ret.)

Several Hollywood luminaries were at Livermore. The biggest was then reigning matinee idol Robert Taylor. As a lieutenant junior grade and a flight instructor, he came from NAS (Naval Air Station) New Orleans a few weeks after me. His arrival, however, caused much larger fanfare: most of the Waves, newspaper reporters and even the skipper assembled to greet him.

Original caption: Lt. Robert Taylor, USNR shown in Navy fighter plane during World War II.

Taylor flew cadets like the rest of us and seemed to enjoy the flight and ready room routine. He was accepted by his peers, but orders soon moved him from from the cockpit into movie-making for the Navy.

There are also some wonderful clips of Mr. Taylor talking to journalist Hy Gardner at the BBC Motion Gallery.  In one Clip Gardner describes some difficulties Clark Gable had while serving in the army in World War II.  He then asks Mr. Taylor if his celebrity caused similar problems.  Mr. Taylor replies that it didn’t but that he planned his strategy carefully for reporting to the Navy.  First he got “a real butch haircut.”  Then he shaved his mustache and bought an old car, “a really old car,” to make the point he was a regular guy.  It seems to have worked.

The photos below come from Dad’s Navy Photos by Bill and Sharon Krause.  I purchased the prints from SmugMug.

Original caption: Just one of the stringent requirements the Navy exacts for winning those gold wings was formation flying. Model planes are set on a board in correct flying position to explain this difficult task to Lieutenant Robert Taylor and members of his Instructor-Under-Training class before they make an attempt at this formation “upstairs.”

Original Caption: Concentration won well above average grades for Robert Taylor. He realized that there was no time for day dreaming during engine instruction class at the Naval College for Primary Flight Instructors.

About giraffe44

I became a Robert Taylor fan at the age of 15 when his TV show, "The Detectives" premiered. My mother wanted to watch it because she remembered Mr. Taylor from the thirties. I took one look and that was it. I spent the rest of my high school career watching Robert Taylor movies on late night TV, buying photos of him, making scrapbooks and being a typical teenager. College, marriage and career intervened. I remember being sad when Mr. Taylor died. I mailed two huge scrapbooks to Ursula Thiess. I hope she got them. Time passed, retirement, moving to Florida. Then in 2012 my husband Fred pointed that there were two Robert Taylor movies that evening on Turner Classic Movies--"Ivanhoe" and "Quentin Durward." I watched both and it happened all over again. I started this blog both for fans and for people who didn't know about Robert Taylor. As the blog passes 200,000 views I'm delighted that so many people have come by and hope it will help preserve the legacy of this fine actor and equally good man.
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2 Responses to Robert Taylor, Veteran (Part 2)

  1. Mr. Taylor not only directed the flight-training films, he appeared! in them, giving truly excellent instructions that even the people at home could follow and understand. I wish I could have had him as my flight instructor. What a swell guy.


    • giraffe44 says:

      Yes, Peter, I’ve watched a couple of the films. Mr. Taylor was wonderful. I even read somewhere that the basic one is still used today. Thanks for writing. Judith


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