Robert Taylor, born in Malden, MA, was just eighteen years old when he joined the Air Force in the fifties. He joined because he wanted to “see some of the world” that he “might not otherwise see.” Although, as expected, he remembers that his family was not, “overjoyed with the idea.” One of the things he missed the most was his family and his mother’s “home cooking and baking.” “Although,” he joked, “being away from home helped [his] waistline.”
Taylor’s basic training took place at Sampson Air Force Base in Geneva, New York. There he learned “the basics of military life and discipline.” In the service his work involved, “troubleshooting and [repairing] aircraft instruments and autopilots.” Some of his most distinctive memories are of, “competition between fighter squadrons.”
Taylor’s squadron, the 431 Fighter Interceptor Squadron, faced many other squadrons from Southern Europe. “The contest,” he reminisced, “consisted of shooting rockets from the plane at a large target,” that was, “being towed a long distance behind [a] tow plane.” His squadron won first place and he mentioned the pride he felt in their win.
One of his most difficult situations during his time of service was centered around a return trip to Libya after a weekend excusrion to Paris. “It was three o’clock in the morning,” he stated, “ and one of the engines on [the] plane caught on fire.” He and the others on the plane were fortunate enough to be near an Italian air base on the island of Sardinia and they made a safe emergency landing.
Taylor believes that service in the Air Force did not change his perspective. He admitted that he was “too young to form any meaningful perspectives.” However, his advice to those who are considering serving their country would be to “after much thought and careful consideration, follow your heart.” But he also admits that at age eighteen, “sometimes it is difficult to know that direction.” The service that veterans offer in protecting one's country is invaluable. Their bravery and courage does not go unnoticed in the Malden community as Memorial Day is celebrated with an annual parade that was held on May 25, 2015.