This story originally stated that Elvin Woodrow Taylor was the oldest military veteran in Lowndes County. The Dispatch ran the following correction after the story was published: “A Veterans Day ceremony held in Columbus Saturday sponsored by Columbus Air Force Base recognized Elvin Taylor, 95, as the oldest veteran in Lowndes County. After verifying with the Lowndes County Veterans Service Office, The Dispatch acknowledged Taylor as such in an article that ran in Tuesday’s edition. The Dispatch is aware that there are other veterans in Columbus who are older than Taylor. Dr. Bob Gilbert, 99, served in the European theater in World War II. We regret any confusion Tuesday’s article may have caused.
When Elvin Woodrow Taylor was drafted into the Air Force in 1942, the last thing he thought he would be doing was flying planes.
He had been drafted the year before but was ultimately turned down because he had a bad left eye from a childhood accident. This time, he was told he would be doing limited service, meaning he could serve stateside, but not overseas.
Eight months later, he was a member of the 1st Air Transport Squadron, flying between India and China to supply bombs and gas for the 20th Bomber Command in World War II.
“They put me on flying status, which is a question mark because you’re supposed to have good eyesight and everything,” Taylor said. “You’re supposed to be in perfect shape if you’re on flying status.”
Whether flying B-24 bombers or working on F-5 engines, he spent the rest of his 30 years in the service working with planes.
He says there are few highlights from his long tenure, but he was in the air and witnessed atom bombs being dropped on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. He also flew celebrities to bases when they went to entertain the troops.
At 95 years, four months and 28 days old, Taylor was honored Saturday as one of Lowndes County’s oldest military veteran.
Before retiring as a Senior Master Sgt. at Columbus Air Force Base in 1972, his military journey took him all over the world with stops at Air Force bases in Gwam, Japan, California, Alaska, Indiana and Texas, as well as his home state of Alabama.
While he was stationed in California, he met his wife, Sophie, and they had three children. She is a veteran of the Korean War. They’ve been together for 67 years and now have a growing list of great-grandchildren.
As for why he ended up retiring to Lowndes County, he’s not sure.
“We were lost because we had been in the service all our life and had been living on the base most of the time,” Taylor said. “Everything was just new to us.”
After renting a shotgun shack near the base, they found six acres in Steens and put roots down. That’s where they’ve been ever since.
For the first time, Taylor says, since his retirement, he participated in a Veteran’s Day ceremony Saturday. He was honored for being one of the oldest veteran in Lowndes County. He, along with other military and local dignitaries, laid a wreath in honor of all veterans.
“It was real nice,” Taylor said. “I got to meet a bunch of good people. It kind of made me feel like I was back in the service a little bit.”
Looking back on his time serving the country, he says he never participated in combat and that the most important duty he had was to help those who were with him and make sure his aircraft was in good shape.
“I never did have to fight, didn’t have to shoot anybody and never got shot at like some of these guys,” he said. “(Flying supplies) was a job that had to be done that I was doing, so I enjoyed it.”
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.