Now, most World War II veterans are battling bad knees and fading hearing, but almost 70 years ago they faced German tanks and Italian bullets and Japanese mines.
Many U.S. servicemen were not able to grow old enough to experience arthritis, and some weren’t even able to be properly laid to rest.
Although Jarrold Clovis Taylor’s family had a memorial in September 1944 and a plaque with his name is in the Ector County Cemetery, his body was never there, and for almost 66 years, no one knew where he or any of the other 77 sailors from the USS Flier had gone to rest.
* * *
Clovis Taylor was born March 1, 1921, in Electra to J.G. and Beaulah Taylor; he was their first child. Nine more siblings survived to join him during the next 17 years, and his 87-year-old sister Eunice Wittie, now of Stephenville, remembers him well.
“I envied him because he was so good looking, and I was a girl and thought I should be the pretty one,” Eunice said. “He was well-liked by everybody.”
Newspaper clippings preserved by the family chronicle of some of the awards Clovis received while in high school in Electra, such as most representative boy and president of the freshman class of 1938. He also worked at the movie theater, for the same people who owned the newspaper, and was a member of the Texas National Guard.
“He was a very active person,” Eunice said.
In March 1940, Clovis joined the Navy and went to San Diego. During the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, he was on the battleship USS Pennsylvania, which was hit but still able to sail. During 1942, he saw several battles, including Midway.
He then enrolled in submarine school at New London, Conn., graduated from there in March 1943, and began his service on the USS Flier, a Gato-class submarine.
Navy reports say that during the Flier’s three patrols, it earned one battle star and sank a total of 10,380 tons of Japanese shipping.
But Eunice said the last time she saw Clovis, he had a bad feeling about another patrol on the Flier.
” ‘Sis, if I go back on the Flier, it’ll be my third time out, and there’s an old Navy superstition that the third time you go out on the same submarine, I probably won’t be coming home again,’ ” she quoted Clovis as saying.
On Aug. 13, 1944, the USS Flier struck a naval mine in the Balabac Strait of the Philippines and quickly sank.
Fourteen people made it off of the ship, but only eight survived the swim and were rescued. Electrician’s mate, first class, Jarrold Clovis Taylor wasn’t one of them.
The Taylors had moved to Odessa in the summer of 1943, but in September 1944 Eunice was back in Electra visiting a friend. A telegram about the Flier came to her grandparents, and Electra being a small town, the news found its way to her. She took got on a bus and went back to Odessa.
“I cried the whole way home,” Eunice said.
Eunice said the Navy later sent a letter to their mother telling them that Clovis’ duty put him below deck, and only those above deck had been able to get out and swim.
“We lost all hope after that,” Eunice said.
* * *
For many years, no one knew exactly where the Flier had been sunk.
In 2008, the last surviving crew member of the Flier died, but Ensign Al Jacobson spent his life searching for the sub, and his family gave a production company named YAP Films all of the information Jacobson had collected during his life.
In spring 2009, father-and-son professional divers Mike and Warren Fletcher of the TV show “Dive Detectives” used that information to locate the wreckage of a submarine in the same area the Flier was lost. YAP Films gave the findings to the U.S. Navy, which announced Feb. 1 that it had determined the wreck could only be that of the Flier.
March 19, Mary Bentz of the USS Flier Family Search Team contacted the Odessa American about locating family members of Clovis Taylor because records showed he had relatives in the area.
A search turned up four surviving siblings who lived in Odessa: brothers Duane and Dearl Taylor and sisters Glenda Haynie and Jeri Noe.
Duane, who said he was too young to remember Clovis well, provided an album of family photos and press clippings of Clovis, and the contact information of some of his family, including Eunice Wittie.
Sisters Frances Dumond and Leona Wimberly currently live in Junction; brother and WWII Army veteran Robert Taylor died in 1997 in Odessa, and sister Joletta Taylor died in 2005 in Kerville.
“The whole family has been so elated that this has come up,” Eunice said. “We have talked all day long. … We can finally have a closure about this now.”
Bentz, whose uncle went down with the submarine the USS Grunion in 1942, was also quite pleased.
“This has just been great,” Bentz said. “This is exciting news.”
Bentz said that only five of the 52 submarines lost during WWII have been located, but at last count, only eight crewmembers of the Flier remained needing family contacts.
The Flier Search Team is planning a memorial ceremony for the men of USS Flier on Aug. 13 at the Great Lakes Naval Memorial and Museum located in Muskegon, Mich.
“We have to never forget these people,” Bentz said.
“It’s a sad situation that boys had to fight for the county, and we were so proud of them,” Eunice said. “Hopefully it will never happen again.”
- Jarrold Clovis Taylor (1921-1944)
- Eunice Wittie (1924-)
- Robert Taylor (1926-1997)
- Frances Dumond (1927-)
- Leona Wimberly (1929-)
- Duane Taylor (1931-)
- Joletta Taylor (1933-2005)
- Glenda Haynie (1935-)
- Dearl Taylor (1938-)
- Jeri Noe (1943-)