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May 6, 2011

Lt. Cmdr. Jack H. Taylor, America’s first Navy SEAL

Filed under: World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 1:06 pm

Jack Hedrick Taylor was a Navy SEAL in World War II, before there was any such thing as a Navy SEAL.  After the war, Lt. Cmdr. Taylor received a Citation for the Navy Cross which described him as “chief of the Maritime Unit, Office of Strategic Services Detachment, United States Armed Forces, in the Middle East, from September 1943 to March 1944.”

Lt. Jack Taylor, the first Navy SEAL

The following quote from his Citation for the Navy Cross describes his heroic exploits during World War II:

Lieutenant Jack Taylor, USNR, personally commanded fourteen separate sorties to the Greek and Balkan enemy-occupied coasts. This activity was carried out despite intense enemy efforts to prevent any kind of coastal traffic whatsoever. Lieutenant Taylor, through clandestine operations, deserving of the highest commendation and careful planning and skillful navigation effected numerous evacuations of intelligence agents, doctors, nurses, and downed airmen. Tons of arms, ammunition, explosives, and other military supplies were delivered to Marshal Tito and other resistance forces through the efforts of Lieutenant Taylor. For three months, at all times surrounded by enemy forces, and on three occasions forced to flee from enemy searching parties, Lieutenant Taylor and his intelligence team operated in Central Albania and transmitted by clandestine radio important information regarding enemy troop movements, supply dumps, coastal fortifications, anti-aircraft installations and other military intelligence of great value to the Allied forces. Parachuting into enemy territory on the night of 13 October 1944, with a team of three Austrian deserter-volunteers, he had personally trained and briefed, he began a secret intelligence mission to Austria. Handicapped from the very start by failure of their plane to drop radio equipment, living in constant danger of capture, and the physical and mental strain on his men, the courage and energy of Lieutenant Taylor prevailed and throughout the remainder of October and November, the mission collected target intelligence of the highest value to the Allies. On 30 November, the eve of their departure for Italy, the party was captured by the Gestapo. Through four months of imprisonment in Vienna and one month in Mauthausen prison camp, he was subjected to the customary interrogation methods of the Gestapo. During his capture, Lieutenant Taylor injured his left arm seriously. With this handicap and also being forced to exist on starvation rations and work at hard labor, he resisted all attempts to force him to divulge security …. the brilliant results of his operations have been an essential aid to the victory of Allied Arms.

After Jack Taylor was liberated from the Mauthausen concentration camp, he gave a debriefing statement on May 30, 1945, which was witnessed by Dr. Stransky Milos, a Czech prisoner at Mauthausen. In his debriefing statement, which was written up by Dr. Milos, Lt. Jack Taylor told the story of the DUPONT mission in which he had participated. He also described the daily bombing of civilian targets in Vienna by American planes in the last days of the war, during which he was taken by his prison guards to an air raid shelter.

The Gestapo had told Taylor that, despite the fact that he was not wearing civilian clothes when he was captured, he was nevertheless charged with being a spy because he was leading a group of Austrian partisan traitors. (These men were Austrian POWs who had defected to the American side.) The trial to decide his fate was soon due to take place in Berlin.

The following quote is from Jack Taylor’s debriefing statement, as written by Dr. Milos:

After the Americans had liberated us, I discovered that I should have been executed on 28 April 1945, along with 27 other prisoners from Block 13. A friendly Czech, Mylos [Milos], who worked in the political department had, unknown to me, removed my paper and destroyed it so that I was not included with the 27.

Note that it was Dr. Milos, the guy who is writing the debriefing statement, who destroyed the execution order for Jack Taylor.

According to an addendum to the debriefing statement, an order was given to execute 27 prisoners who had been sent to Mauthausen on January 4, 1945.  Lt. Jack Taylor, who had arrived on April 1, 1945, was somehow included in this execution order.

The following quote is what Dr. Milos wrote in his addendum to the debriefing statement:

Execution ordered by Kommandeur der Sicherheitspolizei und des Sicherheitsdiestes in Wien based on martial law for 27 police-prisoners, many of the transport from 1.4.1945 took place on 28.4.1945 at Mauthausen afternoon. The execution of the Captain Taylor has not been carried out, because 3 days before I burnt his documents.

Keep in mind that the Germans were building Messerschmitt ME262 jet airplanes at Mauthausen and V-2 rockets at a sub-camp of Buchenwald, but they were allegedly too stupid to notice that the only copy of an execution order had been burned by an inmate.  Or did Dr. Milos make up this story in order to portray himself as a hero?  And to accuse the Germans of ordering an execution before a trial?

According to this debriefing statement, which you can read in full here, Lt. Taylor had tried to save the lives of the three Austrian partisans on his mission by proposing that he would request the American Air Force not to continue bombing civilian targets, residential areas, and cultural sites such as the Opera house in Vienna in exchange for the lives of the Austrians, but the Gestapo flatly refused.

After he was liberated from Mauthausen, Jack Taylor was promoted to Lt. Commander and he stayed in Europe to testify in the war crimes trials.

According to Lt. Taylor’s debriefing statement, there were two other American men at Mauthausen and two British citizens, one a pilot and one a spy in the SOE, when the camp was liberated, but none of them testified at the Nuremberg IMT, nor at the American Military Tribunal at Dachau. Lt. Taylor was the only American ever to testify for the prosecution in the Dachau trials.

The following is a description of the other Allied prisoners at Mauthausen, on May 5, 1945, from the debriefing statement of Lt. Jack Taylor:

Sgt. Louis Biagioni, ASN 12185480, OSS SI agent captured in northern Italy in summer 1944 and held for some months by Gestapo in Italy, then transferred to Mauthausen. On December 26th, he was taken to Linz, tried, condemned to death and returned to Mauthausen. He split wood in the garage while awaiting his execution.

Lionel Romney, Negro fireman, U.S. Merchant Marine, “S.S. Makis” sunk off Pantelleria 17 June 1940, captured by Italians and interned eventually in Mauthausen. He did lumberjack work in the forest for which he received extra food.

There were two British officers:

Captain John Starr, SOE, captured in France 1943 and through a series of remarkable circumstances eventually arrived at Mauthausen.

1st Lt. Toni Speare, RAF fighter pilot, downed in France, spring 1944, and captured in civilian clothes while trying to escape through the French underground. He was suffering from boils and temporary loss of sight and voice. Neither was forced to work. Both were fine types.

I previously blogged here about Jack Taylor’s testimony at the trial of 61 members of the Mauthausen staff.  You can read more about Jack Taylor here.

1 Comment

  1. […] There was one American  who was a prisoner at Mauthausen: Lt. Jack Taylor. You can read about him on this previous blog post: https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/lt-cmdr-jack-h-taylor-americas-first-navy-seal/ […]

    Pingback by Today is the 70ieth anniversary of the liberation of the Mauthausen concentration camp | Scrapbookpages Blog — May 6, 2015 @ 7:29 am


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