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Veteran's History Project - Lyle D. Tayson

 

Lyle D. Tayson

Sergeant

U.S. Army

A/B Seaman

Merchant Marines

Editor's Note: This story is one of many American Veteran accounts published in The Sidney Sun-Telegraph. The writer, who is from Potter, is conducting the interviews as part of the Library of Congress' Veterans History Project.

When the leadership of the U.S. government engaged America in World War II, there was a tremendous amount of work to be done.

Many of our young men and women had to be trained in the branches of the military they had signed up for or were drafted into. The war machines and weaponry had to be produced and transported to the theaters of war. Our young warriors had to get to the fight.

The food, clothing, and ammunition had to be shipped "over there" – in quantity. Pleasure boats were turned into troop ships. War planes made their way to safe bases. The best way to get supplies to the troop was by contracting with the Merchant Marines.

In 1942, at the tender age of 17, Lyle Tayson found work with them. No older than he was, he was placed in various positions aboard the ship – loading items, helping secure cargo, cleaning, painting, guarding and discharging cargo plus any and all other jobs available.

When the shipments were readied and assembled, the Merchant Marine ships became a long convoy. There were ships ahead and behind as far as he could see – usually 40 or 50 ships per convoy. They were protected by destroyer escorts of the U.S. Navy. The ships went straight to their destination. Often, a couple of hundred miles from shore, they were attacked by u-boats, surface ships and airplanes.

There were many threats to ships and the men. The Merchant Marines were armed with only 20mm anti-aircraft guns. A young man situated just next to him was firing the gun when enemy aircraft attacked. The man was hit in the head with debris and knocked out. The crew did what they could then contacted a destroyer that took him to a hospital ship. After good care, the man was able to return to his ship in three weeks.

One of the shipments included carrying a railroad engine. It was loaded onto the carrying ship with cranes and ropes and off-loaded – in England – the same way. They also carried tanks, jeeps, deuce-and-a-half trucks, etc.

The ship he sailed on delivered goods to European Theater of Operations and to the Pacific. One of his trips aboard the ship was one that took them through the Panama Canal. To get the large ships through the canal, the men aboard got a chance to go ashore to see the sights and carry on as required. Tayson liked Panama. He liked the people, the geography and the "life" there.

In 1948, he talked to other young men he had met. One of them talked about Panama and his duty in Panama as a soldier. Tayson contacted a recruiter for the Army. The recruiter had Tayson take several tests and the physical examination. The recruiter assured him that he would go to Panama if he joined the Signal Corps.

He was sent to his first training station, at Fort Knox, Ky. He obtained his first military haircut there and received his initial issue of clothing. He found no difficulty in surviving basic training at this armor training center. He knew that he had to adjust and get along with others as a unit. He was somewhat older that most of the other trainees. He had the usual duties of a new soldier. He served his time in the mess hall doing KP, stood fire watch and walked the inside fence lines as a sentry. When the platoon sergeants learned that Tayson had been through most of the war, they found that they had quite a bit in common.

Upon graduation from basic training, he was sent to Fort Monmouth, N.J., to learn the essentials of communication. One of the tasks was to learn the Morse Code. To be proficient with it, the Army standard was for the soldier to send and/or receive messages at so many words per minute. Tayson didn't meet the standard.

He was sent on to a replacement depot at Camp Stoneman, Calif. This site was situated about 40 miles northeast of San Francisco. After WWII, it became a separation point for many soldiers anxious to get back to their families.

Tayson figured out that he was going to be doing details and menial chores. At one point, he stopped by the camp's sign shop. He asked them if they needed any help. The commander of the shop asked him if he was talented in painting and lettering – and soon, he was assigned there.

Next, he was sent to the island of Okinawa. The Army had a Signal Corps unit there. They weren't sure what to do with him. He was a handyman for a time.

He went to a Corps of Engineers building nearby his assigned unit. He contacted the Officer in Charge and asked if they needed a draftsman. Very soon he was re-assigned to be a draftsman with the Corps of Engineers while a member of the Signal Corps. He served in Okinawa for 14 months.

Orders sent him back to the U.S. Next, he went to Fort Belvoir, Va. Again, he found his own work. He learned where the offices of Art and Visual Aids were. They published some of the field manuals and training updates used by the Army. He looked inside to see workers and drawing tables.

The commander saw the "intruder" and soon they struck up a conversation. Since Tayson wasn't assigned to a specific office, he asked if they could use an artist. For the last two years of his Army career, he was an artist illustrator here. He remains thankful for the mentorship of Lt. Von Seth. He found his work to be there to be a very positive experience. Alas, there was no duty in Panama.

After hours and on weekends, he would go into Washington D.C., to see the sights, monuments and memorials. He wouldn't go into the District at night ... parts of it were too dangerous. Tayson recalled seeing some of the USO shows. He kept in touch with his family by letters and they sent pictures as well.

Throughout his Army career, he found his own work. He started out with menial tasks, then found work he could do.

In 1952, his Army career closed out. He had many close friendships in the service but to him, there was no sense in maintaining contact. They all went separate ways. He liked the Army. It was good for him. It was the best thing of his life.

He resumed his work in the Merchant Marines for another five years. This time the work was not so much in transporting war goods and supplies. He traveled to Japan a few times and other ports in the world.

Over the next several years, he was an artist for advertising agencies/services. He became a freelance artist. While traveling, he found an art gallery in Cheyenne, Wyo. He happened to have some of his work with him and on showing it, the owner of the gallery bought his inventory. In time, he became a resident of Cheyenne, drawing pictures of Native Americans.

Good work Sgt. Lyle Tayson! Thank you for your service!

 

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