Cpl. Robert Taylor 1947-1968

When I wrote about ’64 classmate Gary Schemel being killed in Vietnam, Bill East quickly pointed out that the Class of 1964 had also lost Bobby Taylor in the war.

Sondra Cook chimed in, “Both Gary and Bobby were great guys. Bobby went to Washington Elem. and was a one semester behind me until the infamous Cape summer school when the “B” classes made up the semester of work. Gary moved to Cape when we were in Jr. High. My eyes still tear every time I go to the Vietnam Memorial or see the Visiting Wall and find their names.”

Bob’s name on Freedom Corner

A plaque on a pillar in Capaha Park’s Freedom Corner lists some of Cape Girardeau’s Vietnam casualties. There was some discussion here about other Cape names.

Larry Saddler: “[Gary] was a great guy. I lived within blocks of both Gary and Bob Taylor (also a great guy). Looking back I think they both died for absolutely nothing. I’m a big flag waver, but I think we wasted many lives with that war and I wonder if in the future many supporters will think we are wasting lives in our current conflicts. I think of Gary, Bob, and also Earl Tharp often, wondering what their lives cold have been if they had lived. I’m also thankful they were willing to serve. God bless them all.

[A Missourian story reported Earl Tharp, the 20-year-old son of a Cape Girardeau minister, was killed in June 1970 when enemy mortal fire hit his base camp in Vietnam.]

Burt Lehman: “I remember them both. Bob Taylor was like an older brother. We had great times together. I served in Vietnam and I am proud of my service to my country. The war was won after Tet of 1968, but somehow turned into defeat by media and politics. Gave the NVA and Viet Cong just enough encouragement to carry on the war. We were ultimately fighting “for” each other so I don’t believe that any of us died in vain. We still embrace as brothers no matter what our politics are. I have the greatest respect for Gary and Bob for the sacrifice they made.”

 First flag for Parade of Flags

A Missourian Out of the Past column about a 1987 story said “Early response has been good for a Parade of Flags that will be on display near the war memorial in Cape County Park on Memorial Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day; the first burial flag turned in as part of the display honored Robert L. Taylor Jr., who was killed in the Vietnam War.

Bob’s brother, Tom, honored his memory

Tom Taylor posted a tribute to his brother on his Facebook page. I asked for permission to reprint the photos and some of Tom’s remarks. Most of these were downloaded from Facebook. Here’s Bob as a Troop 15 Eagle Scout in 1963.

Bob as SEMO student

Tom said that Bob attended Southeast Missouri State College in 1966-67.

Worked as a lineman

Bob’s deep tan was a result of his work as a lineman the summer before he joined the military, Tom said. The picture was taken at his home, probably in 1966.

Bob Taylor in Vietnam

From Tom: Bobby (far right) with his squadmates in Vietnam; probably the last photo of him before his death.

In the 1986 movie  “Platoon,” actor Willam Dafoe played Sgt. Elias and actor Tom Berenger played the scar-faced Sgt. Barnes. Elias treated his men with respect, and took new soldiers under his wing, teaching them how to stay alive. Barnes treated his men with contempt, putting the newest soldiers out front like cannon fodder.

From all accounts, Bobby was like Elias. He always took new soldiers under his wing and taught them how to survive.

Virtual Wall profile

Here is the Bob’s profile on the Virtual Wall. It’s an incredible resource. [The following information is Copyright 1997-2012 www.VirtualWall.org, Ltd.]

PERSONAL DATA: Home of Record: Cape Girardeau, MO; Date of birth: 03/10/1947

MILITARY DATA: Service: Army of the United States; Grade at loss: E3; Rank: Corporal; Note: Posthumous Promotion as indicated; ID No: 56586679; MOS: 11B10: Infantryman; Unit: C CO, 3RD BN, 60TH INFANTRY, 9TH INF DIV, USARV

CASUALTY DATA: Start Tour: 10/31/1967; Incident Date: 03/08/1968; Casualty Date: 03/08/1968; Age at Loss: 20; Location: Dinh Tuong Province, South Vietnam; Remains: Body recovered; Casualty Type: Hostile, died outright; Casualty Reason: Ground casualty; Casualty Detail: Gun or small arms fire

ON THE WALL: Panel 43E Line 062

Bob was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. His citation says, in part, “Through his untiring efforts and professional ability, he consistently obtained outstanding results. He was quick to grasp the implications of new problems with which he faced as a result of the ever changing situations inherent in a counterinsurgency operation and to find ways and means to solve those problems. The energetic application of his extensive knowledge has materially contributed to the efforts of the United States mission to the Republic of Vietnam to assist that country in ridding itself of the Communist threat to its freedom.

“His initiative, zeal, sound judgement and devotion to duty have been in the highest tradition of the Unite States Army and reflect great credit on him and the military service.”




28 Replies to “Cpl. Robert Taylor 1947-1968”

  1. Ken, both tributes to Gary and Bob – well done! And to Larry Sadler, my old Red Sox teammate – well said!

  2. Ken,
    Nice job on this memorial day…I forgot about Bob Taylor. He and I were in the same PE class when I was freshman…a really big guy especially when I was 5′ 4″ or so and 100 lbs.

  3. Ken, thank you for doing this. Being in Canada over the US Memorial Day feels very far away and this brings me closer to the meaning of the day. Most of the soldiers we lose are so very young. I often wish that I and people of my age group, who have experienced so much joy in our lives, could be the ones that go to war.

  4. Very nice photos and tribute to Robert Taylor .
    I graduated with his sister, Karen .

  5. I didnt know Bob but knew Tom and their father Bob Sr.
    The VFW post 3838 is co named for for Bob. The Clippard-Wilson-Taylor Post. All were the first from Cape to loose their lives in WWII-Korea and Vietnam respectively.
    Bob was all ready a member of Post 3838 having been enrolled by his father as soon as he was eligible.
    The Post, my father and numerous members were responsible for originating and exicuting the avenue of flags at the park.
    I had the opportunity to view the traveling wall when it was in my hometown of Grapevine, TX and the emotions overwhelmed me as I found each and every CHS classmate that gave their ALL for the freedoms we have today. My thought too was what would they have achieved? They never got married. Had their first child. Gave their daughter away. Held their grandchildren.
    God Bless them and their families for their sacrifices.
    God Bless all those serving now. Bring them home safe.
    Honor those who sacrfiiced by helping those who survived.

  6. Ken,
    An excellent Memorial Day tribute to two young men who died for our freedom. JLB would
    be proud!

  7. How does a family deal with the loss of a 20-year-old son? The Taylor and Thorpe families had to do just that.

    Time moves on. Today these two young men should be retiring from their jobs, looking forward to visits from their grandchildren, and enjoying life.

    How does a family deal with the loss of such fine young sons?

  8. Got to see Bob Taylor’s sister Jeannie on Memorial Day. He will always seem like my “big” brother.

  9. God bless all of you! I am touched by each of your comments on my brother, Bobby. We must never forget our heroes! Please keep his memory alive. Thank you!
    Bobs’s big sister, Jeanne

    1. got your message on my phone machine you did not leave a number yes I remember Bobby well from vietnam

      my number is 231 898 6041

  10. I am Jeanne Kelpe’s adopted daughter from Vietnam, I want to thank Ken for posting this… although I’ve never met Bobby I feel a very special bond with him as share his exact birthday and I am a survivor of Operation Baby Lift 1975, I also have a special place in my ♥ for every single person that has served in the Military…~~THANK YOU~~ from the bottom of my heart… for if not for you all, my family, and GODabove… I would NOT BE HERE TODAY…Melinda S. Kelpe-Eubanks

    1. I had not thought about Operation Baby Lift in years, then I see two references to it in a couple of years. When I was looking up some info about Vietnam casualties, I saw this listing of women killed in the war.

      Capt. Mary Therese Klinker – “a flight nurse assigned to Clark Air Base in the Philippines, was on the C-5A Galaxy which crashed on April 4 outside Saigon while evacuating Vietnamese orphans. This is known as the Operation Babylift crash. From Lafayette, IN, she was 27. She was posthumously awarded the Airman’s Medal for Heroism and the Meritorious Service Medal.”

      I’m glad you weren’t on that flight.

  11. Ken – I think that Mindy Kelpe might have been a survivor of the crash you have refered to. Jeannie Kelpe, Is this true? Burt

  12. Ken & Bert yes, I am one of the 150 or so that survived that horrific crash on the C-5A that day 37 yrs ago. I have since reconnected with a lot of adoptees but do not fly or have not returned to Vietnam. I have even talked to Bud Dennis Traynor, the pilot of my plane which I label a Hero ❤

    1. Amazing. I couldn’t recall if there had been more than one flight with that operation.

      Here’s a link that says that more than 3,000 orphans were evacuated on this mission. Mindy’s was the first flight to leave. “Approximately 12 minutes after takeoff, the locks on the rear cargo door of the C-5 failed, and the aft pressure door, part of the loading ramp, and the cargo door, blew off, severely damaging the flight controls in the tail. The pilots attempted an emergency landing at Tan Son Nhut airbase, but the plane crashed in a marsh two miles short of the runway. The impact crushed the cargo deck, where almost all of the orphans were kept. There were 138 people killed in the crash, including 78 children and 35 DAO personnel.”

  13. Hey there Centralites. Thanks for remembering Bobby and Gary. Bobby was one of the friendly and likable people I knew. Gary lived right up the hill from me on Fountain. He was a good kid also. Both of the Taylor girls were really sweet people too. Both families were very nice.

    Martha Middlebrooks, class of 61, died on the C-5A airlifting babies out of Vietnam. I was home on leave with my fiance when that happened. I remember watching the evening news and looking at all the panic taking place. I said to my mother “I hope Martha doesn’t get caught up in all of that panic from people trying to get out before the North Vietnamese got to them. The very next day I looked up the hill on Amethyst and I saw a Black car stop at Lois Middlebrooks house, Martha’s mom. I had a horrible feeling and I turned to my mother and fiance telling them that I think Martha didn’t make it. Sure enough the people had come to tell her mother that she was one of the unlucky ones on the C-5 that day. Most of the people survived. I guess she was just in the wrong place on the plane. Martha had survived a horrific car accident, but she was not to be so lucky that time. She was about thirty one when she joined her ancestors. Larry Don I agree with your statement wholeheartedly. Ask yourselves WHO BENEFITS from these invasions and destruction of innocent countries? Certainly not us. I support the troops because I was one for many years, but I don’t support the greedy, Satanic government who uses our children like cattle fodder and keeps theirs at home.

    Live long and prosper! 🙂

  14. Earl Tharp and I did a lot of running around before he left for the military. He had a Honda 90 in high school and moved up to a Triumph, I think, the summer after we graduated. We lost touch when I moved to St. Louis for a while and then I heard he was lost in the war.
    Earl had a brother but we never hear about him or the rest of the family. If anyone has contact information on them share if you can.
    Earl was a really great guy who has never been forgotten by this classmate. I too wonder what would have been. RIP Earl Tharp Central Class of “68”

    1. I am Earl’s brother, I was 20 months younger than Earl. My name is Stephen (CHS Class of 69). Thanks for your comments about Earl. I live in Houston, TX and my sister Jane Woodruff lives in Purcellville, VA. My email is swt4945@gmail.com.

  15. Amazing stories. both of the heros of war and the rescue of the children. I am privledgee to know the family of Bobby and Mindy for many years. They truely are an exceptional family.

  16. Oh yes, I forgot to mention why Martha was on the C-5A in the first place. Martha worked for the Red Cross, or some other agency that was in Vietnam lending a hand wherever it was needed. My mum may have known exactly what Martha was doing over there as she and Martha’s mother were good friends who lived just a 100 yards away from each other. I was stationed at McGuire AFB, N.J 08641 at the time.
    Martha was also the first African American man or woman on world history at Cape Central to be nominated for Basketball Queen. Jane Campbell won it that year You can see Martha on page 90 of the 61 yearbook. Martha was a tomboy and so was Jackie Morrison. tubby and I thought we were pretty rough, but Jackie and Martha used to grab us when we got to fresh and put us in a headlock from which we could not escape. After all they were three years older than we were. 🙂 They pretty much ruled our neighborhood until we bigger and stronger on them. My 2nd cousin Howard “Pinty” “Reverend” McGee dated Martha during her later high school years. They made a great couple.

    You can see Marthas name mentioned in most of the links at this site below:

  17. I visited Washington DC Vietnam Memorial shortly after it was dedicated. I inquired of a park ranger why I didn’t see Gary Schemel’s name on the wall. He said that if you didn’t actually die in battle your name didn’t get included. I was shocked at the indifference and signed a petition to have the rules changed. He said it would probably change and that all who died as as result of their service would most likely be included some day. I didn’t go back to find out. As I recall, Gary (who couldn’t swim) drowned in Vietnam from falling out of a river boat of some sort. How sad.

  18. The Taylor family and we grew up together on the same block in Cape. I have not met a more beautiful, compassionate family. Thanks for posting all this information.

  19. Bob, Tom and our families went to Maple Avenue United Methodist Church together. We had some great times together. I remember Bob every memorial day. A great tribute to all of the Central High graduates who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. The Taylor’s were a very beautiful family, caring, loving family and I remember my dad and Bob’s dad coaching the Red Sox in Little League sometime in the late 60’s. Tom in fact was an excellent pitcher for the Red Sox during his days playing for them. Thanks for posting this.

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