What happens when a young African American pilot trains to defend his country from the air then discovers that the U.S. Army really doesn’t want him, and worse, won’t let him fight? Former U.S. Army Field Artillery liaison pilot Welton I. Taylor answered that question and more with the release of his long-awaited memoir, Two Steps from Glory, a richly detailed, eye-opening account of one young pilot’s confrontations with the enemy and the segregated U.S. Army during World War II. Few African American veterans have written as candidly about the indignities suffered at the hands of fellow countrymen, but Major Taylor survived both Jim Crow and the war by doing what he loved best: flying. Stationed on Army posts from California to Tennessee then deployed to the South Pacific with the 93rd Infantry Division, Taylor flew his tiny, fabric-covered L-4H all over the U.S. and the Solomon Islands, dodging more close calls in flight than most pilots have in a lifetime, much less survive. Taylor’s was the only plane still flying over California as a massive sandstorm blew in over the desert, and he was undoubtedly the only pilot to survive a forced landing among the garage-sized boulders that gave Nevada’s Boulder Dam its name. Taylor went on to fly scores of liaison missions in the South Pacific until a sudden tropical storm blew him into a mountainside on Morotai some 33 miles deep into enemy territory.
Two Steps from Glory’s vivid account of how Taylor survived that crash and many other hair-raising aerial misadventures will delight pilots and aviation enthusiasts alike. Students of history will also appreciate the summary of African Americans’ 200-year long battle for equality in the U.S. Armed Forces (see the Foreword and Afterword) that places Taylor’s personal saga into the wider context of military history, aviation history, and the civil rights struggle.Welton I. Taylor obtained his B.A. degree and his commission in the Field Artillery from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in June of 1941 then returned to his alma mater at war’s end to get his M.S. and Ph.D. in bacteriology on the G.I. bill. Over a stellar career that subsequently spanned 50 years, he became a world-renowned food microbiologist whose work was honored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 1985 and whose ground-breaking inventions are still used worldwide to certify foods Salmonella-free.
In 2005, at the age of 85, Dr. Taylor was invited to join Chicago’s local chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. and he seized the opportunity to return to his lifelong passion: flying. From then until his death in November 2012 (three months after publishing Two Steps from Glory), he helped the Airmen introduce inner-city children to the joys and challenges of flight and educated scores of academic, corporate, and civic groups on the triumphs and frustrations of the Tuskegee Airmen and other black heroes of WWII.Two Steps from Glory is edited by Dr. Taylor’s daughter, Karyn J. Taylor, a Strategic Communications consultant and former award-winning producer/director/writer for CBS News’ 60 Minutes, ABC News’ Closeup and 20/20, PBS’ Frontline, and more.