Staff Sergeant Eugene B. Taggart Jr. (1919 - 2010)

8th Army Air Force, WWII - Europe, B17 Tail Gunner, Purple Heart, POW

Veteran Gene Taggart

Remembering - Staff Sergeant Eugene B. Taggart Jr. - MZHS "Hero of Air Power"

Eugene Taggart Jr. (1919-2010), son of Eugene B. and Zelia Schrecongost Taggart Sr., was born in Indiana, Pa and graduated from high school there, and attended Carnegie Technical Institute. However, the world war was escalating after Pearl Harbor, and Eugene soon joined the Army Air Forces in January, 1942, was trained as a aircrew gunner, and was soon to be deployed as a B17 tail gunner to the 8th Air Force, 92nd Bombardment Group, 407th bomber squadron in RAF Podington Airfield, North Bedfordshire, England. The 92nd bombardment group was known as -“Fame’s Favored Few”. 

On February 24, 1944, Eugene’s first mission (and the crew’s first) of the war in Europe was as the tail gunner of his B17 during the famous campaign called “Big Week”. From February 20-25, 1944, the Army Air Forces launched “Operation Argument”, a series of missions against the Third Reich that became known as Big Week. Missions 237, 238 and 239 were flown against the German aircraft industry; 7 B-17s are lost. Heavy clouds caused over half the bombers dispatched to return without bombing. The B17G piloted by Lt John W Rapp in which Staff Sergeant Taggart flew was one of those B17s that continued on. Their targets were industrial centers in Schweinfurt, Germany. 

Their B17 was shot down by a German fighter by direct hits after crossing the German border inbound, and had to make a forced crash landing near Cloppenburg, Germany. Three crew members were killed in action and the 7 others were captured by the Germans and were held as Prisoners of War in Germany. Eugene Taggart was one of the POWs and was held for 14 months in three different POW camps including the infamous German POW camp in Poland- called Stalag Luft IV. The POWs were evacuated in February, 1946 by a “Death March” which lasted about 89 days and over 600 miles. Victory-Europe (VE) day was approaching (May, 1945). Eugene with the other POW crew members was liberated in April, 1945. Though often overlooked by history, the Death March (aka- the “Shoe Leather Express”) across Germany ranks as one of the most outrageous cruelties ever committed against American fighting men. Another POW on the Death March was fellow Valley AAF aircrew member and Hero honoree-Clark Ingram. The war was over, and soon Eugene was on his way home.

Eugene’s tour of duty was quick but couldn’t be called easy with 14 months in the Stalag Luft IV POW camp and the Death March through Germany. He earned the Purple Heart and a POW medal for his services. After the war he returned home, in 1950 married Donna Mae Compton, and after she died he married Nancy Lynn Najarian. He worked as a draftsman for Reuter-Stokes. He was a member of the Valley American Legion, Weedville UM Church, enjoyed his children and grandchildren, and his Honda (see picture above). Around 1990 he moved to Benezette, then Weedville with his family. Eugene recently passed away in February, 2010 with burial in Greenwood Cemetery in Indiana, Pa.

We are pleased to honor Eugene Taggart as one of the Mt. Zion Historical Society’s “Heroes of Air Power”. 

Eugene B. Taggart Jr. - 03/01/2010

Eugene B. Taggart Jr., 90, River Road, Weedville, a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Force, died Sunday at DuBois Regional Medical Center.

Born July 23, 1919 in Indiana, he was the son of the late Eugene B. and Zelia Schrecongost Taggart Sr. He was married to Donna Mae Compton in 1950. She preceded him in death in 1977. He later married Nancy Lynn Najarian of Glencliff, N.H.

He was a graduate of Indiana High School and the Carnegie Technical Institute. He worked as a draftsman for Reuter-Stokes, Inc. of Cleveland. He was a member of the Weedville United Methodist Church and the Weedville American Legion.

He was a Staff Sergeant with the Army Air Force 92nd Bomb Group, 407th Bomb Squadron, where he served as a tail gunner on a B17 which was shot down over Germany where he was held as a POW for 14 months. Born and raised in Indiana, he lived in New Hampshire from 1983-90, some years in Benezette, and has been a Weedville resident since 1992.

He is survived by two daughters, Mary (Jan) Stewart of Weedville, and Jean R. Taggart of Boston; two stepsons, James Weikert of Bozeman, Mont., and Jeffrey Weikert of Crestview, Fla; a stepdaughter, Shannon Weikert of Florence, S.C.; a sister, Dorothy Coney of Juno Beach, Fla; and one granddaughter. He was preceded in death by a brother, his twin, S. John Taggart.

Obituary - Eugene B. Taggart Jr.

TAGGART: Eugene B. Jr., Weedville, died Feb. 28, 2010. Friends will be received from 10-11 a.m. Tuesday at the Ralph M. Geer Funeral Home in Penfield. A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the funeral home with Pastor Tim Rogers officiating. Burial will be in Greenwood Cemetery in Indiana. Memorial donations may be made to the Weedville United Methodist Church or the Weedville American Legion.

Lest We Forget…