Hoge Memorial Presbyterian Church
Rev. John C. Taylor (Assistant Pastor under Rev. Wold)
Rev. Taylor graduated from the Marysville College in Tennessee, where he received his Bachelor of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and was ordained to the Presbyterian ministry in 1947. Prior to the military chaplaincy, he served the First Presbyterian Church, Hanover, New Jersey. He also served as assistant minister at the First Presbyterian Church in Morristown, New Jersey; and as the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Frostburg, Maryland. He comes to Hoge with his wife and their 5 year old son, Graham.
The Hilltop Record newspaper wrote an article about Rev. Taylor. A short time later, on January 14, 1956, the Columbus Dispatch also printed an article about Rev. Taylor. The following is a culmination of those two articles. Some parts were removed to avoid unnecessary repetition, while similar sections were grouped together to allow the biography to more seamlessly flow.
“Recently returned from a 12-month tour of duty as U.S. Army chaplain stationed at Thule Air Base, Greenland, his unique “parish” lay 700 miles north of the Arctic Circle and included an army base encircled by outlying gun sites, each manned by eight men. Even though he was the only U.S. Army chaplain above the 76 Parallel, there were also 2 U.S. Air Force chaplains stationed there. In his role as counselor, companion, and chaplain, he regularly visited each gun site, travelling by snowmobile, weasel, jeep, seaplane and helicopter in temperatures sometimes 60 degrees below zero. Sunday schedule started at 7:30 a.m. and ended, five worship services and 60 miles later at 9:00 p.m. With the same enthusiasm with which he met the challenge of his chaplain’s duties, Rev. Taylor has plunged into a busy schedule of counseling, visitation and the duties of a minister to the young people at Hoge Memorial.”
“Rev. Taylor described life in Thule as one of bleak loneliness. Thule, named by the Polar Eskimos, means “farthest possible limit”. Sudden storms with winds up to 125 miles per hour blow snow off the icecaps producing “horizontal snow”. Despite the isolation, morale was generally high. Worries about family problems, revealed in letters from home, was the chief cause of concern for the soldiers. Movies, new records and best sellers arriving on every airlift gave moral a real boost. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a gymnasium where basketball was played. Skiing was tried but given up after one service member broke his leg on the extremely dangerous terrain. Bob Hope and his entertainers gave morale a real boost, when they appeared at Thule at a New Year’s Eve show, sponsored by the U.S.O. The extreme isolation also gave plenty of time for self-analysis and thinking.”
“Illness was almost unknown, in temperatures too cold for germs to survive. It was only when replacements arrived from the States that colds circulated for a few days. For the servicemen, emergency shelters containing food are located along points of travel for protection from blizzards, and bright flags dot the terrain, marking hidden crevasses. Rev. Taylor once had himself lowered into a crevasse and said, “the bottom of the ice appears blue”. U.S. military servicemen and Eskimos were not the only people around. “Neighbors” to the base were four Danish families. They maintained a radio station for communication with Godthaab, the capital of Greenland, and Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark. Once on Easter Sunday the Danish families attended services with the soldiers at one of the gunsites.”
“Rev. Taylor found the pure polar Eskimos, a vanishing race with only 400 members surviving, possessing a gift for happiness and humor. In his opinion, the very simplicity of their lives contributed to contentment and peace of mind. Converted by Danish Lutheran missionaries, they are Christians. The Eskimos relied on dog sleds to get around, often traveling through the long nights guided by the stars. The summer sun may remain above the horizon for 24 hours a day from May to August, but that also means the 24 hour winter night will be with them from November to February. Medical opinion is that the common cold would be fatal to Eskimos, since they have no immunity to the germ. For this reason Eskimo villages were off-limits to Army personnel. Rev. Taylor, in his role as chaplain, was the ONLY exception. He also had the opportunity to meet Odak, the Eskimo guide with the Perry Expedition to the North Pole.”
“1 Lt. Taylor, in his capacity as a military chaplain, was awarded the Commendation Ribbon with metal pendant for meritorious service in Greenland. He also received the good natured title, Knight of the Blue Nose. This select order is for those who endured the rigors of the Arctic winter. He was also honored as “Alumnus of the Year” by Princeton Seminary.”
WE REMEMBER: Rev. John C. Taylor
If you have any additional information about Rev. Taylor or stories about his time at Hoge, we would love to include them with his biography. Please send them to our church secretary in care of the website.