Willis R. Taylor was born on February 24, 1897, at Parkersburg, West Virginia. He enlisted as a flying cadet on October 27, 1917, and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Aviation Section of the Signal Corps Reserve on March 8, 1918.
He received his training as a flying cadet at Rockwell Field, California. Upon receipt of his commission in March 1918, he remained at Rockwell Field for duty, and in March 1919, was sent to Taliaferro Field, Florida. In September 1919, he was ordered to Hazelhurst Field, New York. He joined the 1st Aero Squadron at Mitchel Field, New York, in January 1920, and served there until December 1920, when he entered the School of Aerial Photography at Langley Field, Virginia.
In May 1921, he went to the Philippine Islands for duty at Clark Field with an Aerial Photography Section. He returned to the United States in May 1923, and was assigned to a photo section at Crissy Field, California. In July 1924, he became Photographic Officer at Rockwell Field, California, and in August 1924, returned to Crissy Field. In August 1928, he was ordered to Scott Field, Illinois, for aerial photographic duties.
He was commended by General Benjamin D. Foulois for a geological survey made in 1931 in Michigan, In November 1931, he went to Mitchel Field, New York, and served there until December 1934, when he was sent to the Panama Canal Zone. He served as Adjutant of France Field and of the Panama Air Depot. In July 1936, he assumed command of the 7th Observation Squadron. He was commended by General George H. Brett for a flight to Panama to Columbia in December 1936.
Returning to the United States in June 1937, he became Commanding Officer of the 27th Pursuit Squadron at Selfridge Field, Michigan. He entered the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field, Alabama, in June 1939 and was graduated in August 1939, and then returned to Selfridge Field to command the 27th Pursuit Squadron. In October 1939, he became Executive Officer of the 1st Pursuit Group at Selfridge Field. He served as a military observer in England from October 1940 to February 1941, reporting on British air combat and control methods. He was named Executive Officer of the II Interceptor Command at Fort Lawton, Washington, in April 1941. In December 1941, he assumed command of the 5th Interceptor Command at Fort Lawton. He was sent to the Army Air Base at Orlando, Florida, in March 1942 as Commanding Officer of the Fighter Command School. In November 1942, he assumed command of the I Fighter Command at Mitchel Field, New York. In May 1943, he went to Albrook Field, Panama Canal Zone, where he took command of the XXVI Fighter Command in October of the same year.
He died on June 14, 1945, in the crash of a float-equipped C-64A aircraft he was piloting in water landings in Manzanillo Bay, Colón, Panama.
He was rated a Command Pilot, Combat Observer, Aircraft Observer, and Technical Observer.
Private 1st Class, Aviation Section, Signal Corps, Enlisted Reserve Corps, October 27, 1917, to March 7, 1918; Second Lieutenant, Aviation Section, Signal Corps, Officers Reserve Corps, March 8, 1918, to September 19, 1920; Second Lieutenant, Air Service, July 1, 1920; First Lieutenant, July 1, 1920; Captain, August 1, 1931; Major (temporary), March 15, 1935; Major, August 15, 1939; Lieutenant Colonel (temporary), December 30, 1940; Lieutenant Colonel, A.U.S., April 18, 1941; Colonel, December 18, 1941; Colonel (temporary), January 5, 1942; Colonel, A.U.S., February 1, 1942; Brigadier General, A.U.S., October 31, 1942. He vacated the rank of Brigadier General, A.U.S., on April 13, 1943, and reverted to his permanent rank of Colonel.
World War I Victory Medal, American Defense Service Medal with Foreign Service Clasp, American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal.