Hosted more functions than history has recorded
At the intersection of Connecticut Avenue and Calvert Street in Washington, D.C., stands the well-appointed Shoreham Hotel. Built in 1930, the impressive art deco structure boasts 832 luxurious guest rooms, several elegantly furnished ballrooms, high-ceilinged dining rooms, and a sumptuous lobby illuminated by a host of glittering chandeliers. The hotel features nearly every amenity a discerning trav-eler or even a president could desire. At the behest of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s staff, the hotel quietly added a special ramp and elevator to accommodate the president’s wheelchair, allowing the Shoreham to serve as the venue for FDR’s first inaugural ball and host inauguration galas for every subsequent president throughout the twentieth century.
The Shoreham has had more guests and hosted more functions than history has recorded, but on the evening of November 18, 1942, a small group of men gathered at the hotel to engage in an activity that would directly and substantially influence the evolution of America’s military. They came not to stay in one of the suites or to eat in the dining room or even to relax with a drink in one of its lobbies. Instead, they gathered around the hotel’s expansive indoor pool, which at the time was one of the largest in Washington, D.C.
On that cold November night, Jack Taylor was gearing up for the evening’s demonstration while guards posted at the pool doors turned away any guests who came down to enjoy a swim. A renowned Hollywood dentist, Taylor put his livelihood on hold during World War II to serve his country. He was an avid swimmer and lifelong adventurer who had a penchant for racing yachts, sailing solo halfway around the world, and flying airplanes. An ultimate survivor, he once escaped from an Alaska gold mine after being trapped for two days following an earthquake. After Pearl Harbor, Taylor volunteered for the U.S. Navy, which initially relegated him to a dull dental position on a ship. Later, the highly secretive Office of Strategic Services (OSS) sought to recruit him, and Jack enthusiastically volunteered to join its ranks.