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|Quiet hero: Monroe veteran's memoir describes World War II|
James Walker Moore Jr. has been called the quiet hero by his friends because the World War II veteran rarely talks about his experiences.
Moore was content on leaving his war adventures in the past, but from time to time, he mentioned them to his wife, Barbara. She was the one who hounded him to write a memoir about his time in the Army, and his trek through Europe during World War II. She told him that if he didn't write it all down before he died, she would be very angry with him.
In February 2001, Moore finally gave in to his wife's demands and wrote his memoir, and called it, "From Auburn to the Elbe and Back: Memories of World War II." It was distributed to family, friends and church acquaintances.
Ed Johnson with the American Legion provided The Ouachita Citizen with a copy of Moore's memoir this week.
On Monday, during Memorial Day, the nation paused to remember the many soldiers who died fighting in service of the United States.
Moore said he will never forget the young men he saw who were not as fortunate to survive war.
Moore's unit was lucky enough not to experience one battle fatality throughout its fighting in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany.
Moore writes, "In looking back, I know firsthand that what I had been told about war is true. War is terrible. I and most of the men in our outfit were fortunate, but millions of people suffered greatly and millions died."
Moore talked to The Ouachita Citizen on Tuesday. He said his group was extremely lucky to walk away from the war without any fatalities.
"We had some injuries and some purple hearts, but no deaths in our battery," Moore said.
There were three firing batteries in Moore's battalion, and during World War II, Moore was responsible for being the eyes for the heavy artillery. His unit, the 976th Field Artillery Battalion, would set up observation posts within the field of combat.
"When we went into a new gun position, we had radio communication from the post to the guns, and it was my job as radio operator to relay fire commands. Back where the artillery guns were, they couldn't see all the targets, so we were the eyes of the artillery and we relayed the fire commands," Moore said.
Years later, while working in Manville Forest Product's marketing department, (now Graphic Packaging) Moore met a former Polish slave of the Nazis' who was fired upon by Moore's unit.
"There was a guy I used to see there all the time, and he found out one day that I was one of the ones helping to direct artillery fire around the Siegfried Line put up by the Germans to stop any kind of invasion. He was up there as part of a work team, and whenever we fired, we fired on civilians and military … as long as they were doing something in the war effort. If they were helping the Germans, we fired on them. He found out that we had done this and said, 'So, you're the one.' He said the (Nazi) officers didn't care if they got killed or not. It was amazing that I ran across this guy," Moore said.
Moore and his battalion landed on Omaha Beach approximately 20 days after D-Day, which occurred 64 years ago next week.
By that time, the fighting had moved in-land, so his group didn't encounter hostile fire, but they were still close enough to hear the artillery.
Moore recalls vividly the walk into Normandy where his unit would establish its first observation post.
Several days after establishing the post, their position was hit with mortar shells and they noticed the infantry packing up and moving back.
They asked what was going on and they were told the infantry was falling back.
"They said if we knew what was good for us, we would do the same," Moore said.
Not long after that, the Germans took that ground. A few days passed, and the Allies recaptured it.
Moore saw the bodies of fallen Americans and chokes up as he tells how his group had to move around their deceased comrades as they marched on.
"That was my first encounter with dead people. There were a lot of casualties … a lot of Americans and Germans, too. I thought at that time that here I was seeing something that their parents didn't know anything about," Moore said, bursting into tears.
In his memoir he wrote, "I thought about these men's families, who at the time didn't know, but later would be grieving."
Moore spent almost a year in full combat duty, and was for a short time under the command of Gen. Bernard Montgomery in the Battle of the Bulge. He eventually helped serve as part of the temporary occupation in post-war Germany.
He later returned to his home state of Alabama, where he graduated from Auburn University. He met his wife, Barbara, around that time. She was a graduate of University of Alabama.
"Yes, it was a mixed marriage," Barbara said, laughing.
The Moores eventually took up the full-time job of raising three children. After he retired, Moore took up teaching adult literacy, among other things. He and his wife later started the first suicide support group in Monroe after their youngest son, David, took his life in 1984. The Moores' church, St. Paul's United Methodist, now runs the support group.
Moore also has been heavily involved with Friends of the Black Bayou. Moore designed the group's logo, and he has written poetry, which is sold at Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge. In 2003, he was named the Louisiana Conservationist of the Year by the state.
"We've had a lot of life experiences," Barbara said.
Moore now has taken up the task of restoring his family's photos. He proudly showed off a pristine copy of a group of young men in their World War I uniforms. His father was among those who served in the Army in France during the First World War
Moore, who is now 83, has come a long way from the skinny 19-year-old who had to first gain weight so he could enlist in the Army and fight for his country.
"Even though my part in the war had been small, I felt that it was important, and I was thankful for the fact that in my case, the odds for the survival of a radio operator on the OP had been beaten. The old saying, 'I wouldn't take anything from the experience, but I wouldn't want to go through it again,' holds true for me," Moore wrote to end his memoir.