Front page of the Seattle Times

May 27, 2009 at 7:53 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

I know this is a little late but Joe’s story was featured on the front page of the Seattle Times on Sunday, May 24, the day before Memorial Day. What a terrific job Jack Broom the reporter did. Our thanks to him and to the editorial staff of the Times for recognizing Joe and in so doing giving honor to those men who served with Joe and all our veterans. I am so grateful to be a part of the much deserved recognition that Joe and many others are getting because of Joe’s story getting out and being told.

Joe Moser featured in Seattle Times


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Video Interview with Joe Moser

May 11, 2009 at 11:40 pm (429th Fighter Squadron, 474th Fighter Group, Buchenwald, Fighter Pilot, French Underground, Joe Moser, P-38) (, , , , , , )

Joe has been front a tv camera more times in the last while than I am sure he ever dreamed he would be. Here is a segment from a local television production called Experience Northwest from KVOS TV. Actually two videos for the two different segments:

Experience Northwest–Segment 1

Experience Northwest–Segment 2

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National Public Radio Interview–Pacific Northwest Region

February 5, 2009 at 8:46 pm (429th Fighter Squadron, 474th Fighter Group, Buchenwald, Fighter Pilot, Joe Moser, Stalag Luft III) (, , , , , , , , , )

Joe and I were interviewed this morning by Tom Banse of the Olympia bureau of NPR.  The interview should air starting on Monday morning on KUOW, KPLU and KZAZ.

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Watch the video–Joe Moser receives his DFC 63+ years late

February 4, 2009 at 6:34 pm (429th Fighter Squadron, 474th Fighter Group, Buchenwald, Fighter Pilot, Joe Moser, P-38) (, , , , , , , , , )

Here is the video slide show of Joe Moser receiving his Distinguished Flying Cross on January 29, 2009. Originally awarded on June 22, 1945, the medal was lost in the shuffle of after-war activities and Joe never received it. Col. Jeffrey Stephenson, Wing Commander of 62nd Military Airlift Command at McChord Air Force Base near Tacoma, Washington presented the medal to Joe. Accompanying Joe were two of his squadron mates: Captain Alfred Mills, himself a DFC honoree, and First Lt. Bob Milliken, the 429th FS’s only ace with five confirmed kills and four probables.

As you will see, Joe, his buddies and about 30 family members were treated to a VIP tour of McChord including time in the cockpit of a c-17 and even simulator time. A memorable day for everyone involved.

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Joe Moser, World War II hero finally receives his Distinguished Flying Cross–64 years late

February 1, 2009 at 1:10 am (429th Fighter Squadron, 474th Fighter Group, Buchenwald, Fighter Pilot, French Underground, Joe Moser, P-38) (, , , , , , , )

What a remarkable day! Chief Master Sergeant Rick Arnold said, “If there was a dry eye in that house, they didn’t have a heart.” Over 350 Air Force personnel and their families at McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma, Washington, along with over 30 of Joe Moser’s friends and family, witnessed the 87 year old veteran finally receive his Distinguished Flying Cross. (if you don’t want to read about this remarkable day, but instead cut immediately to the video slide show, here it is.) The photography and slide show were done by Gabe Rodriguez of Gabriel Boone Photography.

The DFC is one of the highest honors our country bestows. For an aviator, only the Congressional Medal of Honor ranks higher. Joe Moser, while a fighter pilot with the 429th Fighter Squadron, 474th Fighter Group, Ninth Air Force, earned his medal for leading his squadron on a highly successful ground attack on July 30, 1944. Attacks like these led to the Allied breakout of Normandy and helped speed the end of the war.

The Army Air Corp issued the award on June 22, 1945 but by that time the war was over, Joe was heading home from POW camp and from his dreadful two month stay in Buchenwald, and the award never caught up with him. Joe refused to talk about his war experiences for many years and the award was largely forgotten. His daughters did try to secure it for him, but it wasn’t until I mentioned it to a friend, Duane McNett that the ball got rolling. Duane’s company, McNett Corporation employs Chief Master Sergeant Rick Arnold and Duane called up Rick. The Chief is himself a hero and received the Airman’s Medal for helping save numerous lives in the attack on the Pentagon on 9/11. He was also the head of training for the SERE program, teaching military personnel from all branches how to survive, evade capture, endure torture and get through if they are ever caught by the enemy or behind enemy lines. The Chief knew just what to do. Conversation with a four star general, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force got the ball rolling. With the great help of Bud McKay of McChord Air Force base, arrangements were made.

Through the generosity of Frank and Patti Imhof, secret arrangements were made to have two of Joe’s squadron mates join him for the ceremony. Joe was not told of this and the reunion they had at the gate of McChord when Joe saw his buddies were there to be with them would choke up the most stoic among us. Bob Milliken and his wife Zella, the only ace with five confirmed kills and four probable kills, was there as well as Al Mills and his daughter Claire Tullius. Lt. Mills also won the DFC for his work with the 429th and was shot down a month after Joe ending up in the same POW camp.

Over 30 members of Joe’s family joined Joe and his buddies at McChord for a VIP tour hosted by Bud McKay. Joe and the other pilots sat at length in the cockpit of the gigantic C-17 military transport plane. Five TV crews crowded in with them–all four Seattle TV stations were present along with CNN. Newspaper photographers were also on hand. Then they were off to the simulator. There they took turns flying the C-17 in a $12 million dollar simulator. I can tell you, since I had the privilege a little after they were finished, that flying that thing is exactly like really flying. I’ve soloed a 182, and turning that giant four engined jet into the runway, my heart was pounding and I became completely convinced I was flying the real thing.

After touring the base in a bright blue bus, it was off to the full dress uniform awards dinner. This is an annual event in which worthy military and civilian personnel at McChord are given their honors. But the capper of the evening was the presentation to Joe Moser. With his two buddies joining him on the stage, the crowd when completely quiet. “Ten hut” was called. Then the citation, only recently uncovered by the archives thanks to CMS Arnold, it told of the successful mission of July 30 and Joe himself taking out two anti-aircraft positions enabling his squadron to complete the mission unimpeded. Col. Jeffrey Stephenson, Wing Commander of the 62 Military Airlift Command, pinned the long lost medal on the bright red veterans jacket of Mr. Moser. Col Stephenson stood silently in front of the three almost ninety-year old men, and slowly, solemnly saluted. I must tell you, I was afraid that my sobs would disrupt the quiet in the room.

The heroes returned to their seats, the ceremony over and they received the congratulations from as many of the Air Force personnel who could work their way to them. A little later, Patrick Oppmann from CNN got Joe in a quiet corner and had him tell a little of his story. I offered Patrick a copy of “A Fighter Pilot in Buchenwald” and I was thrilled when the next morning he said he had stayed up most of the night nearly finishing the book. Talking to him the next day I could tell he sensed that this was a very special man, more than deserving of the honor he was getting, and a very important story to be brought to a generation that is quickly allowing these memories to slip into ancient and irrelevant history. We were all further thrilled to see list Joe’s story and his receving his award as one of their top news stories on Jan 30.

That night we watched the 11 o’clock news and nearly every local tv station carried the video of a broadly smiling Joe Moser sitting in the cockpit of the giant plane, and retelling the harrowing story of his narrow escape from his burning P-38.

But, the excitement was not over yet. The next day was Joe’s official Book Release Party at the Bellingham Golf and Country Club. Hosted by Frank and Patti Imhof of IMCO Construction, we had planned for about 100 invited guests. Instead over 170 showed up and lined up around the room to get Joe to sign a copy of the book. We were so very fortunate to have Chief Master Sergeant Rick Arnold and Al Mills join us at this event as well. The Chief is simply an amazing man and to have him represent the Air Force and explain just what this medal means to the Air Force and to our country was so important. Al Mills’s presence helped us remember that it was a team that made these heroics possible. But when the Chief brought both of these wonderful old men to the front of the room to salute them, the room again went deathly quiet. He gave them that slow, slow salute which the two flyers returned. Then Rick dropped to his knee to offer them the deep salute, a symbol of respect and honor that was almost as great and meaningful as the medal dangling from Joe’s veteran’s jacket. Coming from a true American hero of this generation to these heroes of a previous generation again prompted many tears,

In the final ceremony of a wonderful evening, both Joe and CMS Arnold were presented with a very special gift. Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will recognize the name Remco Immerzeel. He is a wonderful man in France who has taken on the task of researching the stories of many Allied flyers who were shot down in the area of France where he lives. That includes Joe Moser. Remco was incredibly helpful and provided many details about Joe’s capture from the perspective of the French farmers who tried to help Joe escape. Remco has a friend named Christian (I don’t know his last name) who is an incredibly talented painter. And he painted the most detailed painting imaginable of the moment of Joe’s demise as a fighter pilot. The drab green P-38 is screaming for the skies with its left engine on fire. Below you can see the truck convoy that Joe was attacking when hit. The country side is exactly what the country side looked like then–because the painter knows it well–he lives there. On the nose is the actual serial number of the plane that Joe was flying when shot down. Below is Joe’s picture, the insignia of his squadron and a brief description of Joe and what happened to him on August 13, 1944. As a special gift to Joe from his grateful friends in France, we presented Joe a print of this remarkable art work. And as a memento to Chief Arnold, he was also presented a copy of this print, filled later with numerous autographs as a permanent memory to those involved in this most remarkable event.

Thank you Chief, for making this so special. Thank you Frank and Patti for all you have done. Thank you Lynne for being such a wonderful supportive wife. Thank you Duane and Nancy for making that critical connection. (I could go on but I will stop with apologies to the rest of you who know you deserve the thanks.)

But thanks most of all to Joe and Jean Moser. I hope all of you who take the time to read this account of these days get the chance to meet them. They are a link to what was a horrible and heroic time in our history. More than that, they show was love for God, family, freedom and country really mean. They show courage and strength and honor. I am so grateful for the opportunity to help them received this recognition.

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44 Missions–Chapter 14 Posted

April 8, 2008 at 3:36 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

There have been lots of good stories written about fighter pilots, their heroic exploits, their memorable battles against skillful enemies. I grew up with these stories–collected every book I could find about WWII fighter pilots. I viewed them as chivalrous knights of the sky, the last true solo warriors doing their best one on one against the best the enemy could put up against them.

That is the heroic, romantic image and to tell the truth, I don’t want to give it up. Because part of it is still true. But an increasingly small part. The reality is more prosaic, more mundane, more real. Getting to know Joe has helped make the reality of a fighter pilot’s life more visible than I thought possible. I keep thinking about this sweet, incredibly quiet, incredible humble and loveable old gentleman as a 22 year old P-38 jockey. In many ways it doesn’t compute, but in many other ways it does. Joe is just an average, well, Joe. But of such was the Greatest Generation made. And that makes him and his kind far from average. They were just regular old boys, farm boys, construction boys, manufacturer boys, lawyer boys–just boys who learned how to manage the fastest most powerful technology weapons the brightest in our land could design at the time. They climbed into them early in the morning, late at night. Flew them into the air where the temperatures matched the South Pole, dove them toward the ground until their machines almost flew apart in their hands. They woke up in the morning groggy and tired and wearied of climbing into the freezing cockpit one more time knowing that today just very well might be their day. They returned home after hours of flying or dodging flak that was so close they felt they must be covered in soot from the explosions. And when they did, they frequently found their bunkmates gone forever, perhaps in the hands of the fearful enemy or plowed deep into the ground with the burning hulk of their machines above them.

43 missions completed–that’s what Joe did. There was more great flying in them than I could possibly convey. More heroics and fear and dread and sorrow than he has been able or willing to tell me. But after spending what little time I have with him, I know just a little bit more what it meant to be a 22 year old kid climbing into those cramped cockpits and facing fear and uncertainty every day. 43 missions. Just an ordinary man doing what hundreds of thousands of his fellow warriors did. I hope somehow in telling his story here I can convey my deep gratitude, respect, appreciation and awe over what he and so many others did.

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