Joe, two daughters and a grandson were traveling along with cinematographer Chris Baron to Buchenwald yesterday. While at SeaTac airport, they were met by a TV news crew from KING5, the leading regional TV news channel. KING5’s Glenn Farley did an outstanding job with this story which in brief news format, gives some of the highlights of Joe’s experiences and the meaning behind this incredible trip back to Buchenwald.
This April is the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Buchenwald by American troops. The Buchenwald Memorial society and the German government have invited former prisoners and liberators to help celebrate. The German government is covering the cost of Joe’s trip plus an accompanying family member.
Joe, two daughters and a grandson will be leaving for Germany on Thursday, April 8 returning April 17. While at Buchenwald they will participate in receptions with the mayor of Weimar, Catholic Mass, dinner and a wreath-laying ceremony. Joe will also be interviewed a number of German students who are conducting an oral history project focusing the Allied airmen held in Buchenwald. There is growing recognition about this little known event and Joe is one of the few survivors able to provide first-hand information about the terrible conditions and brutality in this infamous work camp.
A documentary film crew will be accompanying Joe to Buchenwald, then travel with him to France to film where he bailed out from his stricken P-38, talk to family members of the farmers who helped him, and follow his path after capture from Marchefroy, to Paris, to Buchenwald. The documentary film, “Jump Into Hell” is being produced by Mike Dorsey, an established California-based filmmaker and will focus on Joe Moser and Lt. Col. E.C. “Easy” Freeman, another American airman held in Buchenwald. Freeman is the grandfather of filmmaker Dorsey.
When we heard that President Obama was going to visit Buchenwald on June 5, Anne Rasmussen–our intrepid publicist and publication manager–went to work on trying to get the White House’s attention. What an opportunity for the president to acknowledge that 82 Americans have never been recognized as having suffered through the Nazi oppression of Buchenwald–including Joe Moser. Marilyn Walton, whose father was in Stalag Luft III, brought this opportunity to our attention, wrote a letter to the White House and got us in contact with Bernd Schmidt, the head of the U.S. Veterans Friends association in Germany.
Mr. Schmidt did all he could to meet with President Obama and had prepared for him several gifts, including a copy of “A Fighter Pilot in Buchenwald.” While he was not able to get the meeting he so earnestly desired, his efforts were not in vain at all. We just received this translation of a newspaper story from the Thuringia State Newspaper recording Mr. Schmidt’s efforts and the gifts that are being sent now through the Consulate.
Our very sincere thanks to Mr. Schmidt and to Marilyn Walton–we will press on together to get the recognition these men so richly deserve.
Translation from the German [by Cordula D. Brown]
Thuringian State Newspaper, June 6th, 2009
Keep the memories alive
Bernd Schmidt of the U.S. Veterans Friends, too, was hoping in vain for a meeting
By Christiane Weber
Weimar. [tlz] His hope to meet with the American president in person, was not fulfilled. “I was trying to get accreditation”, said Bernd Schmidt, founder [in 2001] and highly decorated member of the U.S. Veterans Friends in Germany. He had contacted the Consulate General, called the hot line, applied to the Memorial site Buchenwald, and had sent a mail to the White House. In vain. This was even more disappointing because Schmidt – together with American veterans – had prepared a special gift: he intended to present the President with letters and three books by veterans.
Nevertheless, Schmidt was delighted with the President’s visit. Somehow it was “an honor for our work”, said Schmidt. Even without the personal encounter, Schmidt and his friends will continue their work more motivated than ever. The small group of friends with the declared aim to keep alive the memory of the American soldiers who liberated Thuringia in 1945, to document historical facts in the vicinity, to foster friendship and understanding between Germany and the U.S., especially between American veterans and German people. They are in close contact to American veterans and organize trips for them to come and meet them. Among others, a photo exhibit from the Algoet collection with pictures of the KZ liberation was placed in Buchenwald.
One of the letters intended for the President is by Gerald Virgil Myers, member of the 80th Infantry Division who liberated Weimar and arrived in Buchenwald shortly afterwards. He describes the historic events in minute detail. “This place teaches us to stay vigilant always”, emphasized Barack Obama in his speech after his tour of the memorial site Buchenwald. The memory would have to be kept awake. And this is exactly what the Friends of theVeterans are doing. Even more important are books like the ones by the historian Marilyn Jeffers Walton and by Gerald R. Baron which describe the less well know fate of Josef A. Moser and his 81 friends and fellow U.S. pilots who were prisoners of war in Buchenwald. Bernd Schmidt will send the President these books now via Consulate General.
The disappointment did not in any way detract from Bernd Schmidt’s motivation. He is firmly convinced that Obamas visit was of extraordinary help to keep the history alive for the future.
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:
We are still working on getting books into distribution but books are here and ready to order. You can get at Village Books in Bellingham, order from Amazon, or order direct from the publisher here.
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.