CEDAR GROVE CHURCH
William A. Moore WWII Experience
In the early morning on Sunday may 30, 1943, the 23rd battalion Seabees
landed on the beach at Massacre Bay. They were placed on the beach to guard
supplies that had accumulated on the beach. Earlier that day, a group of 500
Japanese soldiers broke through U.S. Army defenses and, were coming over the
mountain range from Chichagof Bay to Massacre Bay. It would be about a six mile
hike over rough terrain. It was a clear night and that time of the year the
darkness didn’t last too long. The Japanese first came in contact with the
Red Cross hospital tent area. They cut the tent ropes and tent fell on our
sick and wounded. The killed anything that moved or yelled under the tent by
using the bayonets on their rifles.
The Army Engineers were moved into position to stop the advance of the Japs,
or at least slow the advance to the supplies on the beach. The Engineers were
poorly equipped to stop the advance. It was hand to hand fighting. It looked like
the Japanese had broken through the Engineer’s defenses, but they stopped and
retreated. They were carrying large supplies of TNT and hand grenades that we
thought they would use at the beach. Instead the 500 men put the hand
grenades to their chest and killed themselves. We think the 23rd Seabees were
dressed Marine green and possibly made the Japanese think they were up
against well-equipped and well-trained outfit. As a result, the 23rd didn’t fire a
We were landing north of the supply store on the beach. If the Japanese had
their heads on straight, they could have changed their advance to the left and
would have met our 22nd battalion wading ashore and they would have had a big
advantage. We could have lost several lives and one could have been mine. I
think someone was looking out for our good. We just had to be thankful.
I would like to say something of our 22nd going to shore. As soon as the 23rd was
ashore, we loaded up and were sent in. We had backpacks with enough
supplies to make a foxhole comfortable. We were carrying WW I Winchester
30-06 and an ammunition belt loaded with shells. Going over the wall of the ship
our ammunition belts were unfastened in case we would fall into the water. This
way we could shed off all the weight and keep from sinking to the bottom of the
bay. A chief electrician fell into the water and we pulled him back into the boat.
Someone gave him a blanket to keep warm, because there was no turning back.
As we were going ashore we were all standing in the boat and were packed in
pretty close. The ramp on the front o the landing craft was so high we couldn’t
see the beach and this was there for our own protection from rifle fire. We didn’t
have a gunner on our landing craft.
I had to think of Maurice Alexander (Miriam’s cousin), he was a cockswain that
guided the landing craft ashore in Naples, Italy. They stood on a raised platform
in the back of the boat high enough to see the beach. If he would get shot there
was another man to take his place. They would run the landing craft aground on
the beach let ramp on the front down. We would wade ashore and we got pretty
wet. With the weight of the men off the boat, it raised off the beach and back off
for another load. With no gunfire, we had a pretty good landing!
I know my son’s wouldn’t be interested about the time I ate too much sliced
canned pineapple, but this is where it fits in the story. Therefore, I’m going to tell
the complete and gruesome story! After the landing, everyone was assigned a
job and I was put on guard duty on a large tent that was located about a 1000
feet from the supply build up located on the beach. It was to shelter the kitchen
and food supply for the 22nd battalion and they wanted to get these supplies out
of the weather as soon as possible. Several men carrying heavy boxes placed
them in the tent from load trucks from the beach. I was left standing guard with
my faithful 30-06 and I thought I was pretty lucky drawing this guard duty
assignment. But things were about to change….
The men stopped work around 10:00 and they closed the side of the tent. At this
time of night in the north there is still a little light outside. The inside of the tent
was pretty dark. At 12 midnight I still wasn’t relieved, so I ate some more
pineapple. It was as dark as it was going to get this time of the year and I was
getting pretty tired. I started thinking what was wrong with the corporal of the
guard. First, everywhere on the Island they were standing double guards at each
point. I’m standing at this place by myself.
I got to think about those Japanese that traveled all last night on nothing to eat
and the battle they had with the engineers that morning. 500 of them killed
themselves within a half a mile of where I stood. Now if I had been one of those
Jap soldiers, I would have taken off to the mountains. By this time I would be
pretty hungry and be hunting something to eat. The only thing between a tent full
of food and a hungry Jap soldier was me. This fear was real to me because I
thought this would be the first place they would take over. Little did I know at the
time, I would be standing guard for another four hours.
My rifle would be no help inside the dark tent. My bayonet would be my only
weapon. I thought I could fire my rifle two or three time through the tent roof I
might get some help and scare the intruder away. I was having a lot of ideas at
time and firing the rifle sounded good to me. I did have part of a can of pineapple
I could share with my intruder!
I realized that this was the first time the pacifist ways that I was taught at home
and at Cedar Grove could be challenged head on this night. This fear was real to
me. I did pray to Lord Jesus to see me through the night. The words of some
people that taught pacifism rang in my ears. I had a feeling that I could be on my
own. I did accept Jesus as my savior and I was sure he was close by. Our 22nd
battalion chaplain was Catholic and he said that when you prayed to your Lord
he would be with you. It made the 23 Psalm real to me. It was the longest night
of my life.
The corporal of the guard did show up at 4:00 in the morning with two men to
relieve me. Our camp was set up on the Casco Peninsula. There were men
setting up tents, the cook kitchen and the mess tents. The corporal of the guard
dropped me off at the cook tent to get some things to eat. I wasn’t feeling too
good. But being me, I think I did eat something. The cook tent was open all
night with hot coffee and some things to eat for the men that were working. The
cooks were to tell me where the supply tent was so I could pick up a cot, sleeping
bag, new long john underwear and some socks. It was there that I learned my
tent assignment. There were four men assigned to each tent. It had a small
cook stove in the center.
When I arrived at my tent there was a hot fire burning and it was warm inside.
Our helmets we wore had an inside liner to adjust to fit your head. The outside
was painted Marine green. One of the men had one of the steel helmets full with
water. It would fit just right in the hole in the top of the stove and the water was
hot. We were wearing the same clothes we had on when we left Sitka and I was
needing a bath!
Bert Looney was the only man at the tent when I arrived. Bert was from Boston
and was around 30 years old. He was one of my great buddy’s. He reminded
me of my brother Ross. He had brown hair when we left Sitka and after eleven
months on Attu it was snow white. The eleven months were hard on everybody.
He was glad to see me knowing that I was assigned to this tent. When I didn’t
show up at 8 and midnight, he and two other men reported me missing to the
guard soon after midnight.
Before I get back to the pineapple story, I want to tell you we had cold soft water
at each of the tents. The muskeg was grass that grew fast in the short growing
season. It was about 8 feet deep and the cold weather the grass was short. The
men would dig a hole into the muskeg 18 inches deep to the top of the hole. We
would dip our helmet in and it was clear soft rainwater. We used our helmet to
take a bath and wash our clothes .
When we were in boot camp they gave us two large duffel bags, one was for a
mattress roll to sleep on and the other bag was clothes, shoes and everything I
owned. Some one had dropped them off at my tent. The first thing I did was to
get the cot unfolded and in place. Bert Leenie having the experience from last
night had some wood slats to put under the cot legs. The tent had a canvas
waterproof floor. Without the slates the cot would go every direction. I got my
sleeping bag out on the cot using the card bard carton to stand on to take my
bath. I put my new long johns on and my new sox’s. The sleeping bag had two
bags with a zipper the full length of each bag. While getting ready for bed the
two other men had come back from breakfast (I don’t remember their names). I
think they were trying to give me advise and they told me don’t get zipped up in
the sleeping bag. But I had already zipped myself in and fell to sleep instantly.
When I woke up, it wasn’t fifteen minutes I woke up and I wasn’t feeling good in
my stomach. I was hot and sweating and I couldn’t find the inside zipper. I
ripped out the inside zipper and I finally did find the outside one. With my
confusion and talk the men in the tent seemed to be getting a kick out of my
problem, which didn’t help me one bit. Adding to the confusion, my cot had
slipped off the wood slates and it was listing about 45 degrees to the starboard.
The said my face was broken out with red spots and I looked at the rest of my
body and it was the same way.
The boys in the tent said I put on quite a show and did a lot of talking. What I
had gone through the night, I might of thought I was in hell. I have used word
hell quite a bit do describe things. But compared to Cedar Grove and farm life it
was hell. I got my cot squared up and laid on top of the sleeping bag. I think
they said that you could zip those bags up in 60 below zero, lying on the snow
and still have a heat stroke. I told the boys not to fire up the coal stove.
Now I have told you the entire sad story about eating too much pineapple. Now
that it has been over 55 years, I still don’t like to eat pineapple to this day. I have
told or written about my war experience and the longest day and night of my life.
While I was standing through this long day and night of guard duty, some
carpenters built a toilet for company C along the beach of Casco Bay about a
100 feet from our tent. They built a wood floor with four holes on a raised
platform making it comfortable to sit on. This wood floor was also a good place
to take a bath. The platform was extended out over the beach and when the tide
came in it would flush the toilets. It worked just fine, but there were some flaws
in the design. The strong wind that blows in from the northwest, they called it a
Willy Wal, the toilet paper would go down one hole and up the other. It reminded
me of the white dove on the TV show Touch of an Angel. This “dove” seemed to
have mixed emotions and would circle the tent and it really didn’t care where it
landed. Everyone tried to get away from it and when the tent would open it
usually greeted the guy coming in. We had to sack the “bird” up because it was
trying to build all sorts of nests down the beach.
We didn’t live in the tents too long, maybe two or three weeks. We had to build
large Quonset huts for our galley and mess hall. Then we went to work on our
Quonset living quarters. We didn’t move into the Quonset until we had quarters
built for all of the men. Our living quarters were comfortable. They had fuel oil
stove and as we built them we installed electric wiring so they could be hooked up to
the generators. Some of the huts had trouble with the fuel stove because they would smoke and blow out the fires. It made a lot of difference how they faced the wind. We didn’t have any trouble with the wind. We had iron bunk beds and I had the lower bunk.
There were men putting in a pipeline from the mountain area for water at Casco
Bay. In the mean time it was being hauled into the galley and mess hall. We still
wanted water for the Quonset toilets and showers. When the water was hooked
up to the toilets and showers with hot water that was great treat for us all.
One of the first things we had to do was dig us a foxhole on higher ground above
the living quarters. They had to be high enough to drain water away from them
so we could have dry holes.
If a patrol plane would sight an unidentified craft or ship in the area and fog
moved in, we would go to our foxholes. It seemed like we spent a lot of time in
and around our foxholes and we would have to take our backpacks and rifles.
We had foxholes at all of our work sites. The ship Casco was a PBY tender that was anchored in Casco Bay. The Navy pilots and their crews that serviced the PBYs and Kingfishers and kept them in flying condition for patrols
were stationed on this ship. On all alerts all of the ships, including the Casco,
would move out in the ocean to make themselves moving targets. So when we
would see the Casco moving out into open water we know we were going on
alert. On all alerts the planes would try to get into the air in a moments notice.
The PBYs and the Kingfishers would take off every morning at daylight for patrols
if the weather was favorable (no fog or severe wind). We had built in alarm
clocks as they fired themselves up to take off of Casco Bay.
The Army had 90-millimeter (MM) guns on the ridge above our living quarters.
One morning just at dark the lights on the island were turned off. I was taking a
shower and a Quonset hut is a very dark place with no electricity. We I got back
to my quarters, everyone was trying to find their backpacks and rifles to go up on
the ridge. I had to wait for some men to clear so I could get dressed and gather
up my gear. On this particular day, 12 Japanese bombers went over the Army
runway and over the 23rd Battalion Seabees. One man was hurt from a
exploding bomb. The big 90-mm on the ridge and a battery of 90 mm guns
across Casco Bay on Murder Point cut loose on the planes. The planes were
pretty high and the gunners got their range pretty quick. The shells split up the
formation and the shells followed the planes out to sea. There was one bomber
that was smoking pretty bad. The USS Charleston gunboat was putting up a lot
of fire with their tracer shells. They had only 40-mm guns and bombers were
flying too high for them to reach. There was some Winchester 30-06 fired and
the men who fired their weapons were questioned later.
Tokyo Rose is the lady that broadcast popular music to us each day from home
and gave the Japanese version of the war news. Her version of the attack was
that the Japanese bombed Attu and there was a lot of damage. Their pilots said
that they seen fire burning 50 miles out to sea. Our version of the story was it
was the fire of the 90-mm hitting them in the ass! She said there were two
planes that failed to return.
When I was at Sitka Alaska, a good buddy, Bill Nordroft and I bought a spinning
rod and different baits. We fished quite a bit in a large river with pretty fast water,
which should have held some trout in it. I don’t believe I caught any fish there.
Here on Attu we had pretty good luck. We worked 14 days and have the 15th day
off to do our washing of our clothing. When the weather was nice we would go
fishing. The washing just had to wait. We were catching Dolly Vardon trout 2
pounds plus in size. We were putting them back in the river, thinking that there
was no way to fry them. We talked to the cooks and they said they would fry the
fish anytime we wanted after the evening supper was over. This one afternoon
we caught 6 nice size trout and Bill N. cleaned them (I don’t do that kind of work).
We stopped at the galley and the cooks were glad to see them. They said that
they would serve supper around eight PM. It was good trout for us all. It beat
the thunder out of Spam! We had some good times!
There was a fellow in our company C with low moral standards. He was robbing
the Japanese soldier graves. It was no problem to do this since they were laid in
foxholes and a blanket was laid over the graves. He would be in big trouble if he
ever got caught. The story around camp was this fellow was out looking into
foxholes and there was a live one that climbed out of the foxhole and ran to the
mountains! “Low life” took off running for camp and left his rifle in the foxhole.
Now that gave us all something to think about. There were several Japanese
that did not kill themselves and they would stay close to camp in the foxholes. At
night they would come out looking for food in the garbage cans. It wouldn’t be
more than a day old. Spam will last forever and Spam taste the same regardless
where it came from!
As soon as we got the living quarters set up everyone was assigned to work
details. I was assigned to a carpenter crew helping build a submarine base.
There was a large quonset set up called a ship’s store for Navy personnel. It
was an inside job for some time as the store grew it would need more shelving
and storage space to be built. There was a quonset hut living quarter for the
men on the submarine when it would tie up to the dock. It was our job to make it
a comfortable as possible. The men in the submarine had to be special. We
couldn’t furnish good weather, but at least we gave them fresh air and solid land
to walk on. We were invited to go inside the sub, but I didn’t go in because I
thought I was too tall and big to get inside. I was afraid they would close the door
after hearing about Bill N. big experience. The ship’s store had fishing rods and
bait to sell. I think there were several Seabees made fishing a lifetime hobby
from this experience. I wonder about those Dolly Varden trout and think about
how big they have grown in 55 years! Those were good times.
Company C built four airplane hangers that I helped work on the construction.
We worked in some awful cold, bad weather. The hanger’s framework was from
Douglas Fur trees brought in from the State of Washington. The trusses were
over 100 feet long. The studding was 30 feet long, 12 inches wide by 4 inches.
The trusses and studding was precut and all we had to do was put them together.
There was 1 X 8 sheeting and tarpaper for the roof. Before we had one hanger
finished they had a PBY and other planes pulled inside to work on them because
the weather was getting pretty bad. The last to go in place was the big
doors and I’m glad I wasn’t involved with hanging them. The men
involved in running heavy equipment worked on the runway 24 hours a
day. The equipment was never shut down and the men would work 12
hours shifts. The equipment and men were worked hard and several
men developed health problems.
They were put on 8-hour shifts. Other labor and we carpenters worked 10 hours
a day. Working for 14 days straight you never knew when Sunday arrived. It
wasn’t long until the PBYs and the Kingfishers were landing on the runway.
The longer the runway got built the heavier and bigger the airplanes got. In the
winter months the snow on the side of the runway was 15 to 20 feet high. They
had snow blowers that blew the snow that high. With the strong crosswinds, the
planes bucking against it, the planes would hit dead air when they got below the
top of the snow pile. It was hard for the pilots to adjust and some of the planes
There were some men that couldn’t take the mental pressure. They were
sending them back to the States. We called the sickness “Rock Happy.” Our
Battalion was sent back to the States in April of 1944 after 11 months on Attu.
We were sent home on a 30 day leave. I’m sure some people here at home was
checking me for the “Rock Happy” problem. There was a lot to tell about the
longest and darkest winter in my life on Casco Peninsula, Attu, Alaska.
I will try to make my oversea travels a short story. The 14 months went fast and
it was the nice weather that was a joy I think. Here’s my tour of the South Pacific.
We went aboard the liberty ship USS Adrian on its maiden voyage to the South
Pacific. It was an improved liberty ship with more speed and heavier built. The
carpenter and welder Seabees got to build shelving and storage places as the
ship made its way south. There was a lot of welding to do. We ate our meals
with Ships Company. We didn’t have to stand in a long line for each of our
meals. It was an enjoyable cruise. It was the best.
We sailed from San Francisco to Manus Island, part of the Admiralty Islands,
which is north of New Guinea. Seeadler harbor was the main base for the US
Navy Fleet for their invasion of the Philippines. When we were sailing into the
harbor a large group of Battleships, Aircraft Carriers and other ships were getting
ready for the invasion. We were to anchor inside the harbor. On board our
Liberty Ship were young replacement sailors that would be apart of this invasion.
The main fleet was anchored outside the bay. These men were put to shore as
soon as we got anchored.
The next morning early, a group of us men went ashore for supplies we were
going to need. We were to sail on to Milne Bay in New Guinea. As we were
cruising along the shore I spotted a freighter that Marshall Daughtery (Miriam’s
cousin Lois is married to Marshall) was on as part the Arm Guard. I told the
chief in charge I would like to see him. He agreed and I was told to meet at a
certain time at the dock. Marshall wasn’t out of bed and hadn’t had his breakfast
yet. So I had another breakfast with Marshall and boy was that a treat. They
had just cruised up from Australia and we had fresh eggs with our meal and
bacon too! On the Adrian we had nothing but powdered eggs. Marshall and I
went to the ship’s store and I bought a box of Harvester Cigars. The supplies on
the Adrian were low on everything, especially cigarettes and cigars. When I did
make it back to the Adrian with that box of cigars, I had all kinds of buddy’s! That
box of cigars didn’t last very long.
The following morning we were getting ready to go to Milne Bay New Guinea.
Everyone was on top deck and we could see a freighter about a half-mile from
the Adrian. There were boats from every different ship in the fleet needing
ammunition circling the USS Mt. Hood.
When we went ashore yesterday morning the Adrian was the only ship anchored
out in the bay so the Mt. Hood must have anchored in the bay yesterday evening
or during the night. The Fleet was taking on ammunition for the landing on the
Philippines. First there was a small explosion and then there was a big one.
The fire and smoke raised high in the sky and it was shaped like a mushroom
cloud. Within minutes of the explosion the air was filled with British Spitfire
fighters looking for the enemy. When the smoke cleared off the water, there was
no evidence the USS Mt. Hood ever existed. They said there were 600 navy
men killed and it was a tragedy that touched every ship in the Fleet. Eleven men
and a chief from the Mt. Hood went ashore to pick up mail for the crew before the
explosion and they were the only survivors. The explosion blew the end off the
quonset warehouses on shore beyond where Marshall’s ship was tied up to the
dock. There was a large piece of steel that hit the Adrian breaking a large
extension off from the ship to tie the boat to shore. The Adrian must have had
more damage. They took us off the Adrian to look for damage and put us to
shore. We spent the afternoon looking for bodies that might wash ashore. We
didn’t find any.
Yesterday morning our detail was in a boat looking for the correct dock to load up
supplies for the Adrian. If we were on the water when the explosion occurred, it
would have blown us out of the water. If the explosion happened the day before,
the large piece of steel that hit the Adrian could have traveled another 15 feet, it
would have hit a crowded deck where we were enjoying the view. What a
difference a day makes. Several more lives could have been lost. They don’t
know what caused the explosion.
The next morning we men were loaded on large landing crafts that could carry
100 or more troops and we headed toward Milne Bay, New Guinea. That night
we sailed through the Bismarck Sea where earlier in the war was a big naval
battle that Japanese took a beating. That night was so level it looked like glass
and a big bright moon was shining. There was a fellow playing guitar and he was
pretty good. All the troops were out on the deck were all singing late into the
night. It was pleasant trip to Milne Bay. When we arrived, it was morning and I
think it took us about two days to get there. We went ashore and got our gear in
place. We were a replacement to a maintenance unit. We lived in tents and it
was pretty nice.
Now when we came into the Bay, it looked like the same naval fleet that was at
Manus. Going into Milne Bay there was a freighter set out by itself. It was the
last thing my mind that us carpenters would be working on it that afternoon. The
Navy fleet had taken the ammunition that they needed. The Navy Fleet did move
down to Milne Bay. Around noon we got word we were going out to the freighter
to put wood shoring in place to keep the ammo from shifting down in the holes
during high or rough seas. After seeing the Mt. Hood blow up, we couldn’t
believe that we would be walking over the top of ammo all afternoon. There was
no smoking signs everywhere and they didn’t have to worry about us men
smoking, but we did drink a lot of coffee! It was fairly late in the evening when
we left the ship. They had some sandwiches and some more coffee for us before
During our two-month stay at Milne Bay we did take hikes back into the jungle
area for pineapples, papaya and bananas. There were wild hogs in the jungle
and they liked the pineapple patches too. You could see and hear the old sows
and pigs leaving. I’d never seen a wild bore before. We would find all the
pineapples that we wanted to eat, but this did me no good since I couldn’t stand
to even look at them!
We did some fishing while we were there and we would take an old landing craft
out into the bay. We had a fellow that knew how to handle dynamite. He would
fuse up a stick and throw it over the side and knock the fish silly so they would
float to the surface and we would gather them in. Our fishing trips didn’t last too
many trips when our dynamite expert didn’t get a stick of TNT over the edge of
the boat and blew the end of it off. We almost lost the explosive “expert” in the
process. (We were enjoying the war)
We went up to Hollandia, New Guinea (now is part of Indonesia and now the city
is called Jayapura). Our marines were driving the Japanese closer to home. In
the process our navy shelled the area and they hit a native church. Our first job
was to put the framework of the church back in place. The natives placed a
grass roof on it. It was interesting to hear the natives talk. They were a jolly
bunch of people to be around.
We would be on the job at eight in the morning. The natives would have been on
ten o’clock they would stop work, have lunch, leave and return around four
o’clock in the afternoon. During this time they were at the river swimming having
fun. Us dumb Seabees worked right through the hot of the day.
We visited an American Mission that we had to use a boat to get to. It was on a
Sunday and they were having church. It was neat to hear them sing our hymns
in their language.
There was one more thing about my stay here at Hollandia. The area we were
building this barrack was a big area of Red Cross barracks. There were people
coming and going from the docks and people working in the hospital. There was
a Red Cross doughnut shack and they had doughnuts and coffee for everyone.
This was one of our stops going to and from work. They had goats that they
milked for the making of the doughnuts. I think they had some of the milk for the
sick in the hospital. One Monday morning going to work we found that our
favorite doughnut shack had burned to the ground. The people that worked there
were waiting for our crew to stop. They asked if we could build them a new
shack. They already had the building supplies on the spot. We did get
permission to build before we started. It didn’t take us long to have them back in
business. After that we carpenters got special attention.
It was at Hollandia that we were building a barrack in the hospital area for our
wounded and sick. We were working on the roof and it was there that we heard
that President Roosevelt died. I think I was in the fourth grade when he was first
elected President. I was here in Hollandia when I heard that we dropped the
Atomic bomb on Japan. That bought the war to an end.
They were sending troops back to the States by how many months they were in
the service and how many months spent overseas. I think they lost my records.
Everyone was in a hurry to get home.
When I got back home to Cedar Grove the Heifer Project was just starting
sending heifers overseas. I was talking to Virgil Deeter from Beech Grove and
he was working for our district heifer project. I told him that the native children
and babies were under nursed. Hogs was the native main meat supply and that
they ran through the village like dogs. They said that some of the babies nurse
on mother hogs. There is a lot of green foliage to feed goats and you have to
keep wild animals away from them. But I think that they would be an ideal for our
district to think about sending a goat to New Guinea. The heifer project did get in
touch with some missions and they did sent goats to New Guinea. The called it
the Bill Moore Goat Mission (no that’s a lie!). But I did see it first hand and I knew
it would work.
I wrote down my thoughts as they came to me. The thirty-two months overseas, I
had four Thanksgivings, four Christmas’ and three New Years overseas. The
fourth New Year I was in Chicago IL. and I was on my home. So I guess I did
miss four New Years.
This is the end of my duty overseas. I know that the Lord Jesus was with me all
the way. I think my Quaker prayer did work and I feel that I am well blessed.