The elementary school in Nowata, Oklahoma is named after former school superintendent and community leader Glenn C. Moore.
But before Moore made his respected reputation in education, he earned another reputation over the skies of Europe in World War II: As a combat fighter pilot.
I sat down with Moore in 2005 to remember his war-time service.
“I was a senior in the class of ’43 when I enlisted in the U.S. Army pilot training. It took a year to complete the training,” Moore said.
Moore earned his silver wings and second lieutenant’s commission by April , 1944 and was assigned to the 525th Fighter Squadron, 86th Fighter Group outside of Naples, Italy as an 18-year-old fighter pilot. “I flew nine missions while in Italy, before being sent to the island of Corsica to provide support for the invasion of France,” Moore said.
He was assigned to fly a P-47 Thunderbolt.
A letter Moore wrote to his parents on July 11, 1944 relates his first combat mission: “I flew my first combat mission on the seventh of July. I flew as the wingman for the mission leader. They said my bombs were on target but I did not see them hit,” he wrote. “It was good to get the first one under my belt. I had the same feeling of butterflies in my stomach that I use to have before the beginning of a football game.”
From Corsica, Moore said he begin flying missions against the Germans in earnest. “We really got started with heavy action from Corsica; I flew in 118 combat missions in all.”
In the middle of August an Allied campaign began to trap the German 19th Army. Moore’s unit was assigned to fly armed reconnisance patrols in the Rhone River valley; part of the mission was to strafe German units trying to escape, nearly 50,000 German prisoners had been captured.
On August 22, Moore was flying his 13th mission and was given his first command — a four-plane wing. Moore was in charge of White Flight with orders to recon around Aix toward Digne.
“We were instructed not to drop our external fuel tanks unless we were attacked by enemy planes; there was a shortage of fuel tanks.”
“After take-off, we switched to the external tanks for the 200-mile flight to Marseille. Each flight turned at the assigned location to begin the reconnaissance in its geographic area.”
Moore directed White flight to switch from the external tanks to the internal main tank. His flight was flying at an altitude of 4,000 feet in a spread formation so that each plane had freedom to look for ground targets.
“We passed the city of Aix and I thought I saw a truck drive into a tree-lined area off the highway. I called the second element (of the flight) and instructed them to stay up while my wingman and I went down to strafe the truck,” Moore related.
“We turned to enter the attack and a heavy barrage of 20mm cannon fire came up to meet us. I heard a shell explode in the tail section of my plane. At the same time, Marsh (Moore’s wingman) reported he had a large hole in his right wing. I continued my strafing pass and racked a large column of bumper-to-bumper vehicles concealed beneath the trees which lined both sides of the road.”
Moore said that coming out off the strafing pass, his wingman seemed frightened about the extent of damage to his airplane. Moore directed the second element to make another strafing pass at the column.
“I waited until my wingman and I were out of range before gaining altitude and called Marsh to join me in close formation. White Two (Marsh) continued to show how frightened he was by his calls on the radio. I remembered my first flight and knew how scared I was. The other element leader (White 3) called to report he had a hit to his left wing.”
Moore instructed the flight to reassemble over Aix and as soon as they rejoined, they set a course for a return flight to Corsica. Moore ordered the undamaged White Four to inspect the other three planes. “All three of the planes had sustained direct hits from exploding 20mm shells. Marsh’s plane was hit along the leading edge of the right wing, just outside of the outboard gun. White 3’s hole was in the aileron area of the left wing, but his control surface was functionally normal. The shell had exploded on the bottom of the fuselage in front of the tail wheel on my plane.”
Reaching Poretta, Moore instructed Marsh to jettison his wing tanks and was about to have all the planes jettison the tanks when he realized the tanks still had fuel in them; he ordered the other planes to keep them.
“I came in and made a normal peel up off the end of the runway for my landing approach. At the top of my chandelle, I dropped my wheels and flaps and was holding bottom rudder in my turn. I had just rolled out of my turn over the end of the runway when the right rudder pedal went full forward.”
Moore’s plane nose dropped and then crashed into the runway. He said the landing gear collapsed and the prop dug into the steel mat. The wings dropped onto the two external fuel tanks and they ruptured but quickly tore away as the plane skidded to a stop in the middle of the runway.
Moore expected the spilled gasoline to explode. ” I jumped out of the plane, dashed forward and away to the edge of the mat and dropped to the ground.”
Moore was uninjured but two days later he had a new plane and a new mission.
Moore’s target was a railroad bridge and construction overpass combination west of Torino, Italy, combined with an armed reconnaissance of roads and rails back toward Allesandria.
“On our big briefing and situation map in the operations tent, a red heavy flak circle showed in the same location as our target. Captain William Blackwell pointed to the location and said, ‘You are very likely to receive heavy anti-aircraft fire in the target area. Collegro Airdrome is close to the target and is heavily defended with with both 88mm and 20mm guns’.”
Moore was flying in formation at about 10,000 feet on a course over the city of Cuneo. “Four rounds of 88mm came up and exploded very close. I began evasive action immediately. Several other rounds followed but non was as close as the first. A piece of shrapnel had passed through the canopy of my plane and shattered it on the left side.”
Moore reported the damage to his flight leader but felt he could continue the mission. As they approach Torino, Moore began a brief cockpit check of radio, oxygen connection, fuel tank settings and readings and adjusted his oxygen mask.
“When I looked at the floor at my fuel tank selector, I noticed blood was dripping on the left leg of my flying suit. I used my left hand to feel for the source. When I pulled my hand away from my oxygen mask, my glove was sticky and covered with blood.”
Moore aid he was alarmed and pulled off his mask. “Blood trickled down my cheek and chin and I felt a burning type pain. Feeling at the source of the pain, I located sliver of plexiglass that was embedded in my face over on my cheek bone.”
Moore pulled off his glove and pulled the piece from his face — it was about half an inch wide. “I snapped my mask back on, stuck my glove in a pocket and began to try and concentrate on what I was doing. Radio communication had begun.”
Moore remembered the battle communication: “‘Arm your bombs,’ then ‘Prepare for attack,’ ‘Break left off the target,’ ‘Go down and stay down on deck if flak is heavy,’ ‘Space out to avoid bomb blast,’ ‘Don’t carry too low,’ ‘See the target,’ ‘Wait until it is past with your left wing tip,’ ‘Take evasive action.’ These were all instruction coming from Red 1.”
“Big black puffs of 88mm fire were coming up and blooming all over the sky. I thought our turn and dive and bomb would never come. When I was in position, I did a wing over left into my dive, lined up with the target, let the nose pass over and released. I could see streams of 20mm fire going up in front of me. I turned right off the target and kept going down. I was directly over Collegro Airdrome. I saw five ME 109 fighters to my left but I couldn’t turn on them with my speed. I zoomed over two twin-engined planes I didn’t recognize. I couldn’t fire a shot. I decided to get the hell out of there.”
For action in August, Moore was awarded an Air Medal. For action in September, Moore and Marsh were both awarded 1st Oak Leaf Clusters. Moore’s OLC was awarded for his action in a machine gun attack that destroyed a pontoon bridge over the Po River. For action in November, Moore was awarded second Oak Leaf Cluster. Moore’s wingman, Glenn Marsh, was killed in action by enemy ground fire on November 20, 1944.
By the end of 1944 Moore’s unit had rebased at Pisa, Italy and were flying sorties targeting infrastructure and trains. Moore said. “We really liked hitting the locomotives, that was our main mission.” Moore was part of a three-pilot mission that destroyed two locomotives, eight motor vehicles and five rail cars; an additional three locomotives were damaged near Verona, Italy. on Dec. 1.
On Dec. 20 according to declassified action reports, Moore led a four-plane group that bombed and strafed rail lines and rail activity in Voghera, Italy. This “very successful” mission earned Moore the Distinguished Flying Cross. According to the award citation, after completing the bombing, two of the planes were damaged and forced to return to base. “Continuing with his wingman in search of other targets in the area, Lt. Moore sighted a concentration of rolling stock and motor transports near Voghera. Immediately pressing a vigorous attack in the face of heavy enemy ground fire which damaged his aircraft, Lt. Moore repeatedly strafed the objective destroying or damaging 16 locomotives, 10 motor vehicles, a tank, and a large number of freight cars. On more than 75 combat missions, his outstanding proficiency in combat and stedfast devotion to duty have reflected great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of The United States.”
Moore had one more crash landing — in January 1945, he was forced to bring his plane down on its belly. Moore had been flying a cover mission for B-17 bombers when his plane was damaged and he was forced to make an emergency landing.
From there, Moore’s unit rebased in Tantonville, France to support the invasion of Germany. On April 12, 1945 Moore led a 12-plane attack near Beyreuth. Moore launched an attack on two airfields — the planes stayed on sight attacking the fields until they had depleted their ammunition. Seven ME109s, two 190s, 1 JU 87, one HE 111, four trucks and a building were destroyed. Thirteen other aircraft were damaged.
The unit moved to Braunschardt, Germany in late April. As the war ended, Moore was appointed Assistant Operations Officer and then Squadron operations Officer; Moore ended action earning his 7th Oak Leaf Cluster and his second Distinguished Flying Cross.
After the war Moore spent 60 days recovery in hospital from battle fatigue; he then went to college and began a successful career in education.