WWII pilot completes his rounds at VA driving range
WHITE CITY — When his country called, he took to the air, flying B-17s over Europe. When the great post-war projects required his iron-working skills back home, he dove in.
When Cliff Moore retired and moved to the Rogue Valley Manor, he picked up a new sport and a new calling: volunteering at the Veterans Affairs' Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics driving range.
Moore has sold his last bucket of practice balls, ending a 12-year run serving those who followed his military steps. He turns 95 next month and looks perfectly capable of taking a big bird on another mission. He gave up playing the game a year or so ago because of a faulty knee.
"It's time for something else," he said with a disarming smile that helped him endure the hardships of war and grueling requirements of his trade.
Moore was among 11 former Prisoners of War honored during a private luncheon Friday. At one point, a SORCC spokesperson said, more than 80 POWs attended such gatherings before time began eroding their numbers.
Moore grew up in north central Wyoming in Powell, a town of 2,500. He was drafted into the Army well before the U.S. got involved in the war and was stationed in Madison Barracks, N.Y., where he was working on his field artillery skills. But after the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor, he entered pilot school and trained to fly bombers based in England.
A typical tour of duty at the time in the Army Air Corps was 25 missions. The loss rate for B-17s was 5 percent per sortie, but Moore returned safely 10 times. On his 11th mission, however, he was shot down en route to Germany, losing one of his crewmen to enemy fire before setting down in the French countryside.
"You think about those things before you start," the pilot said. "If you can do 'em, you go ahead and do 'em."
Moore and his crew were hidden by the French underground for three months before the Nazis caught up to them. He spent the next year in POW camps.
"We moved twice," he said. "We were over in eastern Germany and as the Russians got closer, we moved to Nuremberg and then a little later to Moosburg, and that's where we were when Patton came through."
Moore said about 2,000 servicemen were in the camps. They passed time playing cards, reading and playing ball, he said. But there was no interaction with the Germans.
Even before the allies reached his prison camp, Moore had a pretty good idea help was on the way.
"Some guys put a radio together out of something and we got a little news in there, so we knew what was going on," he said.
Back in the states, Moore made his way to Oregon and rejoined the workforce in Madras. He moved about the West as an ironworker before latching on with Jacobsen Construction in Salt Lake City for 19 years, working on large buildings, bridges and dams.
Prior to entering the service, he worked on the Grand Coulee Dam.
"If you're flying a B-17 not in combat, then ironwork was much more dangerous," Moore said. "I don't know how many, but we lost quite a few working on the dam."
He retired in 1980, took up golf at 65, and moved to Medford, where his two sons reside. His interests ran the gamut, from bowling and water skiing to hunting and angling, and golf fit right into his schedule.
He owns an 18-handicap and shot an 18-hole round of 80 at Quail Point Golf Course when he was 82.
"You meet a lot of people out here, regulars most of the time, but new ones coming all the time," Moore said. "I like meeting with them all."
Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31, and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/Economic Edge.