Becoming a Navigator

Normandy Invasion

Operation Dragoon

Operation Market Garden

Operation Varsity

Bastogne

War's End

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Charles Moore was born in Washington, D.C. on 14 May 1919. Growing up with five siblings, Moore had a twin sister. There were three boys and three girls in the family. The children had good parents and childhood was very good. They were raised in a good Catholic family. Moore attended Catholic schools including preparatory school. He attended Virginia Junior Polytechnic School and became a mechanical engineer. He received his draft notice in April 1941 while he was employed by the local gas company. He understood at the time that he would only be in the service for one year. His basic training was at Fort Meade, Maryland. Originally in the 29th Division which landed at Utah Beach, he was assigned to an anti-tank company in the 116th Regiment. [Annotator’s Note: the 29th Infantry Division landed on D-Day 6 June 1944 on Omaha Beach as part of the Normandy invasion to begin the liberation of France from the Germans. The division suffered heavy casualties on that day.] His unit participated in maneuvers in the Carolinas during the summer prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December. [Annotator’s Note: Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese on 7 December 1941] Moore and his company were camped in a field in Mecklenburg County in North Carolina when they received word of the surprise attack. The troops knew they were in for the long haul at that point. Moore was a married man with one son and he knew he had to support them. It was not easy on his current enlisted salary of 21 dollars per month. Upon return to Fort Meade, he applied for Officer Candidate School. It did not matter that the only school available was for quartermaster. The important factor was to have enough money to support the family. He took the promotional opportunity and succeeded in graduating and gaining his commission with the Second Army as a supply officer. He was stationed in Virginia. One night he had 180 black troops dumped on him without prior notification that he was to be their company commander. He put those men through basic and primary training. They did very well. Since he always wanted to fly, he witnessed the military change the limitation on acceptance of married men in the Air Force. He applied and went through a battery of tests to check compatibility with various assignments. He was rated as a pilot, navigator or bombardier. Upon further review, his vision was not acceptable for pilot training; consequently, he was accepted into Navigator School at Monroe, Louisiana. He graduated in early January. He was assigned to Pope Field at Fort Bragg where he started rigorous training in conjunction with paratroopers. He was placed in the 440th Troop Carrier Group immediately after his completion of the Navigator School training. That Group flew C-47 aircraft. [Annotator’s Note: a Douglas C-47 Dakota troop transport could deploy a platoon of about 20 paratroopers.] Training went from early January to mid February when they were transferred to Baer Field to pick up their new airplanes. During the train ride from Pope Field to Baer Field, Moore got into a conversation with a conductor. Moore was wearing a sidearm and was queried as to whether he could shoot it. He acknowledged that he could. The conductor next asked if he could hit an insulator on a telephone pole. Moore not only said he could but he pulled his pistol and showed the conductor he could as he hit the insulator on the pole. It was a lucky shot and Moore refused to try it again. After reaching Baer Field, Moore and his Group received new C-47s. Coincidentally, his second son would be born on 18 February on the day before they departed Baer. The next stop was West Palm Beach, Florida where a series of injections were administered in preparation for overseas departure. As they departed Florida, they looked down at the coastline and thought that it would be the last they would see of the United States for quite awhile. After stops in Puerto Rico, British Guinea, and Brazil, the C-47 crossed the Atlantic for an arrival in Dakar in Africa. The flight next went to Marrakesh and then to the United Kingdom. There were 72 hours of flight time with several layovers for rest in between. Arriving in Wales, they plane was advised that they were in the wrong traffic pattern. There were two airfields with a beacon in between and the C-47 had picked the wrong field to land. They made the correction and landed on the correct field.

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Charles Moore went to Bottesford which was 18 miles from Nottingham. [Annotator’s Note: Moore and the 440th Troop Carrier Group went from Wales after initially arriving in the United Kingdom to Bottesford.] Training and familiarization was done there. The fog that would roll in was unsettling for the fliers. The Group then transferred to Exeter for more training. The men visited pubs while at Exeter. They realized something was up when the gates were secured at the camp. The briefings began and Moore understood how large the Normandy undertaking was to be. He had attended a meeting with an officer beforehand and got the word early on what was planned. Everyone privy to the information was informed to keep the details very secure. On 5 June, the airplanes began to be loaded with paratroopers in anticipation for the invasion. He transported the 506 Battalion of the 102nd Airborne. [Annotator’s Note: the 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment was a part of the 101st Airborne Division which landed early on 6 June 1944 in Normandy, France.] Each C-47 carried about 12 to 14 paratroopers with gear. [Annotator’s Note: a Douglas C-47 Dakota troop transport could deploy a platoon of about 20 paratroopers.] The takeoff was before midnight with the pathway being provided by beacon lights for the transports to follow. The turn was made across the Cherbourg peninsula. There were squadrons ahead of Moore’s aircraft. He observed the flak fire that was coming up and greeting the aircraft ahead. They knew their time would come to be under fire. When they passed the castle of St. Michel off the coast of the Cherbourg peninsula, it was time to turn into the final flight pattern. That was when the flak was the heaviest. As a navigator, Moore had the responsibility to guide the airplane on the dark night. The pathfinder beacons which were to provide guidance were not working effectively. It was a good drop even though the plane took a few hits. One of Moore’s buddies went down in his airplane but overall the operation was a success. [Annotator’s Note: although many of the individual paratroopers were scattered and disorganized upon landing in France, they mobilized quickly and threw the Germans in disarray. The lack of immediate unit cohesiveness due to the random distribution of the American paratroopers confused the Germans as much or more than it did the airborne troops who had just landed. The airborne assignments were largely attained by the resourceful troopers.] Upon return to base, Moore and other crews were debriefed. The actual drop from his aircraft was after midnight near a little town called Vierville in Normandy behind Utah Beach. [Annotator’s Note: Vierville-sur-Mer is near the coast of Normandy] Moore could move around in the plane during the flight. He could look out the front to see the flak. He could look back at the men about to jump. As soon as the plane turned to cross the peninsula, everyone went quite in the plane. They were probably praying because they were scared. Everyone was scared. The C-47 made it back safely after the drop of the airborne troops on France.

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Charles Moore had his next major mission when he participated in the invasion of Southern France. [Annotator’s Note: Operation Dragoon was the invasion of Southern France in August 1944. Moore and the 440th Troop Carrier Group would drop paratroopers into Southern France as part of that invasion.] Training had begun in Italy during the summer time. It was hot. The route for the Group to its new base was from Exeter to Marrakesh to an airfield in a small town north of Rome. The town was named Grosseto. That was Moore’s base in Italy. It was a great time. The Italians were nice people. In the beginning, there was a lack of private facilities for the men to bath. The Americans found a long porcelain horse trough fed by artesian water. The men used it to bath. They would stand naked while local citizens walked by on their way to church. The troops and the civilians would say hello to each other. [Annotator’s Note: Moore laughs at the memory] The drop over Southern France was relatively uneventful with only minor flak experienced. After that operation, the Group returned to its base in England.

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Charles Moore and his outfit flew many supply runs into France. [Annotator’s Note: Moore had returned to England with the 440th Troop Carrier Group after being based in Italy for the invasion of Southern France. The Normandy beachheads were expanding during this time as Allied troops stretched further into France. Supply and resupply demands were heavy to support the advancing Allied troops.] Gasoline, ammunition and food were needed in France. Flights were around the clock to provide those necessities. Patton was extending his advance more and more into France. [Annotator’s Note: General George S. Patton was in command of the 2nd Armored Division and making great gains as he pursued the Germans across France.] The next major operation for Moore would be the drop of paratroopers into Holland. As part of that, Moore and his squadron would drop airborne troops into Nijmegen. [Annotator’s Note: this was a part of Operation Market Garden which occurred in September 1944.] Later operations would be across the Rhine and in support of troops at Bastogne. Moore does not remember the actions by the operational code names but rather by the locations he flew into for the fight.

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Charles Moore flew in the major airborne operation to cross the Rhine River. Like the operation into Holland, this was a daytime drop. [Annotator’s Note: Moore and the 440th Troop Carrier Group dropped paratroopers both in Operation Market Garden in Holland during September 1944 and Operation Varsity to cross the Rhine River into Germany in March 1945.] The operation across the Rhine was a large scale event with both paratroopers and glider infantry used. There were three echelons of airplanes used. Flak from the ground could be observed to be heavy. Moore recommended evasive action which two of the three echelons undertook. They turned to avoid the flak while the flight of planes on the left did not try to evade the fire. They suffered heavily as a result. Many of the planes were hit. That drop was very accurate and was a good landing. The airborne commander was complimentary to the aircrews as a result. The D-Day drop was confusing with paratroopers scattered all over the place. There was a certain extent of panic that ensued. Paratroopers were dropped before they hit their DZs. All in all, however, the operation ended up well. [Annotator’s Note: the D-Day or Normandy invasion was troubled with bad visibility and heavy enemy flak which greatly disturbed the organization of the aircraft dropping the paratroopers. Men were scattered in small groups all along the DZs or drop zones.]

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Charles Moore flew to support beleaguered American troops in Bastogne. [Annotator’s Note: relief to the men in encircled Bastogne came as the weather cleared and American transport aircraft were able to successfully drop supplies. The bastion was surrounded by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944.] At Thanksgiving, Moore was moved from Le Mans in France to Orleans. They missed out on the traditional turkey dinner as a result. At Bastogne, the Group dropped supplies to the men in Bastogne. Moore recommended that the flight mission not take the route over the roadways because of the emplacement of German heavy flak guns nearby. The transports took an alternate route and avoided the heavy fire as a result. The airmen returned to a turkey dinner, but the quality of the imported turkey meat was very poor. Moore suspected that they had been fed cod liver oil because the taste was not very appetizing.

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Charles Moore was stationed in Orleans, France at the end of the war. He enjoyed the experience there. He had a favorite small restaurant downtown near the statue of Joan of Arc. The female proprietor took a liking to him and would prepare special meals for him. The French were nice to the Americans. Despite stories he heard after the war, he like them. Moore began to have trouble with his ears and nose. He had a deviated septum operation near Paris. Recovery was going well and he was in route to Paris when he contracted scarlet fever. He was in isolation for 21 days. After recovery, he began to be treated again for his nasal issues when the doctor asked if he would like to go back to the United States. He would ZI him. [Annotator’s Note: no explanation of ZI is made. The assumption is an expedited return home due to medical reasons.] Moore was excited at the opportunity. That was in the spring of 1945. When he was about to be released, Moore went to meet his brother-in-law in Paris. No one was in the street despite the word that the war was over. Degaulle made the official statement over loudspeakers and the people all came out to celebrate with kissing and champagne. [Annotator’s Note: Charles Degaulle had been one of the major Free French leaders in opposition to the German occupation of France. His announcement of the end of the war (“La guerre est finie”) threw Paris into a celebratory frenzy.] Moore remained in Paris until autumn when he caught a flight back to the United States. That flight was commandeered by officers in the Azores. Never mind the wounded troops. The officers took the plane. When Moore arrived back in the states, he was allowed to make a free phone call and have some ice cream. He went to a VA hospital in Harrisburg, Virginia. The war with Japan ended. Moore stayed in the Reserves for five years. He had a friend in the Pentagon who aided him. Moore’s Pentagon friend had a girlfriend who lived above Moore. The two men attempted to find Moore’s service records but they had been misplaced. About that time, Korea was heating up and Reservists were being called back. Without a record of his service, Moore decided to bow out of the service and move on with his life. That was the end of his military career. Moore does not think of himself as a hero. He only did what he was asked to do. There were companions who were lost in the war. [Annotator’s Note: Moore becomes emotional at the thought.] He thanks God that he came back safely.

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