photo courtesy of Laura Mott/Office of Secretary of State
Ferndale resident Joe Moser will be one of the first Washington state World War II veterans to be profiled in a new Legacy Washington exhibit, called Washington Remembers: Their Sacrifice. Our Freedom, honoring the lives of the state’s World War II veterans. Moser‘s plane was shot down over Germany.
As the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II nears, the Office of Secretary of State is launching a gripping series of online profiles, beginning with the story of a Whatcom County fighter pilot who was captured and narrowly avoided death in a German concentration camp during the war.
The profile on Joe Moser, now 93 and living in Ferndale, is one of the amazing stories that the office will share about Washingtonians who served in World War II, says Secretary of State Kim Wyman.
“We are racing time,” Wyman said. “Most of the Washingtonians who served in World War II have passed away, so it’s important to capture and share stories of those soldiers still alive so current and future generations have a better understanding of the sacrifices made by those who fought in this pivotal war.”
Wyman said Moser’s remarkable story of survival makes for a readable and moving profile that can be viewed at the office’s Legacy Washington webpage at http://www.sos.wa.gov/legacy/.
“Joe Moser’s story is as dramatic, heartbreaking and, in the end, triumphant as any you’ll read or see in a movie,” Wyman said.
“The Legacy Washington team is capturing similar stories from the war that unfold on the battlefield and in concentration camps. I encourage everyone, especially relatives of World War II veterans, to read Joe’s incredible profile and upcoming stories in the months ahead.”
Moser was shot down over north-central France in 1944, captured by the Germans and sent to Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany, despite his POW status.
At Buchenwald, Moser witnessed unthinkable conditions – people reduced to skin and bones after being fed cabbage soup with worms and living in filth. Just days before he and other U.S. airmen were scheduled to be executed, they were sent to a POW camp. Moser and some of the other POWs survived a long death march during the brutally cold winter of 1944-45.
In the profile, Moser describes the day of liberation by the Allies from the POW camp on April 29, 1945, near Moosburg, Germany.
“I was right close to the gate when a big American tank came and run right over the gate. Come in and they took down the German flag and raised the American flag. You’re a prisoner. Your life isn’t your own. And all of a sudden, you’re free. The joy is tremendous. It’s something that is hard to describe because we’re a free nation; we can do just about whatever we want. And to have all of that taken away. And to have all of that given back to you. I think we all just cried. …No feeling like it, really.”
Moser is scheduled to receive the French Legion of Honor award Thursday, April 2, at the World Trade Center in Seattle.
Wyman said the profiles allow World War II veterans a chance to share stories that haven’t been told.
“The time to hear their stories is now. Every three minutes in this country, we lose a World War II veteran. These heroes offer first-hand accounts of the war, a personal perspective to history, that we can’t afford to lose,” said Wyman.
Tens of thousands of Washingtonians served in World War II, with about 6,000 missing or killed during the war, said Wyman, whose uncle served in the Marines during that war, earning the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
“We owe these veterans our utmost respect,” Wyman said. “For years, many of our service members did not speak of the war. In many cases, they were simply humble. But in other cases, they kept silent because people accused them of exaggerating their claims or making up stories.”
The profiles are the prelude to a new Legacy Washington exhibit, called Washington Remembers: Their Sacrifice. Our Freedom, opening this summer in the front lobby of the Office of Secretary of State at the state Capitol.
The exhibit will feature photos and artifacts shared by Washington’s World War II veterans or their families.
People are encouraged to send in photos of World War II veterans to be featured in an online gallery called Faces of Heroes. Digitized photos can be submitted using this link: http://1.usa.gov/1xiqZKP.