I wanted to post this article in time for Memorial Day, but was nowhere near a computer. A teacher assigned a profile article in March and I interviewed my Great Uncle Joel.
When Joel graduated high school there were few jobs available in the small town of Notus, Idaho.
“I enlisted because it was the best way to receive a paycheck when jobs were scarce,” said Moore.
Moore was stationed on many bases throughout his training and met his wife in Wichita Falls, Texas. He married June Moore on Christmas Day 1943 before leaving for a few missions in Europe.
Spinazzola, Italy became home to the men of the 460th Bombardment Group of the Fifteenth Air Force.
“Someone came into our tent with a lantern in the early morning to tell us to report to briefing,” said Joel Moore. “They told us our mission was to bomb the oil refinery in Ploesti, Romania.”
The Romanian oil refineries were supplying Germany with oil and the United States sought to limit the supply line. There were five refineries in Romania and all of them were under German control.
“It was my first flight over the area,” recalled Moore. “It looked as though we were flying into a swarm of bees.”
On May 31, 1944, Joel Moore and his crew sustained three hits to their B-24 bomber before it was sent into a slow spin. Four members of the crew, Moore included, were able to escape the aircraft before it burst into flames.
“The Germans were waiting for us on the ground and were quick to hustle us into a ditch to avoid being hit by bombs from our own forces,” Moore said.
Moore was greeted by a young German boy who demanded he speak German and, when he refused, hit him upside the head. Moore and his crew were taken to Bucharest, Romania where they lived in an old boarding school building.
“We slept in a hut with a straw rack and I used my boot as a pillow,” said Moore. “The flies were thick because we were only allowed one shower each Wednesday.”
Breakfast consisted of a biscuit and a marmalade-type soup with cabbage soup for lunch each day. At one point, Moore became desperate for something else to eat.
“I sold my class ring for candied bread and planned to eat a little at a time, but it did not work out,” stated Moore. “I went back to my bunk and ate the whole thing.”
Food was difficult to find due to the United States forces continued bombing of Bucharest every three or four days. At one point, Romanian military took their share of food from the prisoners’ allotment to feed their own families.
“Two of the other men in camp decided to request a trip to the latrine and made a run for a cherry orchard outside of town,” chuckled Moore. “The local law enforcement found them eating from the trees.”
War Camp #13 in Bucharest was located near a factory that was bombed by United States military and survivors from the bombing set out to have the prisoners of war lynched. The German military kept Moore and the other survivors safe throughout the protests.
“The Romanian camps were far more civil to prisoners than some camps,” Moore said.
During Moore’s time in the war camp the German leadership hosted a USO camp show and invited the prisoners to attend. The evening was marked by hours of German waltzes and when the band opened for requests an American asked for the St. Louis blues. The German commanders quickly moved into formation and it became clear to Moore and his friends that it was time to go back to the camp.
On August 31, 1944, Moore and all of the other prisoners of war were released from German control.
“The B-17s flew in to pick us up and it was 20 men to a plane with no parachutes on board,” said Moore. “We were so happy to be leaving camp that safety was not a major concern.”
Joel Moore returned home to his wife in the fall of 1944 and spent many more years serving in the United States Air Force before retiring in 1968. Moore is one of 113 surviving prisoners of war from the camps in Romania.