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Adm. Moorer's Life and Service Celebrated

Tuesday, 24 February 2004 12:00 AM

Born on Feb. 9, 1912, Adm. Moorer died after an illness on Feb. 5, 2004.

After the razor-sharp honor platoons of Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard marched smartly, keeping pace with the slow beat of drums, to the front of the modern upward-sweeping chapel, they were halted and given a left face.

The ramrod-straight formations waited at attention in the cold and rain for the hearse bearing the body of the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs to arrive at the front door of the chapel.

Gathered in two ranks ascending the stairs to the front door of the chapel, stood the honorary pallbearers. Led by Sen. John Warner, R-Va., former secretary of state Henry Kissinger and former secretary of state James Schlesinger, the two dozen men faced the curb and placed their hands over their hearts as the long black vehicle pulled up.

The band played the haunting notes of the Navy Hymn as the flag-draped coffin was lifted from the hearse by the military detail and carried past the collected pallbearers into the filled church.

Most of the young military men and women on parade were born long after those critical years of World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Cold War when Adm. Moorer was front and center on the stage of history. They stood fast in the wet and cold as inside the remarkable character of a remarkable man was remembered.

Adm. Moorer, who served on NewsMax's Board of Advisers, was remembered first by longtime associate RADM Clarence A. Hill, Jr, USN (Ret.), who ticked off the famous leadership traits admired and often enumerated by the late great Marine Gen. John A. Lejeune.

“Unselfishness, honor, courage … Tom Moorer had them all,” Hill said. “What’s more, he sought out immeasurable responsibilities.”

A winner of the Silver Star during the days after Pearl Harbor, Moorer was detailed after the war to survey the effect of American weapons on the Empire of Japan. Hill recalled that this responsibility led his friend, among other things, to an interview with Emperor Hirohito.

“Tom never got over what he learned,” Hill said. “He learned that Japan’s boldness was born partly because of the perception that the United States was weak. We were training with wooden guns in the bayous of Louisiana … the national draft was barely passed ….”

Hill explained how that lesson of weakness Adm. Moorer learned stuck with him even as he rose in rank and military station.

Serving under President Richard Nixon, Moorer counseled that it would take a forceful, no-nonsense U.S. front to get the communist North Vietnamese earnest at the Paris Peace Talks and willing to release the many U.S. POWs from years of tortuous incarceration.

From that approach was born the daring mining of the vital port of Haiphong, a masterstroke to keep the weapons of war from flowing to the communists in the north, weapons and supplies that fed the attacks on GIs in the south.

Hill recalled detractors saying that the Soviets would only sweep the mines, canceling the American effort, but Moorer, a longtime student of mine warfare, would hear none of it, turning back such arguments with the refrain, “We can’t even sweep those mines!”

Moorer was right, says Hill, who noted that the harbor remained crippled until after the war when U.S. technology was used to clear the deadly fields.

Then there was the Christmas bombing of 1972, another tactic encouraged by Moorer to prompt the North into repatriating the American POWs, a mission that became a personal grail for Moorer.

Hill told the anecdote about Moorer checking in with his predecessor in the position of chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Earle Wheeler, who challenged his naval replacement with, “You’ll never survive.”

Moorer did survive and has always admitted, says Hill, that what kept him going in the trying times was the thought, always the thought, of the long-suffering POWs.

“When those POWs heard those clouds of B-52s overhead, they knew they were going home,” recalls Hill.

Hill remembered his associate and friend as a “great man of faith,” noting Moorer’s post-retirement endeavors to keep prayer at his alma mater, the U.S. Naval Academy, and at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va.

At the conclusion of his remarks, Hill said that the best honor for this great American would be to have his name on some great new aircraft carrier.

“There are some of you right here in this room that can help with that,” he said.

Richard Moorer, a son of the admiral, noted that there were no medals for being a hero as a family man, who “cherished and protected” those he loves. “My father was a family man, who often told his wife, my mother, that she not only brought him success but happiness as well.”

Adm. Moorer is survived by his wife, the former Carrie Ellen Foy, and their four children: Thomas R. Moorer, Ellen M. Butcher, Richard F. Moorer and Robert H. Moorer; two brothers; 10 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

President Lyndon Johnson appointed Adm. Moorer chief of naval operations in 1967, and after he served almost three years, President Nixon selected him to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs where he became the first naval officer to hold this position in 13 years.

Adm. Moorer retired from active duty on July 1, 1974.


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Born on Feb. 9, 1912, Adm. Moorer died after an illness on Feb. 5, 2004. After the razor-sharp honor platoons of Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard marched smartly, keeping pace with the slow beat of drums, to the front of the modern upward-sweeping chapel,...
Tuesday, 24 February 2004 12:00 AM
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