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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Evert 'Mo' Mosher

Monday, August 15, 2011

Evert 'Mo' Mosher
McCook lost a familiar face recently, with the passing of Evert "Mo" Mosher. He was a fellow who delighted in bringing a smile to everyone he met, whether it was in bringing garden produce to friends and acquaintances in town, or delivering his home-crafted novelties -- such as his "tax' shelters and "stool samples," or showing pictures of his "Pride and Joy." His was a welcome presence everywhere he went. On a recent visit to the McCook Specialty Clinic, I was pleased to see that the receptionist had Mo's "3-piece chicken dinner" and his "Pride and Joy" displayed prominently above her desk- -- reminders of the fellow with the infectious smile.

Mo Mosher was a native of Iowa and was inducted into the Army in 1942. His first assignment after Basic Training was at the Air Base at Cheyenne, Wyoming. Looking back to World War II days, we tend to think of that as a time when our "boys in uniform" were universally loved and honored. This is the way Mosher had thought it was in 1942. He soon found out that love and respect for the service men was not universal.

Mo was proud of his uniform and the first Saturday night he had leave he looked forward to a night on the town in Cheyenne. He had a rude awakening when he attempted to enter a bar for a drink. He was greeted with a large, hand-painted sign above the door, "Dogs and GIs, Keep Out!" Mo, ever gregarious, merely shrugged and continued down the street. After all, there were plenty of other places that would be glad to welcome a GI (and his money).

Mo was one of the first men to be assigned to the McCook Air Base, in 1943, when he led a small group of soldiers to McCook to establish a motor pool at the new air base. What the men found on their arrival was just one hangar, in the first stages of construction. The runways were laid out and the dirt work on those runways had begun. But the wind blew so hard and the dust was so thick that it was difficult to tell just what was being done.

Initially, there were many construction vehicles at the base, but Mosher's Air Base Motor Pool consisted of only a few trucks and jeeps and an ambulance. In those early days, before the planes arrived, there was much idle time. The motor pool boys got well acquainted in McCook, and frequently used their few vehicles to hunt small animals north of the air base. A favorite method was for one man to sit on one front fender with a powerful flashlight, another to sit on the other fender with a rifle and hunt coyotes at night, bumping along the prairie at high speeds. The miracle is that no lives were lost.

Most of the planes and crews that were stationed at the McCook Air Base went to the European Theater of Operations when they left McCook. Mo Mosher was different. He was never a part of the Heavy Bombardment Groups that were assigned here. His motor pool, responsible for servicing all base vehicles other than airplanes, was assigned to the Base Headquarters Co. It was a fine job and he had visions of remaining there until war's end, but it was not to be.

In 1944 Mosher was sent to the South Pacific, to an airborne ordinance outfit, as part of a group of replacements. He arrived in New Guinea just in time to be a part of MacArthur's great offensive, which would end with the dropping of the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima, Japan 8/6/45.

After Pearl Harbor, 12/7/41, the Japanese pretty much ruled the Pacific. Their Navy was unchallenged and they were able to pick off Pacific islands as they chose. Gen. MacArthur, in charge of the American/Philippine troops in the Philippines since 1935, was forced to leave 10,000 American troops to the mercy of the Japanese when he fled the island in April, 1942, with the promise, "I shall return!" American forces regrouped in Australia for the war against Japan.

In June of 1942 the Japanese fleet was intercepted by the Americans near Midway Island in the Pacific. The Japanese were defeated in the battle that followed, probably preventing an invasion of Hawaii. But it was not for another two years that MacArthur really was able to make much progress toward the promised return. Part of this was due to the fact that the war in Europe took priority on the manpower and war materials, but the Japanese Navy still was dominant.

Then in June, 1944, American Admiral Marc Mitcher engaged the Japanese fleet in the Battle of the Philippine Sea (later known as the Mariana Turkey Shoot). This turned out to be one of the most decisive battles of the war. Three Japanese aircraft carriers were sunk, including Admiral Ozawa's flagship. 219 of the 326 Japanese planes were shot down. This battle effectively ended any threat by Japanese carrier aviation for the remainder of the war.

That battle assured that MacArthur's strategy, to regain control of the Pacific was successful. The Japanese controlled most of the islands leading to Japan, and had shown that they planned to contest an American advance at every island. MacArthur's plan, to bypass many of the most heavily defended islands, left the Japanese forces to "wither on the vine."

Mo Mosher was a part of the Pacific island hopping campaign from New Guinea in 1944, to Luzon Island in the Philippines, and eventually to Okinawa, as a member of the invasion force that was to fight in Japan itself -- an invasion made unnecessary by the Atomic Bomb.

Luzon Island, Philippines was already in American hands and Mo Mosher was already at Clark Field outside Manila, on Luzon Island, when General MacArthur fulfilled his promise. (10/44), and made his triumphant walk through the surf on Leyte Island, Philippines.

Wartime censorship was very tight for the troops abroad during World War II. Censors would read every letter and cut out any words or passages that might reveal classified information. Some of the letters barely hung together because of the cut out spaces. Men learned to write only on one side of the paper because words on the back-side would of course be cut out as well. Still men used little codes to get messages to their families back home. Somehow, Mo learned that his brother, Roy (Shorty) was serving in the 1st Infantry, somewhere in the Pacific. The brothers had not seen each other for a long time, and as chance would have it, one day Mo saw a Jeep with the words, 1st Infantry on the side. He managed to locate the driver, who told him that the outfit was on the fighting line, in the mountains, Northwest of Clark Field, on Luzon Island.

Mo could be very persuasive, and on this occasion he convinced his CO to allow him to visit his brother. It was not hard to hitch a ride to the front, and by asking continually he was able to locate Roy's unit. Roy was manning a machine gun at the time and nearly fainted from surprise, to see his brother approaching his post.

The two boys were able to spend two days catching up on each other's adventures in the war since their last meeting, news of the family, and reminiscing generally. It was surely the bright spot in the war for the two. They knew not when or if they would see each other again.

On the last night at Roy's camp there was a report to expect a shelling attack by Japanese Artillery. During the night there was indeed a heavy artillery attack, a very scary experience. They could hear the shells whistling as they went over. Each time they waited, holding their breath, for the explosion, praying that the impact would not be close. They survived the night unscathed. After breakfast, Mo decided that he best be getting back to his own unit, and the relative comforts of Clark Field. Roy urged him to stay awhile longer. But Mo was insistent. "It's been nice, but no thanks. I don't think much of your damn fireworks."

After the war, Mo and his bride (the former Doris Bortner of McCook) tried living back in Mo's native Iowa; however, the attraction of Southwest Nebraska was too strong and the couple made their way back, to spend their lives on their farm, on a high bluff overlooking Red Willow Creek, almost in sight of the McCook Air Base, where it all began for them in 1943.

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Walt Sehnert
Days Gone By