Sid's N T I N S Locker  ||   All Gave Some - Some Gave All
February 27, 2000
A Navy Hero
By Danny Butler Former STS2(SS) USN

My grandfather passed away this morning.

I know that many share the feelings for a loved one the way I do for my grandfather. I've always expressed my feelings better in writing than by speaking, however, this is probably the hardest thing I have ever written.

Enduring many hardships that were uncommon to boys of his age, Harrell Judson Moore matured early in his youth. At the tender age of sixteen, recently married to Joyce, he answered the call to arms at the height of the Second World War, enlisting in the Navy. Men were needed badly to defend this great nation, so no time was wasted in deploying young Harrell. He was assigned to USS Strong, DD 467, a Fletcher Class destroyer, and immediately shipped out to defend the sea-lanes of the South Pacific.

Intense battles and rough seas quickly ensued, and the commodity of sleep and rest was not to be afforded. Things which he had once taken for granted -- solid ground beneath his feet, a filling meal, a soft, warm bed, these were things he now longed for. His desire to be with Joyce and his faith in God were the driving forces that he relied upon during the trials of the South Pacific.

On July 5, 1943, shortly after midnight, the ship had sailed up the "Slot," in the Solomon Islands. It was here that the Strong met her fate. Manning one of the forward deck guns, Harrell witnessed the torpedoes as they approached the port side. The torpedoes had been launched from a Japanese destroyer. Striking forward of amidships, the torpedoes exploded, blowing out both sides of the forward engine room and fire room. Fifty minutes later, the ship sank and exploded, taking seven officers and 39 men. Not among those that perished, Harrell and his remaining shipmates were rescued by the USS Chevalier, under heavy fire from Japanese shore batteries. Harrell went on to serve his country, facing many more trials, before victory and peace were declared.

I listened intently as he recounted these events to me. A year older than Harrell had been when he joined the Navy, I had asked Papa to tell me his story for a school paper I was writing on World War II veterans. Much less mature than he had been at that age, not seasoned by hardships and trials, I realized that I too, had taken for granted many things -- chief of which was this man that sat in front of me. His eyes glistened with tears as the memories came back to him. Friends and shipmates that he had lost, the ferocity at which the Japanese fleet had volleyed -- attack after attack, the joy of seeing Joyce again. It was the first time -- the only time I had ever seen Papa cry. Victory had indeed been achieved in that war, but I realized that peace would never come to Papa. These memories he would always carry.

I saw Papa with renewed respect. Once, Papa had been a good joke teller, a man who knew how to fix things, now Papa was a source of wisdom, a father figure, a role model. He became a hero to me. Papa became a man that I could go to for advice. He was someone that could always look at a problem and find a solution. I coveted his advice, his wisdom. I cherished the times that we spent drinking coffee and talking. His years on this earth had provided him with priceless experiences with which he could always offer a new way for this young man to look at things. Words never left his mouth that I didnít keenly listen to. Yet the most important advice he ever spoke to me came not in the form of words spoken over coffee. It came from his actions, his behavior, and his philosophy. You could see it in Papa, it is what drove him. God, honor, integrity, and family. This was what was important to Papa. It became important to me.

I joined the Navy not long after I had interviewed Papa. During the eight years I was away, I always looked forward to coming home on leave and sharing sea stories with him. We would sit and talk about the Navy and how things had been when he served and how things were now. We realized that the Navy really hadnít changed that much since he had served. "Everyone should serve," he would say, "the discipline really develops a man." As time passed, however, I could see that sharing sea stories became too painful for him. Talk of the Navy would bring back the haunting memories that lie within him. No longer were we able to share this one thing that we held so dear, that we had in common. Again, the war had robbed Papa of peace, yet he never resented it. It was something that had to be done -- something he felt he had to do.

Papa leaves this world with a legacy that will continue to live. God, honor, integrity, family. These are values that he has taught his children and grandchildren. These are values that will be passed down among the generations of his offspring. Who was Harrell Moore you might ask? He was a Husband, father, friend and brother. He was a leader and a mentor. To me, he was and always will be my hero.

At last, Papa has found peace. Sailor, rest your oars.