In 1943, Sgt. Frank Moore was a soldier with the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, XII Corps. As he and his unit prepared for the Allied invasion at Normandy, he spent a summer in Coastal Georgia, sleeping in the fields of Camp Stewart.
On Monday, Moore returned to Georgia for his first look in over 70 years at the area now known as Fort Stewart.
On Veteran’s Day eve, Moore and his wife of over 71 years, Jeanne, were treated to a tour of the installation alongside Garrison Commander Col. Kevin Gregory and retired Army Col. Pete Hoffman, director of Armstrong State University’s Liberty Center.
“It is really different than it was when I was here back in the summer of ’43,” Moore said, noting that he and his unit bivouacked near a river and had no access to amenities like beds or showers.
“We never got to take any showers … we lived out about five miles east of camp, and we did everything out there,” he recalled. “To get clean, we’d go down and swim in the river, fight for a spot with the alligators and water moccasins.”
Moore said that it was no easy task, but he eventually found the spot where he and his comrades had camped all those years ago.
“Col. Hoffman and I were looking at a map … and we did find the exact spot, and it still looked a good deal the same,” Moore said. “I could see some of the trees where we used to have ropes hanging off of, that we’d swing across and then dive into the river.”
Moore, his wife and their oldest son, Frank Jr., were not in Georgia just to take a tour of Fort Stewart, though. The family traveled from their home in Oregon to view the premiere screening of a new documentary, “Mending the Line,” which chronicles Moore’s return to France to fly-fish the rivers he’d crossed in combat 70 years earlier.
The special screening was held at Armstrong’s Savannah campus Monday evening. A dozen other area veterans from WWII, Korea and Vietnam, as well as numerous Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan War vets also were in attendance.
After returning from Europe and being discharged from the Army, Moore began a long and successful career in fly fishing, a passion of his since childhood. Steve Engman, the film’s director, said he was filming a project for PBS about Moore, who had recently been inducted into the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame.
“We went down there purely to do a story on just how great of a fly fisherman he was,” Engman said. “We knew he was a World War II veteran, but we didn’t know a lot about him at the time.”
Engman said that the Moores hosted him and his crew in their home for a week. At the end of their stay, the director said he conducted one final interview with Moore, and asked him what he had left to do after such a storied life and angling career.
“He goes, ‘Well, there was this time in World War II when I was crossing this bridge in Normandy, and I saw an Atlantic salmon and fly rod, and that moment has been ingrained in my head for 69 years and I’ve always wanted to go back and fish for that salmon.’ So we just stopped everything – our jaws dropped and we looked at each other, and without a word, we knew we had to make this happen,” Engman said.
Although Moore said he did not want to accept any donations to make his “bucket list” wish come true, Engman said that he started an Indiegogo account to crowd-fund the project. The film is currently making its way through the indie film-fest circuit, and has been nominated for numerous awards.
Moore said he’d enjoyed getting to see Fort Stewart as it is now and had high praise for today’s soldiers.
“In my judgment, the kids today have it a lot tougher than we do, because there’s a lot more going on,” he said. “I was overseas for three years, but at least I didn’t come home and go back, come home and go back. I mean, that must be terrible.
“The whole trip has been very emotional, because it brought me back 70 years and to a place … that I hated – Camp Stewart,” he added with a chuckle.