MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, WA — Sixty-five years removed from unknowingly earning the Distinguished Flying Cross, Army Air Corps veteran Joseph Moser will finally get his hard-earned day in the limelight.
Mr. Moser will be presented the Distinguished Flying Cross at McChord’s Annual Awards Banquet Thursday night at the McChord Clubs and Community Center. Two former members of the squadron, Bob Milliken and Al Mills, will escort Mr. Moser to the stage when it comes time for the orders to be read.
As a first lieutenant for the 474th Fighter Group during World War II, Mr. Moser flew a highly successful bombing mission over a heavily fortified target on July 30, 1944 and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross. Two weeks later, his P-38 Lightning was shot down over Germany and he was held as a prisoner of war. Eventually, the Airman would be sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp.
Because of misplaced paperwork, Mr. Moser was never presented his Distinguished Flying Cross. He didn’t learn of the award until reading about it in a squadron diary given to him by a friend in the early 1990s.
After a few unsuccessful attempts by his family to petition state officials for a ceremony, the effort lost steam.
“I just figured it was lost and that I would never get it,” said Mr. Moser, now 87.
But momentum was re-ignited after author and friend Gerald Baron discovered the oversight in interviews with Mr. Moser for a book he was working on. Upon making some connections at a local Rotary Club meeting, Mr. Baron contacted retired Chief Master Sgt. Rick Arnold, who helped get the ball rolling again, he said.
“The whole process has been exciting and incredibly rewarding,” Mr. Baron said. “It’s exciting to see what (the commitment to awarding the Distinguished Flying Cross) means to the Air Force.”
When Mr. Baron told Mr. Moser that he was finally going to be publicly acknowledged, the 87-year-old lifetime Whatcom County resident could hardly believe his ears.
“I thought he was pulling my leg — I didn’t really believe it,” Mr. Moser said. “It still hasn’t really sunk in ‚Äì it’s quite an honor.”
When that honor comes, more than 30 of Mr. Moser’s family members and friends are expected to be on hand to share the historic ceremony.
“They’re all really excited,” Mr. Moser said. “I’ve never mentioned much about what I did in the service. Since Gerald has been writing the book, they’re learning new things about me. It’s been real good for me to get (that information) out.”
The Distinguished Flying Cross is awarded to members of the Armed Forces of the United States who have distinguished themselves in actual combat in support of operations by “heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight. The first recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross was awarded to Capt. Charles A. Lindbergh, of the U.S. Army Corps Reserve.