by Robert Wilson
Because I am in the militaria collectibles business, I’m fortunate to be able to be involved with our history on a daily basis. While I enjoy all facets of the military collectible field, the medals awarded to our brave warriors and citizen soldiers have always been the most interesting to me. Sometimes, I can buy a medal with a name that has no story, but before it’s over, I have discovered the veteran’s path.
At last year’s Show of Shows (SOS) in Louisville, Kentucky, I bought one of the most comprehensive and poignant groups I have ever owned. My hope is to do justice to the veteran’s life journey. – RW
Kyle Campbell Moore was born on Dec. 9, 1908 in Knoxville, Tenn. A young athlete, he was a football most-valuable player-for two years at Knoxville High School as well as the city’s tennis champion for two years. He entered the University of Tennessee as a pre-medical student, but the Great Depression made it impossible to continue. He began a job as a city reporter for The Knoxville Journal.
Moore developed into a good reporter and outstanding photographer. He even became the southeastern representative for The New York Times and Hearst’s International News Service. During this time as a reporter, Moore met his future wife, Katherine Davis, a journalism student who would eventually honor his life and not let him be forgotten.
Describing her husband, to whom she referred with his Navy nickname, “Kasey,” Katherine Moore said he was, “the most interesting man I’ve ever known. He was smart, talented, skilled, creative, industrious, generous, sensitive, a true Scot in many ways, unafraid, sincere, funny, and loving. He never lost a friend or forgave an enemy. He was an athlete, an avid sportsman, a crack shot, and gentle with his hunting dogs. He was a good father, a compassionate son, a wonderful husband, and a splendid naval officer.”
Moore was commissioned a Lieutenant (jg) on 8 December 1941 and graduated from Midshipmen’s School in July 1942. Kyle and Katherine were married on July 23, 1942. A week later, he reported in the Aleutians for duty aboard the cruiser, USS Indianapolis.
He served three years aboard, turning down opportunities to take shore duty. Kasey loved his cruiser and had no plans of leaving her.
Admiral Raymond Spruance, whose usual flagship was the Indianapolis, ordered Kasey to serve as photographer and create combat films with the Marine Corps from 1943 to December 1944. In this role, Kasey covered Tarawa, Kwajalein, Majuro, Eniwetok, Saipan, Tinian, Guam, and Peleliu. During a showing of combat film footage taken by Kasey and his photographers, Sedivi Ph1c and Stavenger PhM3, they received a standing ovation.
In April 1943, Kasey was promoted to Lt. Commander and named officer-in-charge of the hull department (construction, repairs and damage control). Ph1c Sedivi relayed this story to Mrs. Moore:
“Mr. Moore was never afraid, he never went ashore for the Admiral and said, ‘You go on, Sedivi, I’ll wait in the jeep.’ Lots of time I was the one waiting in the jeep. We were on Saipan walking in terrible tall grass where the Japanese had foxholes. Mr. Moore was in the front and I was walking with some Marines…a Japanese officer with a samurai sword jumped up in front of us, and Mr. Moore shot him. The captain asked for the sword. Admiral Spruance hated to see him promoted because now he has no photographer and won’t add another to his staff.”
Following a kamikaze attack in March 1945, Moore was able to repair the ship in time to get it to San Francisco to take aboard components and uranium for the first atomic weapon, “Little Boy,” which the ship delivered to Tinian Island on 26 July 1945.
Four days later, after a quick stop at Guam on the way to Leyte, the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-58 around midnight on 30 July 1945. Lt. Commander Moore was on the bridge as supervisor-of-the-watch. Twice, he went below to survey the damage, after which he advised the captain to abandon the ship. Kasey was last seen below decks – waist-deep in water trying to save his beloved ship.
Before the ship left San Francisco, the scuttlebutt was that the mysterious cargo the Indy would be carrying “would end the war.” Katherine asked Kasey, “What will I do if you do not come back?” Kasey told her to be happy and forget him, marry again, and, if she didn’t mind, for them not to talk of it anymore.
He kissed her goodbye, and she asked if he would be gone long. He managed a smile, “I hope not.”
Then, without another word, he put on his cap, squared his shoulders, turned, and walked quickly down the long hall. For the briefest moment, he hesitated at the top of the stairs, but he never looked back.
At the docks at Hunters Point, the great grey lady was straining at the lines that bound her to the land. After the atomic bomb parts came aboard, the word from Washington was, “Speed run.” At 8 o’clock on 16 July 1945, the Indy cast off all lines and set sail for her destiny.
In 1984, Katherine penned a book for Kasey’s daughter from his first marriage, Mary. It covers their three-year “war marriage” with the following excerpt covering the USS Indianapolis and its sinking:
In late October, at Capt. McVay’s request, Katherine met with him concerning the loss of Kasey, and how Katherine and Kaseys daughter Mary were handling it emotionally.
McVay asked, “Will you be or are you now bitter?”
[Katherine’s words]: “I am bitter. Perhaps I will always be, although my pastor says I cannot live that way. I am not bitter that Kasey was lost. I accept that. But I am bitter that you did not accept his advice to abandon ship seconds after the Indy was torpedoed. You knew how much he loved that ship; you knew his disposition; you saw at Okinawa that, where the Indy was concerned, he would never admit defeat.
“When he said there was no hope, why didn’t you order abandon ship then? Men could have been able to leave their duty post, get life jackets, floater nets, even the boats with food, water, medicine, and have had a chance to survive in the water.
“Anyway, why was the ship traveling in a forward area with all water-tight doors wide open? Joe Flynn (Executive Officer) and Kasey talked about it all the time. ‘What would happen if the ship were torpedoed, and the doors were all wide open?’ was Kasey’s recurring nightmare. He and Commander Smith (former gunnery officer) had once calculated with a slide rule that if the ship were torpedoed when she was wide open, the weight of the water rushing in – they knew how many tons there would be – would capsize the ship in 14.5 minutes. Apparently they were exactly right.
“Some of the survivors with whom I have talked with this week say they never heard any order to abandon ship. They were simply washed away.
“The bugler was on the bridge. Kasey always had him there. He and Joe Flynn did not agree to the necessity for a bugler on the bridge, but Flynn conceded that it would be a godsend if all communications were cut off. From some of the survivors, I am told that few men ever heard the order to abandon ship only seconds before the ship capsized. I just plain do not think you handled the situation very well.”
Katherine followed up with:
“Though I saw Captain McVay two or three times during the years that followed, he never made reference to my indictment. I’m sure his court martial, and the destruction of his career were all that he could handle. He eventually took his own life.”
A poem Katherine wrote:
Today, I chanced upon
A photograph of him.
For whom my heart
Ceased to cry.
And now, my tears
Have began anew.
He looks younger now,