On June 6, 1944, Fred Moyers boarded a B-26 Marauder airplane, one of 13,000 aircraft crowding the skies that summer day. The mission took place over the shores of France. The objective was to bomb weapon sites and bridges, disabling the enemy as the Allied forces invaded the beaches of Normandy.
Fred's plane made it over the sea and into enemy territory, accomplishing their objective. In January 1945, on his 45th mission, Fred's plane was shot down. He had only one option. He jumped.
In the confusion, he almost forgot the most important piece of equipment he needed to survive: his parachute. He ran to the door, and just before jumping, he felt a tap on the shoulder. The only other man in the plane was the pilot in the cockpit. His arm couldn't reach that far. You can hear the break in Fred's voice in the audio. That break is because he believes that tap was God's divine intervention.
Upon landing, the enemy surrounded him. He was escorted off the battlefield by German soldiers and spent the rest of the war as their prisoner.
His story is only one of many, but his story is one that matters to me because Fred Moyers is my wife's grandfather.
A few years ago, my wife and I sat down to interview him about this experience. You can listen to the audio included at the beginning of this post. (Note: there is some background noise that I don't know how to edit out. In a way, it'd be a crime to remove it. It's beautiful to hear because Fred's life is full. His family is big, and his love for them is bigger. To edit the noise out would, in some way, be to tarnish the story. The story of Fred Moyers reaches into the generations that have come from him. So, ignore the screams of my boys as they play with their uncle. Fred would only smile to hear it now. Smile with him.)
I've also included a portion of the audio transcripted below. It takes you through the first 3 minutes or so, giving a brief summary of his war-time experience, which, of course, he tells in the third person.
Fred is a true hero, like all veterans who served and gave and sacrificed. He will be 94 in September, and he can recall vivid details of the war, of D-Day, and the cost of it all, with tears in his eyes.
Here's to Fred and all the others who sacrificed so much.
Sarah Grandad, I want you to tell me about a story from your childhood that you remember. Do you remember anything from your childhood?
Fred Why, let’s see. I believe I do, Sarah.
Sarah What is it?
Fred Well, here’s what I have on my mind
Sarah Yeah, tell us.
Fred Ok. Fred Moyers's war story. Fred Moyers married Helen Talley on February 6, 1943. And he was inducted into the army on May 2, 1943. From March 1943 to 1944, Fred trained to be a soldier and also trained to be an engineer and top turret gunner on a B-26 air force bomber (they, of course, won the war). He took gunnery training at Ft. Myers, Florida and airplane mechanic school at Goldsboro, NC.
On May 10, 1944, Fred departed for England, arriving May 20, 1944.
He joined the Air Force 394 bomb group, 587 bomb squadron, in England to prepare for the Normandy invasion. There their targets were weapon sites, bridges, air drones, and gun placements.
On D-Day, June 6, they bombed gun positions at Cherbourg, afterward striking communications and fuel supplies, and strong points in support of the Normandy campaign invasion. They took part of the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944.
In January 1945, they flew over enemy territory in Germany for eight months. Then was shot down on his 45th mission and lived with the Germans for three months. His battles and campaigns were the European, African, and Middle Eastern ribbons with four Bronze Stars, two Overseas Service Bars, and medals of six Oak Leaf Clusters. And Fred was discharged from the service on September 6, 1945.
The full interview gives more details, but let me point out two things.
First, Fred starts his story with his marriage to his wife, Helen. That's because wherever Fred is, Helen is there also. They don't leave the same room without one another. I've never seen them apart. They're still living side by side, singing their favorite songs.
Second, Fred tells his story in the third person because, to him, all of life is a gift. He's not the hero, God is. He always says, "Don't sweat the small stuff because it's all small stuff." I guess when you've jumped out of a plane and spent three months in a Germon prison camp everything else is small. But his statement isn't to belittle anything. It's to magnify the things that really matter. And as Fred approaches the end of this life, he has the bigness of the hope of glory to look forward to.
Thank you for your service, Fred. And to all those who served alongside, in his generation or in another, thank you.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.