Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Mississippi Veteran Feature: Boyd Moore, “Hey, Sport”

By Meagan Harkins
Journalism Student

*Editor’s Note: These features were produced as a “Profiles in Courage” series by Mark K. Dolan’s freshmen seminar class in the honors college at the University of Mississippi. They were originally published in Circle and Square magazine, produced by Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni’s Magazine Innovation Center students.

Boyd E. Moore spent most of his life as a truck driver, first in the Army during World War II and then in rural Mississippi. Constantly on the road, he perfected how to maneuver in response to unexpected turns, whether his father’s death, wartime experiences, or a broken heart.

Boyd Moore. Photo by Mark K. Dolan.

Other than a little difficulty hearing and a crease in his left knee from a shard of ricocheted metal during World War II, Boyd Moore is as sturdy as the freight he hauled for most of his life as a truck driver.

At 95, his routes are different now. Week after week at the Mississippi State Veterans Home he wheels his chair to church services and social activities, determined to keep going down whatever road lies ahead.

He’s seen and felt a lot – exploding bombs and the heartache of being jilted by the girl he planned to marry. He once saw a whole graveyard of sunken ships in the Pacific. He lost his father when he was just 10. He worked in the fields, part of a sharecropping family.

“One hundred, well, 95 years, could snap me like that,” he says, referring to all he’s seen and life’s aches and pains.

As a young boy, a barber in his hometown greeted him with, “Hey, Sport” and he’s been known as ‘Sport’ ever since.

“That’s where that name came from and it carried me all the way through overseas – Sport Moore, Sport Moore,” he says.

On his journey home from Japan, Moore found himself closest to death. A 50-gallon drum of fuel caught fire during the night, burning the whole barrack. Moore was asleep on the second floor when he awoke to smoke. He had time to throw one of his two duffle bags out the window before jumping out.

Moore grew up in Hudsonville, Miss. with five siblings. His family owned the only car in town, a black 1933 Chevrolet. Moore had never before seen a ship until he found himself working on one, traveling the South Pacific just 21 months after Pearl Harbor.

His face turned a little white as he recalled their stop in Hawaii, where sunlight glistened off the water just right to reveal a field of sunken ships. “That gave you goosebumps just seeing, not seeing anybody, but just seeing the ships,” Moore recalls.

His father was a mail carrier and farm owner. His mother, in his aunt’s words, “wasn’t good for nothing but having babies.”

In 1935, the year the Social Security Administration was founded, 10-year-old Moore and his siblings were notified at school that their father had died in an accident on his mail route 17 miles away. “We knew what death was,” he murmurs. “We just didn’t understand what death was.”

He insisted the war never bothered him and knew he would not die overseas. “We were such young kids, I didn’t even know what the war was about,” Moore says of his failure to understand what he was fighting for.

No foot soldier, Moore drove a truck, navigating the jungles, mountains, and plains of New Caledonia, New Guinea, the Philippines, and Japan. “Of course, truck drivers got killed, too, that was a dangerous job.”

He knew for years prior to the service that war would be his fate, and so he was glad to be drafted to join others his age. He recalls a good friend sobbing as he was drafted in the summer of 1943, while Moore remained unfazed.

After staying at Camp Shelby for a week, they loaded trains for Virginia and Moore did not recognize a face among the men he would fight a world war with. At that point, Moore admitted he had a bit of his buddy’s tears in him. The train stopped in Memphis, where his girlfriend lived. “Boy, I wanted to go off and see her so bad, but I didn’t go.”

He recalls traveling solely overnight, protecting the secrecy of the war. “You couldn’t even light a cigarette at night. Everything was secret,” Moore says. “You couldn’t talk about where you thought you were going.”

When in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, his lieutenant granted him permission to visit his brother, also stationed there. Moore spent a few days with him, as he recalled, hunting and drinking coffee. “In the Army, that’s all you do is drink coffee,” Moore laughs.

One of his most scarring experiences, he got lost on the way back. “Me, a soldier, getting lost,” he says, slightly embarrassed.

On August 15, 1945 Moore worked on deck cleaning rifles when their boat was rocked by a large wave and his rifle bounced into the sea. Their supplier told him he would not need another, informing Moore that the war had ended.

From then on, their assignment was to destroy Japanese weapons. As fast as they could, they “took the bulldozer and laid the rifles down, ran over them,” he says with a faint grin.

It was not until Christmas Eve of 1945 that Moore received the order to go home. “I wasn’t as happy as I thought I would be when I did get in the Army,” he explains, looking back. “It was a good Christmas.”

Moore raced home to be reunited with his girlfriend, to find out that she had married another man. “She said she wrote me a letter, a ‘Dear John’ letter as they call it,” he recalls. “I didn’t ever get it, of course.”

Once home, Moore again became a truck driver, hauling freight. He enjoyed a 67-year marriage that resulted in four daughters, six grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren.

A “sport” is defined as “a person who behaves in a good or specified way in response to a trying situation.” Moore is always that, whether driving his truck or navigating the hallways of the veterans home, responding with grace and style to whatever lies ahead. “It might raise my blood pressure a little bit but then I wasn’t worried about it,” he says.

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