Semper Fi ...
Los Angeles Daily News
January 14, 2003
The first name that Marine Pfc. William "Bill" Moore scratched on his canteen cup before his final battle of World War II was that of his dad, Earl Moore, a Marine in World War I.
He was proud of his father, proud to follow in his footsteps and become a Marine himself.
His sisters talked about their brother Monday as they held the rusted, battered canteen cup that became a family treasure last week.
"Bill was still in high school; he didn't have to go," said Dorothy Saraga, one of his sisters, who now lives in Reseda. "He enlisted a week after his 17th birthday in 1942."
He died in 1944, a month before his 19th birthday, on tiny Peleliu Island in the Pacific in one of the bloodiest battles of World War II.
Fifty-eight years later, a couple of former Marines on a tour of military battle sites in the Pacific found a rusted canteen cup sticking out of some dirt under a clump of bushes.
When they dug it out and brushed it off, they found it had belonged to Pfc.William Moore, Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment.
They turned it around and saw the name Earl Warner Moore scratched into the cup, along with the names of Bill's brother, Roy Moore, and sister Elizabeth, both of whom had joined the Marines in World War II. Dorothy was too young to join but later married a Marine.
"What should we do with it?" Dan King asked John Edwards about the cup.
"Only one thing we can do with it," Edwards said. "Find them."
And that's just what they did -- spending months going through old high school yearbooks, telephone books and Marine archives to find out what happened to the Earl Moore family that lived in Sunland back in the '40s.
Last week, King and Edwards flew into Van Nuys Airport to deliver the cup, found in the dirt of a tiny 5-square-mile island in the Pacific, where
20,000 died more than a half-century ago.
They personally wanted to let Pfc. Moore's sisters know that their brother was thinking of his family right to the end.
Dorothy got the first call in July. It was someone from her alumni association at Verdugo Hills High School.
"She told me two men had called her looking for the Moore sisters, and she didn't feel right about giving them my number without asking my permission," Dorothy said. "I asked her what they wanted, and she said it had something to do with my brother Bill and an old cup."
The men on the phone were King and Edwards, who had already made two trips to the Valley from their homes in Fullerton to locate Moore's next of kin.
"We talked to Realtors, went to the library, tried the historical society, but weren't having much luck," Edwards said. "Then we got the yearbook from Moore's high school and saw he had two sisters.
When Dorothy hung up the phone after talking with the men, she sat there shaking her head, remembering some of the toughest days of her family's lives.
"The day my parents got the telegram saying Bill had been killed in action, I was in high school," she said. "Dad came and got me out of class. He was crying. We all were."
When Dorothy called her sister, Elizabeth Brich, living in Van Nuys, and told her about Bill's old canteen cup, Elizabeth was stunned.
"It's amazing that all these years later not only would the cup be found, but that our names Bill scratched on it would still be so clear," Elizabeth said.
"Amazing, too, that these men would take all that time to find us so we could have it."
Not amazing, Edwards said Monday. Just something Marines do for other Marines. Nothing gets left behind, not even an old canteen cup.
"This was a kid who could have stayed in high school for another two years and probably gotten out of serving, but he wouldn't do it," Edwards said.
"He wanted to be a Marine, like his father, and that makes him an American patriot to me."
Dorothy has the cup now, but it will soon go to Bill's nephew for a while, then to the grandkids in the family so they can hold some rich, family history in their hands and learn from it.
But before all that, the sisters will be taking the old canteen cup over to Glenhaven Memorial Park in Sylmar, where Bill is buried next to his father and mother.
They want to share it with their parents, too.
They want to let Earl Moore know that it was his name Bill scratched first and foremost in big letters on his old canteen cup before his final battle of World War II.