Service & Sacrifice

Donald Moore: ‘They told you what time to get up. They told you what time to eat. They told you what time to go to bed’


Journal City Editor

Donald Moore was drafted and served at Fort Carson Colorado in the United States Army in the early 1960’s at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

He completed 6 weeks of boot camp at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri before heading to the place he would be stationed the next two years.

“We all went on the train to Chicago, the train was still running back then,” Moore said “Then we got on another train, the Denver Zephyr, I think it was called to Denver Colorado. Then we went to Fort Carson Colorado.”

He said life in the military was very regimented, even though he had spent some time sailing on the Great Lakes where discipline was also necessary.

“Everything was different,” Moore said. “They told you what time to get up. They told you what time to eat. They told you what time to go to bed.”

Once he made it to what would be his final military destinatio, the natural environment was also presented a challenge.

“The altitude is high, so it took your lungs a while to get used to (it)…it’s like you couldn’t breathe when you were running until you got used to the thin air.

Moore served as a gunner on a 106 recoilless rifle, otherwise known as a tank killer. During the Vietnam War the same type of weapons would be used to take out enemy bunkers and even buildings, according to

“The shell was about 6-inches around and about 3-feet high.” Moore said. “It had a 50 calliber on top with tracers to find the range.”

There were several first’s for Moore in Army, including mountain climbing and jumping off the side of a cliff on a rope.

“You had to go across a canyon on a rope and you had to fall off,” he said. “And if you didn’t fall off, they shook you off, to show you that that rope (line) would hold you. I had to do it twice because they said I was hanging on.”

The troops were training in case something happened in Cuba, in which case the troops would drop everything at a moments notice and expect to be fighting in Cuba within a day.

The experience of the Cuban Missile Crisis made the danger of nuclear confrontations more tangible. It was considered the last direct U.S. vs. Soviet military confrontation.

He said he wasn’t supposed to be a truck driver in the Army, but a lot of his time was spent behind the wheel of a two and a half ton truck.

“We were on maneuvers most of the time,” Moore said. If they sent somebody else, the mess sargeant would send them back and request me. I drove for the cook all the time we were in the field. You had to eat last, but you got all the food you wanted. I still remember the number on my truck, it was A-11.”

His most profound memories of that time surround the regimented nature of military service.

“The first thing you did, you ran a mile every morning.”

“You did get time off. You’d get a three day pass and could go to Denver — which was an hour to an hour and an half drive. And one of my friends had a car, so it’s not like we were stuck,” he said. “But, again, you didn’t get a lot of time off.”

He achieved the rank of Specialist 4th Class. After his discharge he went on to work for the Ford Motor Company for 30 years.

“I was a union guy, I went to union meetings,” Moore said. “If they did something wrong, the union would hear about it. Like when they tried to speed up the line on you.”

And like many military veterans, Moore has spent the bulk of his time and energy giving back to his community after retirement. He is one of the founders of the Michigamme Historical Museum in the late 1990’s.

“Mayor (John Olson) wanted a museum. We formed a committee and called the lady that ran the Marquette Museum and asked her to give us some classes give us a tour of the museum down there to figure out how to do this stuff,” Moore said. “And every time a store would go out of business, they would let me drive the township truck to go and get the stuff.”

He recalls one day in particular when he and Olson went to a rummage sale in Republic Township.

“I wish I had a picture of this. Mayor and I went with the township truck, and he kept piling the stuff on top of this truck, you know,” Moore said. “We looked like the Clampets coming down 41. We had to pull over every time a car was coming because we were afraid something was going to fall off.”

Since it opened in 1995, the museum has accumulated a large collection spanning more than 130 years of history, including military servicemen.

Moore and his partner Jane Adams also played a part in the 2007 return of the township’s 1900 horse-drawn steam engine, raising about $10,000 by holding regular rummage sales at their home. The total cost of the artifact was $150,000.

Moore and Adams were also instrumental in bringing the historic Dompierre House to the museum grounds. The estimated cost of bringing the 1800’s mine company cabin to the new site and restoring was $35,000.

He has also been involved in projects that include the new storage building for the township’s steamer, which also houses other vehicles and items that remain historically significant to the township.

Moore is still passionate about area history at the age of 87, and still collects cans to raise funds for museum projects.

“Someone else comes and gets them and returns them for us,” Moore said. “But we store some of them in our garage.”