By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
PEPPERTOWN – Miriam Moore didn’t risk her life during World War II, but the conflict and its horrors are burned into memory.
Her husband, the late Ellie Wayne Moore, was part of a secret mission that he couldn’t discuss when he came home for a two-week furlough in 1944 to marry his 17-year-old sweetheart.
“We just knew each other. We lived in the same area,” Moore, 85, recalled. “Everybody knew everybody else out in the country.”
They were one of 13 couples to marry during WWII furloughs. Older folks said the kids didn’t know what they were doing, but all 13 marriages made it 50 years. Her husband died a few months after they hit that milestone.
Now you know Ellie Wayne Moore survived the war, but you don’t know the scars he brought home. His wife knows because she’s the one who listened.
“Oh, he had nightmares for 10 years after he came home. Sometimes, two or more a night,” she said. “I’d get a cloth and wash the perspiration off his body.”
He was a member of the Mars Task Force that was ordered to liberate the Ledo-Burma Road. Men and pack mules were flown through the Himalayas, then had miles of walking to do on narrow mountain trails.
“Their orders were if you hear a mule braying or a man screaming, whatever you do, don’t look back because they would be going over the edge of the trail,” said Moore, picturing a scene in her mind that she never saw in person. “He said, ‘You don’t know the feeling when that happens.'”
They fought where vehicles couldn’t reach. Food and ammunition were dropped with parachutes, and sometimes the Japanese reached the provisions first.
“They got so hungry once they killed a big, ol’ water buffalo,” she said. “It took two days to get it cooked where they could eat it. It was so tough.”
After weeks of hard fighting, the soldiers succeeded in their mission, but they saw awful sights that haunted Ellie Wayne Moore and still reside in his wife’s memory.
But there were funny times, too, like when his powerful snore was mistaken for a tiger’s growl, and he was nearly trampled by his buddies.
Moore also knows something her husband never learned. At a Mars Task Force reunion, she found out that Gene Autry, ‘America’s Favorite Singing Cowboy,’ piloted the plane that took the men and their mules through the Himalayas.
“It bothers me that Ellie Wayne didn’t live to hear about that,” Moore said. “When we were courting, all we had to do was go to the Dixie Theater in Fulton. It was Gene Autry or Roy Rogers. That was the choice, and Gene Autry was our favorite. It would’ve meant so much to him for us to be able to remember that together.”