Captain Joel R. Moore — Company M, 339th Infantry

Posted on Saturday, October 10th, 2020

Moore Joel - articleJoel R. Moore


Joel Moore was born July 2, 1879 in Litchfield, MI. He grew up here, his parents Emma and William Moore having established a prosperous farm equipment sales business. Joel excelled in school and eventually attended college, graduating from the University of Illinois.


The young college graduate became a teacher, moved to Illinois, and met Mabel Olmsted. The couple married in 1904. Two years later they had a daughter, who unfortunately died soon after birth.


Joel continued teaching until in 1917, but with World War I raging, he applied to take the Army Officer’s Commission Exam. He passed and reported for Officers’ training in May 1917. Moore was commissioned Captain of Infantry in the Reserve Corps. Then, when Michigan drafted thousands of young men, Cpt. Moore soon found himself in charge of nearly 150 newly trained soldiers in Company M, 339th Infantry, 85th Division.


The 339th Infantry was sent to England in July 1918, and two months later, in early September, the regiment, including Cpt. Moore’s Company M, arrived in Archangel, Russia.


Moore’s company was immediately crammed into train cars and transported southward on the Archangel-Volodga Railroad, tasked with protecting munitions and equipment, and supporting Allied units already positioned in the region. A week later his men were shot at for the first time, and Moore recalled, “Remember that first shell … that whining, twisting, whistling shell that passed over us?”


A month later Cpt. Moore’s formation battled the Bolos, as the Americans called the Bolsheviks. His soldiers, though heavily outnumbered, attacked and in a fierce fight, defeated a large Bolo force. Once the battlefield was quiet, Joel Moore, while taking a few moments to rest, noted, “We tremble to think what they could have done to us.”


Captain Moore’s Company M spent the next nine months fighting the Bolsheviks, defending railroad sidings, towns, bridges, and Russian civilians. Sadly, some of his young men would be killed, forcing him to write painful letters to grieving families. In one such letter to a heartbroken mother, he began, “This is the saddest letter which I have ever had to write.” Finally, in June 1919, Cpt. Moore and his soldiers were extracted from Russia and they returned to the United States. Then, Moore and his men were discharged.


Joel returned to his wife Mabel, and a teaching position in Albion, MI. A few years later he took on a position as warden of the prison at Jackson, MI. He would serve in this capacity at several penitentiaries for the rest of his career, before being forced to retire in 1949 at the age of seventy. Joel R. Moore passed away four years later in 1953.



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