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Captain Joel R. Moore: Co. 'M', 339th Infantry

Updated: Apr 6, 2022


(Cpt. Joel R. Moore, courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society)


Captain Joel R. Moore was born July 2, 1879, to parents, Emma and William Moore, a fairly prosperous couple who owned a grist mill in Litchfield, MI. Joel, like his three brothers, attended local schools. There, Joel discovered he relished competition, and even though he was not a big guy, the young man was lanky and agile. He excelled in track, football and baseball, plus, he possessed a skill for motivating, tutoring, and leading his teammates. Joel did well in school, thus, when he graduated from high school the young scholar immediately enrolled at Albion College, IL.

Joel went on to earn a degree in economics in 1908, and took a position as assistant lecturer in the economics department at the University of Illinois, as well as commencing work at attaining a master’s degree in economics. He would publish his thesis, “Taxation of Corporations in Illinois” in 1914.[1] Joel Moore met the 25-year-old Mabel Olmstead and the two married in 1904. Mabel gave birth to a daughter two years later, but sadly the infant died. Unfortunately the pay at the University of Illinois was barely enough for survival, forcing Joel to seek employment elsewhere. He secured a teaching position at Great Falls High School, MT, where, he taught three history classes and coached the football team. Though he did well at Great Falls, the district did not renew his contract, sending the Moore’s packing. Joel landed an instructor’s slot at La Crosse State Teachers’ College, WI, as well as a coach for the school’s football team.

America’s entry into the Great War on April 2, 1917 meant millions of young men would soon receive draft notices. Joel Moore, knowing the army’s need for officers, applied for the Officers’ Examination on May 2, 1917, a day before he was required to register for the draft. His draft registration card noted that he was tall, of slender build, and had grey eyes and light hair. [2] Moore’s application was approved a week later, and he was ordered to Ft. Sheridan, IL for Officers’ Candidate School. Three months later, August 6, 1917, Moore was commissioned captain. He was sent to Camp Custer, MI and assigned to lead the 339th Infantry’s Company ‘M.'

Captain Moore's company was sent to defend the Railroad Front, along with the other three companies of Second Battalion. Though Companies 'K' and 'H' would often be elsewhere, Moore's unit, and Company 'I' was usually based at Obozerskaya. Here, they battled the Bolos and tthe Russian winter until mid-December 1918, when Moore's troops were sent to Archangel, and from there to Pinega. Captain Moore, using his pre-war skills as an educator, directed the training of White Russian volunteers and organzied the defenses around Pinega. Once the high command felt Moore had done all he could, the company, in March 1919, was returned to Obozerskaya.

The company, along with some other Allied troops, fought a three-day battle with the Bolsheviks near Bolshie Ozerki. Here, once the fight ended, Moore's soldiers proudly presented him with the sword of a dead Bolshevik senior officer.[3] Two months later Moore's company was sent to Camp Economie, and from there they, along with the rest of the 339th Infantry, were sent to France, and then, home. By this time Cpt. Moore had been awarded the French decoration, the Croix de Guerre with a Bronze Star, and the Russian medal, St Anne With Swords for his actions. [4]

Joel Moore received his Honorable Discharge from the Army and found himself a job as a teacher in Albion, MI. He and Mabel then moved to Detroit, where he became a probation officer for the Detroit City Court. Moore followed this position by taking command as the head warden at the Ionia Reformatory, and from there, as head warden at Jackson Prison. Joel Moore retired in 1949, and four years later, passed away. Mabel Moore lived for another fifteen years. [5]

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[1] Moore, Joel R., "Taxation of Corporations in Illinois Other than Railroads Since 1872," 1914.

[2] United States Draft Registration Cards, 5 Jun 1917.

[3] Moore, Joel R., Mead, Harry, and Jahns, Lewis, The History of the American Expedition Fighting the Bolsheviki: Campaigning in North Russia 1918-1919. Topping Sanders Co., Detroit, MI, 1920.

[4] "French Decorate Detroit Officer," Detroit Free Press, 7 Apr 1919.

[5] "Former Warden Dies," Lansing State Journal, 28 Sep 1953.

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