“Many choose the word ‘hero’ when describing athletes who accomplish otherworldly sporting feats. Oftentimes, it’s an exaggeration. But when detailing the life of the great Bud Moore, it’s a description that fits perfectly.”- Brian France
An early NASCAR great and a great American hero is gone. Walter “Bud” Moore, has passed away after a long, full life at the age of 92. What is a hero? Bud Moore is the personification of a genuine hero.
He was so much more than a brilliant NASCAR mechanic, crew chief and team owner. The native of Spartanburg, South Carolina, represents one of the last of America’s greatest generation. Born in 1925, Moore was drafted into military service a week after turning 18 at the height of America’s involvement in World War II.
He wanted to go into the Navy, but you needed a college education to go into that branch of service at the time, so Moore went into the Army. While getting ready for an amphibious assault, he learned he would participate in an invasion on Normandy, in June of 1944. It was the historic D-Day invasion.
Landing on Utah beach, Bud Moore almost didn’t make it. While wading through water, he stepped in a shell hole and went under water. He recovered, hid behind a sand dune, and his group was a part of the “Big Push” spearheaded by Gen. George Patton. A machine gunner, Moore was witness to US planes bombing Periere, Manche.
Moore’s unit would eventually go to Verdun, where they spent three weeks without supplies. There the 19-year old became a participant in the Battle of the Bulge. On one mission, Moore and a Jeep driver who spoke German were tasked with inspecting homes. A German soldier was seen running towards a hut. Moore attacked the hut, set it on fire, forcing the soldier’s surrender.
With the prisoner tied to the hood of the vehicle, Moore and his compatriot located a rock house full of enemy soliders. The combatants inside waved the white flag of surrender, but wouldn’t come out. Before Moore fired, the captured soldier convinced the men inside to come out. When they did, it was discovered that 15 men were inside the house. For his work, Bud Moore was awarded a Bronze Star.
Moore would be promoted to Sergeant, and would go on to fight in Czechoslovakia. He was wounded and would earn four Purple Hearts. He was also involved in the Siege of Bastogne. Given the extent of his combat participation, Bud Moore was among the first to come home when the war ended in 1945.
All the losses of Bud Moore’s fellow soldiers affected him in a profound way. He would never return to the scenes of WWII, saying he had lost too many friends there. It is said, he often refrained from trying to look for old Army buddies, fearing he would find htey had been killed in action.
The story of Bud Moore is a reminder of the effects of war. His was a portion of humanity who did what was asked of them no matter how impossible the task seemed. When it was all said and done, people like Bud Moore did not bask in their glory, nor asked for the attention given them. The memories of war were bittersweet. There was that sense of successful missions to free Europe from the clutches of evil, yet there was that memory of lives cost to achieve their ends.
In pondering the brief military career of Bud Moore, one thought comes to mind. He was barely out of high school. Today, we would have thought of him as some kid, and yet here he is, storming into Europe and taking enemy soldiers. Fast forward to today, how many 18 and 19-years do you know up to those tasks?
After a brief, and yet full military stint, Bud Moore returned to the states to throw himself into a long and storied life of auto racing. Come back tomorrow. We’ll explore the racing of life of an American great.