One of Douglas County’s remaining World War II veterans will be filmed returning to France next month to visit some of the places where he fought.
This time he will fish.
Fly fishing legend Frank Moore was a 21-year-old sergeant in the 453rd automatic weapons battalion in June 1944 when he landed on Utah Beach in Normandy during the D-Day invasion with the U.S. Army’s 4th Infantry Division. His battalion was later attached to the 83rd Infantry Division and battled the Nazis in France, Luxembourg and Germany.
Moore, 90, was named a chevalier of the French Legion of Honor in 2011. He is a conservationist who founded the Steamboat Inn on the North Umpqua River and was inducted into the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame in 2010.
Portland documentary film company Uncage the Soul Productions will take Moore to a Memorial Day ceremony in Luxembourg and D-Day ceremonies in June on Omaha and Utah beaches in Normandy. It will also follow him as he does a bit of fly fishing in rivers he once crossed as a soldier. The end result will be “Mending the Line,” a 50-minute documentary it hopes to sell to public broadcasting or the Discovery Channel. A 20-minute version of the film will be shown in 130 locations worldwide as part of the 2014 International Fly Fishing Film Festival.
The filmmakers are raising funds for the project through an online crowd-sourcing campaign that asks individual donors to give what they can. As of this morning, $20,175 of the $50,000 production costs had been pledged. The fundraising campaign ends next Friday.
Producer John Waller, a 1994 graduate of Glide High School, interviewed Moore in August for documentaries for the Travel Oregon website and the public broadcasting show Oregon Field Guide.
During a week of filming, Waller asked Moore what else he would like to do before he died. Moore said he would like to return to France for a fly fishing trip.
“That was the real story that needed to be told,” Waller said.
Moore remembers in particular one fish he saw in the summer of 1944 while crossing northwestern France. The division had been charged with removing Germans from the Brittany peninsula and was pursuing them toward the citadel of Saint-Malo, Moore said.
“There were streams all over both Brittany and Normandy where Brittany and Normandy come together. Germans were trying to get out of there, and we were trying to chase them. I went over this bridge and saw this beautiful Atlantic salmon probably 30 pounds down there,” Moore recalled. The fish and the rod that caught it were leaning against a cafe in a place whose name Moore has long since forgotten.
He does not expect to catch anything like it this trip, but will go fly fishing for brown trout in Normandy.
Even more important to Moore is the Luxembourg visit.
The small country sandwiched between France and Germany hosted part of his battalion in November of 1944 before it headed for the Ardennes Forest and the Battle of the Bulge.
In May, Moore will visit Jules Braun, the grandson of a woman who cooked an American-style Thanksgiving dinner for Moore and two of his fellow soldiers that November.
“It was a marvelous meal, very tasty, very good. After GI food—C and K rations—it was very good,” he said.
He has been told he will get VIP treatment during the Memorial Day service at the Luxembourg American Cemetery before heading to France.
It will not be Moore’s first return since the war. He has fond memories of a trip he and wife Jeanne Moore took in 1989. On that trip, he was taken fishing by the former French consul general of San Francisco and French Resistance fighter Claude Batault.
Batault has since died, but Moore hopes to visit his widow, Marianne, in Paris. The Bataults met the Moores, as have many notable people, on a fly fishing trip to the North Umpqua River.
Moore is most excited this time to bring his son, Dr. Frank Moore. Though he is now 66, the Anchorage emergency room doctor is still “Frankie” to his father.
Frankie Moore said he is looking forward to visiting France for the first time and to seeing some of the places that were so important in his father’s life.
“It’s really going to be exciting,” he said.
He said his father did not talk much about the war when he was growing up, but they certainly spent plenty of time fishing together.
“I got my first fly rod when I was 14 months old,” Frankie Moore said. He went on to catch his first trout at two and a half years and his first steelhead at age 5.
“I caught my first steelhead on my dad’s shoulders. He would carry me on his shoulders out in to the river, and he would jump from rock to rock where even now for me it’s not easy to wade,” he said.
Jeanne Moore, 87, will join her husband and son on the trip.
Frank and Jeanne Moore do not let age get in the way of adventure. Two years ago they took a raft trip with Frankie Moore through the Grand Canyon. The elder Moore recalls the rapids were so strong one of his flip-flops floated away and Jeanne Moore bounced into the air from the boat.
Frank Moore said the raft trip organizers claimed to take anyone “from 8 to 88.”
“It so happened I was 88, and they had a young lad there who was 8. I was the oldest they’ve ever had apparently,” Moore said.
Waller said his mother, Roseburg artist Judy Waller, first suggested he film the famous fly fisherman. She had volunteered with Jeanne Moore, chairwoman of the annual Glide Wildflower Show.
Waller said he immediately felt Frank Moore was “an endearing character” who would be perfect for his projects.
“He is a very radiant person. He exudes an unexpected amount of energy for somebody who is 90 years old,” Waller said.
• You can reach reporter Carisa Cegavske at 541-957-4213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.