Those who know Marianne Moore know that she had a brother, to whom she was close, who became a Navy chaplain. Some know that Moore credited him with the line “I shall be there when the wave has gone by” from “In the Days of Prismatic Color.” Readers of her Selected Letters (SL below) know that Warner was addressed by his sister as “Toad,” “Basilisk,” “Badger,” “Bible,” or “Pago.” Perhaps still fewer know that Marianne’s brother had as impressive and successful career as a Navy chaplain as it was possible to achieve. And it is likely that almost no one realizes that at the end of World War II, he was Fleet Chaplain of the Pacific Fleet, in charge of 500 chaplains, assigned to the flagship of Admiral Chester A. Nimitz. When the Enola Gay dropped the atomic bomb on Japan, Chaplain Moore was the lead Naval chaplain of the Pacific Theater.
John Warner Moore (1886-1974) was born in Newton, Massachusetts, on 18 June, to Mary Warner and John Milton Moore. He moved with his mother to the Presbyterian Manse at Kirkwood, Missouri, before the birth of his sister, Marianne, on 15 November 1887, to live with his maternal grandfather, Reverend John Riddle Warner, after his parents separated. The family moved next to Allegheny (now part of Pittsburgh) to live with Warner relatives after the Reverend Warner died in 1894. Their next, and longest home together, was at 343 N. Hanover St., Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where Warner, as he was always known in the family, attended school before matriculating at Yale’s Sheffield Scientific School with the class of 1908. Early on, Warner expected to become an engineer, like his father. But after Yale, he taught at the Pingry School for Boys in Elizabeth, New Jersey, where he boarded at the home of descendants of the family of A. Woodruff Halsey, the Presbyterian missionary; this family in turn were relatives of William F. Halsey (later Admiral “Bull” Halsey) who attended the Pingry School in his youth.
Moore entered Princeton Seminary in the fall of 1911 and earned a Bachelor of Divinity Degree in 1914. He served as an assistant pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Baltimore under Rev. Alfred H. Barr, Sr., until in 1916 he was called as pastor to the Ogden Memorial Presbyterian Church in Chatham, New Jersey. At Chatham, his mother and sister joined him, living in the manse and assisting in parish activities.
But the country was at war. According to the Register of the Naval Militia of the States, Territories, and of the District of Columbia, January 1, 1916. (Washington: Department of the Navy, p. 24.) Warner had joined the Maryland Naval Militia at Baltimore on 14 October 1915 and achieved the rank of Ensign on 2 February 1916, months before he was called to the Chatham church.
Membership in the Maryland Militia did not constitute true military service. Warner filled out a World War I Draft Card on June 5, 1917, in which he stated that he had joined the Naval Militia as a line ensign; he nonetheless sought exemption from the draft for “pastoral duties.” He writes that he is the support of his mother and sister, that he is single, and that his address is Chatham, New Jersey. Apparently, every male of a certain age had to register for the draft although since conscription began at the time of the Civil War, ministers and seminarians have always been deferred. Between June and late fall, Warner must have received the permission of his presbytery to apply to be a Naval chaplain. He was commissioned as a Lieutenant Junior Grade on 19 November 1917.
As of 11 March 1918 he was a “permanent acting chaplain,” one of about 100 in the Navy, as distinct from only about 22 regular chaplains (Year Book of the Churches, 1918, p. 152). In any case, by the time he married Constance Eustis on 29 July 1918, in the Bronx, New York, her family’s home town, Warner was in uniform.
He was assigned to the USS Rhode Island, a battleship that would be engaged in bringing over
5000 men home from France in five trans-Atlantic round-trips between December 1918 and July 1919. The Rhode Island (BB-17) was a Virginia Class battleship that served the Navy from its commissioning in 1906 until it was decommissioned in 1920. It was the second ship to bear that name.
Chaplain Moore’s next assignment was aboard the USS Mississippi.
In early 1919, the Atlantic Fleet spent several months at Guantanamo on maneuvers and then sailed for New York, arriving on 15 April, a day early. The battleship USS Mississippi led the parade of more than 100 ships carrying 30,000 men because she had won the race up the coast; she dropped anchor in the
North River (the Hudson) at about 145th Street. The water was choppy but some stalwarts visited the ships. One can imagine Marianne and her mother on the Mississippi, perhaps their first time aboard a Navy vessel. These “dock rats” lived where they could see the ship parade from the end of their street, and if they had had warning of the fleet’s early arrival, they might have witnessed their brother’s and son’s ship leading the fleet.
From its home port, San Pedro Bay, California, the Mississippi sailed to Bremerton, Washington, when she needed dry dock attention. Warner, of course, who was made a lieutenant in November, 1920, went with it, and there he had time to spend with Mary and Marianne in the summers of 1922 and 1923 when they traveled west (his family remained in southern California). Visits to the ship ensued, and Marianne and Warner made good use of the Officers’ Club tennis courts.
During gunnery practice on 12 June 1924 off San Pedro, 48 men on the Mississippi were asphyxiated as a result of an explosion in her No. 2 main battery turret. This sensational disaster resulted in deep mourning, including memorials in Long Beach and other shore towns where some of the men’s families lived. Warner was called upon to perform at least one funeral ashore. One can only imagine the chaplain’s role on the ship during that time of crisis.
Warner’s next ship assignment was the USS Detroit (CL-8), an Omaha class light cruiser commissioned in 1923. Following travel to the Pacific to participate in fleet maneuvers early in 1925, the Detroit returned to the Atlantic, where she took part in exercises and patrolled along the coast of Nicaragua. In mid-1927 she deployed as flagship of Commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Europe, visiting ports from Norway to the Middle East. During this trip, she received official visits from the Kings of Norway, Denmark, and Spain, and the President of the Irish Free State. She also transported Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg between Ireland and France for the talks which led the following year to the signing of the Kellogg-Briand Peace Pact. She returned to the United States in September, 1928. The Detroit’s next home was Pearl Harbor, where she survived the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941. Chaplain Moore’s duties at that time lay elsewhere.
Warner’s family now numbered four children: Mary Markwick, born in New York, 1919, Sarah Eustis, born in California, 1921, Marianne Craig, also born in California, 1923, and John Warner, born in New York, 1926. They spent some of this time in Europe, possibly in Switzerland or France (see SL p. 235, 22 January 1928), returning to New York aboard the S. S. Tuscania on 9 July 1928.
By 1929, still attached to the USS Detroit, Warner became chaplain at the Brooklyn Navy Yard under the command of Rear Admiral Louis Rodolph de Steiguer. From the launching of the gunship Ohio in 1820 to that of the battleship Arizona in 1915, and beyond, the Yard was active in building and repairing ships. Its commandants included Commodore Matthew Perry, famous for opening Japan to the west; “Admiral’s Row,” housing for senior officers, became a popular landmark. The 200-acre Yard lies just north of the Brooklyn Bridge in the East River, mere blocks from 260 Cumberland Avenue, in the Fort Greene Park section of Brooklyn where Marianne and her mother moved in 1929.
In the 1930 census, Warner is listed at that address as well as at 34 Chilton Avenue, Yonkers, New York, where his wife and children resided.
1931 found Chaplain Moore a lieutenant commander in Pago Pago, American Samoa. There the family joined him while he served as director of education for that Navy-controlled territory. In the early 1930s, a commission from the United States visited Samoa to determine whether new efforts at education could be applied to the territory. Until that time, missionaries controlled most of the education on Samoa; they professed little sympathy with the customs and beliefs of the native peoples. The commission, which included Frank E.
Midkiff, president of the Kamehamea Schools of Hawaii, and Edwin R. Embree, president of the Julius Rosenwald Foundation, looked for ways to provide schooling based on the model of American schools while at the same time respecting Samoan culture. In the wake of the commission’s report, Chaplain Moore took over education in the territory; with Midkiff he published “Plan for Experimental Senior School” in 1932.
Constance and the children returned to Los Angeles aboard the S. S. City of Los Angeles, arriving on 24 February 1934.
Commissioned in 1913, the Pennsylvania class battleship USS Arizona became Chaplain Moore’s next ship and the second of his ships moored in Pearl Harbor in 1941–without him aboard. While this “last of the super-dreadnought” battleships was in port for modernization, Warner had an office at the Norfolk Navy Yard in Portsmouth, Virginia, and his family moved first to Portsmouth, then, by 1936, to Norfolk. Possibly, Warner witnessed the filming of Here Comes the Navy (1935) starring James Cagney and Pat O’Brien; the ship and her crew were featured in the film which made extensive use of both exterior footage as well as on-board location shots. In 1938, Rear Admiral Chester Nimitz, later to head the Pacific Fleet, made it his flagship for Battleship Division 1.
In 1939, Warner transferred to the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, as head chaplain under Commandant Russell Randolph Waesche. In November, President Roosevelt ordered the Navy to absorb the Coast Guard and Moore aided in the transition. Upon his retirement, one of his commendations read: “For outstanding performance of duty as chaplain of the Coast Guard Academy, New London, Conn., from September 1, 1939, to August 11, 1943.“
According to a Coast Guard publication, while in New London, Moore articulated the chaplain’ role: “’It is the primary purpose of the chaplains,’ says Senior Chaplain John Warner Moore, a Captain in the Chaplain Corps of the Navy, ‘to help each cadet live up to the faith of his fathers, whatever faith that is, and to be true to his better self.’”
Time carried an article on “Seagoing Men of God” on 21 Jun 1943 that expressed a Navy chaplain’s responsibilities:
“Bringing spiritual consolation is the chaplain’s prime duty. But he has others. He organizes sports, runs the ship’s library, the ship’s paper, writes business letters for the men, interviews wives, delivers death notices to families, gives advice to men with problems.
“On duty 24 hours a day. the chaplain is tied up with his men in both their troubles and their fun. Avoiding any signs of prudery, he must keep in mind one of the training school’s mottoes: ‘Bringing God to men and men to God—the Navy Way.'”
At that date, there were about 1,000 Navy chaplains on active duty, compared to 198 during World War I, following a law that required one chaplain for every 1,250 men. Chaplain John Warner Moore served as not only one of them (all called “Chaplain,” never called by their rank which was known chiefly from their uniforms” stripes and decoration) but also as the head of half of them, those serving in the Pacific.
Moore relieved Chaplain R. W. Truitt on 1 September 1943 as Pacific Fleet Chaplain. The following excerpt from the History of the Chaplain Corps, United States Navy continues the story: “Writing on the 8th, [Moore] confessed that the size of the job was ‘staggering.’ He declared that any chaplain asking for such an assignment, knowing what it involved, would be either ‘the world’s first egotist, or greatest fool.’ In January 1944 Moore moved his office from the Navy Yard in Honolulu to a quonset hut which had been erected for his use in the Navy Yard. This made him much more available to the Headquarters Staff and to Fleet personnel. In June 1944 Chaplain Moore was assigned to the staff of Admiral Chester Nimitz as Fleet Chaplain of the United States Pacific Fleet. The ordering of Chaplain Moore to the Staff, Commander in Chief, Pacific (abbreviated CincPac), marked a great forward
step in the effective administration of Navy chaplains’ affairs throughout the Pacific Theater of War. Moore’s position on the staff of Admiral Nimitz brought influence and prestige to the office of the Fleet Chaplain. At the time of his appointment, over 550 Navy chaplains were serving in the Pacific Fleet, among the Marines, and at other posts under Admiral Nimitz’s command throughout the Pacific Theater.”
Captain Moore, “a four striper” or Captain, one of only 22 in the United States Navy at the end of World War II, received one last assignment, to the Severn River Naval Command, across the river from Annapolis. He retired in 1948, thirty three years after his first association with the Maryland Naval Militia while he served a parish in Baltimore. A letter of commendation from Admiral Chester A. Nimitz marked his retirement. In 1949, he accepted the chaplaincy at The Gunnery, a private boy’s school in Washington, Connecticut, and continued to serve there until 1954. In his honor, the school still awards the John Warner Moore Scholarship for character and achievement.
John Warner Moore died in 1974 and is buried, with his wife, in Arlington National Cemetery.
Warner Experienced the Sea at Monhegan
The Moores at home–Warner, Mary, Marianne–in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, about 1912. While at Yale, Warner Swam on the Varsity Swim Team
First Years at Sea
Helping the USS Mississippi Mascot Do Tricks
Chaplain Moore and His Boat Race Crew
Aboard the USS Mississippi
Summers at Bremerton, 1922, 1923
Tennis Court, Bremerton, Washington, Taken by Marianne
Aboard the Mississippi in Dry Dock, Bremerton
Returning from Bermerton, 1923
Chaplain Moore at Work
14 April 1941, New London, CT, while Captain Moore Served at the Coast Guard Academy
Temporary Altar with Portable Vessels
American Samoa. 1931-1933
Samoan Governor Gatewood Sanders Lincoln and His Wife, 1931
The Harbor at Pago Pago, Samoa
Map of American Samoa
Chaplain Moore Administering an Exam to Samoan Children
Moore and Samoan Cook
Moore with Samoan Chief Tufele
Boars’ Teeth Necklace