Marianne Moore: Poetry

Chaplain John Warner Moore, USN

Brother and Sister, circa 1895

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, about 1914

John Warner Moore, about 1914

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.

Moore in Chaplain's Uniform, about 1918

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

Battleship USS Rhode Island

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.

USS Mississippi in the East River, New York, 1919

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

Chaplain and "Missy's" Mascot

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.

USS Mercy

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.

USS Detroit

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.

Cunard's S. S. Tuscania

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.

Brooklyn Navy Yard

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.

Moore in Samoa, in Helmet, Second Row

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.

USS Arizona

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.“

Commander Moore

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.'”

Chaplain Moore, 25 February 1945

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

Portrait by Dean Keller of Yale University, 1959

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.


The Moores Visited Mohegan Island, Maine during Summer

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

Chaplain Moore aboard the USS Rhode Island, about 1919

Snapshot, probably aboard the USS Mississippi

Helping the USS Mississippi Mascot Do Tricks

Chaplain Moore and His Boat Race Crew

Aboard the USS Mississippi

Another Small Boat Crew and Captain

Snapshop of Small Boat of the Kind Used in Crew Races

Summers at Bremerton, 1922, 1923

Tennis Court, Bremerton, Washington, Taken by Marianne

Aboard the Mississippi in Dry Dock, Bremerton

With Mary Warner Moore, Lake Louise, British Columbia,

Returning from Bermerton, 1923

Chaplain Moore at Work

Chaplain Moore Preaching, USS Marblehead, 1929

Commissioning of the USS Gar, Tambor-class Submarine,

14 April 1941, New London, CT, while Captain Moore Served at the Coast Guard Academy

USS Marblehead, Light Cruiser

Chaplain’s Portable Service Vessels

Temporary Altar with Portable Vessels

Preparing for Service on Maui, 1944

Sermon, 1940s

Chapel Dedication, Maui, 1944

Preaching on Deck, 1940s

American Samoa. 1931-1933

Second Oar, Port, from Stern, Moore Rows Launch Carrying

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

Snapshot Sent Home with Samoan Wearing

Boars’ Teeth Necklace

Joseph Dwight Strong’s Painting of Samoan Scene



  1. Hello, Very good post about Chaplain Moore! Would you mind if I duplicated it, with proper credit and link, on my chaplain history site ( Thanks! Daryl

    Comment by Daryl Densford — April 2, 2016 @ 12:59 am |Reply

    • I do not mind but the author might want to chime in. Please contact me at and I can send you his address.

      Comment by moore123 — December 2, 2017 @ 11:55 pm |Reply

  2. As one of the grandsons of Captain John Warner Moore (Ch.C.), USN (Ret), I thought it prudent to check through some of the family records, as well as the U.S. Navy records, to clarify certain facts about my grandfather’s life, well encapsulated here. Chaplain Moore’s service to his country was unusually long, a little over thirty years. Chaplain Moore was ordained by the presbitary of Carlisle on May 5, 1914, and as noted correctly in the blog above, was called to the church in Chatham, NJ in 1916, after he had enlisted in the Maryland Naval Militia.
    He was indeed commissioned as a Lieutenant (JG) on 11/19/17, stationed at the Naval Training Station until January, 1920. Thereafter, he was ordered to serve on the USS Rhode Island from 1/30/18 until June 30, 1920. While serving on “the Rhodey,” his eldest daugher, Mary Markwick Moore (who later married Lt. John D. Reeves, USN, Ret.) was born (4/16/19). Chaplain Moore was promoted to full Lieutenant on 11/2/20, after he was off of “the Rhodey,” and was not part of “the Rhodey’s” repatriation of servicemen. On April 16, 1921, he and his wife Constance welcomed their second daughter, Sarah Eustis Moore, with Chaplain Moore was serving in California at the time. He was then ordered to serve on the USS Mississippi from 8/6/22 until 8/22/24 (not 1919, as the blog mentions). It is true the “the Missy” partook in manuevers off of Guantanamo before steaming up to New York City, and while on manuevers, Chaplain Moore won first prize in teh fleet sailing races. Another one of the notable aspects of his service on the Mississippi was the mass naval burial that he had to perform, as the blog correctly notes above, when the Number 2 turret went up in June, 1924. Over 20 sailors were buried at sea in one service, and until the bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beruit in the 1980’s, that mass service was the largest military burial service at one time. His third daughter, Marianne Craig Moore was born on July 3, 1924.
    On November 2, 1924, Chaplain Moore was promoted to Lieutenant Commander. According the the Naval records, on November 3, 1924, he was promoted to full Commander. On September 12, 1924, Chaplain Moore was assigned to the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where he served until December 26, 1926. While there, his son, John Warner Moore, Jr. (my father) was born on October 7, 1926.
    Chaplain Moore was then ordered to the USS Detroit from December 22, 1926 until June 7, 1929. While on the Detroit, which was ordered over to Europe, the Moore family travelled from England over to Vevey, Switzerland, living on Lake Geneva for part of the posting, travelling trhough France and then back to the United States through England in July, 1928. From July 7, 1929 until May 21, 1932, Chaplain Moore was stationed again at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, and the Moore family lived at 34 Chittenden Avenue, Westchester, New York.
    From June 14, 1932 until February 8, 1934, Chaplain Moore was stationed at the Naval Station at Pago Pago, American Samoa. His entire family sailed with him on a civilian liner. While there, he served as both Chaplain and as the Director of Education at the Station, which pretty much meant most of the Islands there under U.S. control. The duty on American Samoa was important to Chaplain Moore, as it was considered sea duty, and wold enable him to advance in rank, eventually.
    From April 20, 1932 until May 1, 1937, Chaplain Moore served at the Norfolk Navy Yard in Portsmouth, Virginia. Chaplain Moore was then assigned to the USS Arkansas (NOT the Arizona) from May 9, 1937 until August 20, 1939. Comander Moore was then assigned as the Senior Chaplain at the Groton Submarine Base from September 1, 1939 until July 27, 1942. On July 1, 1942, Chaplain Moore was promoted to Captain. Chaplain Moore was then assigned as the Chaplain at the U.S. Coast Guard Acadamy from July 27, 1942 until August 11, 1943, as the Senior Chaplain, and, as noted in the blog above, was an intregal part of the assimilation of the Coast Guard into the Navy at the beginning of World War II. This part that he played resulted in a letter of commendation from Navy Secretary Forrestal.
    Captain Moore was then assigned to Pearl Harbor, and on September 1, 1943, was designated Chaplain, U.S. Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas. This meant that Chaplain Moore’s territory was from the Alaskan Islands down to Antartica, and from Claifornia through the Islands of the Pacific. Chaplain Moore served as the Pacific Fleet Chaplain until September 10, 1945. this service earned him his second letter of commendation from Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz. Chaplain Moore closed out his naval career as the District Chaplain, Potomac River Naval Command from October 6, 1945 until his retirement in 1948. Chaplain Moore also received the Order of Merit from the republic of Chile and the Order of the White Cloud from China, as a result of his naval service. Thereafter, Chaplain Moore served as the first Chaplain of the Gunnery School in Washington, Connecticut, serving there until 1962, the year that I was born. It should also be noted that when Chaplain Moore attended Yale, he was a cross-country runner, and not a swimmer. His son (my father) was a champion swimmer at Yale some forty years after my grandfather graduated. The dates of service are taken from both the actual orders he received, but also from the third volume of United States Navy Chaplains 1778-1945, by Clifford MNerrill Drury, Captain (Ch.C.) U.S.Naval Reserve, Washington, DC, 1948, at Page 195.

    Comment by David M. Moore, Esq. — April 23, 2013 @ 5:24 pm |Reply

  3. Captain John Warner Moore, USN Chap., Ret. was my grandfather. I was 12 when he died, and unfortunately did not know him as well as I would like. I can tell you that when he did the brief service in Europe, it was in Switzerland in 1928 (my father was two at the time, but still has memories of the time in Switzerland. Itis interesting to see many of the photographs marked with the Rosenbach Library and Museum “watermark.” there is a long story behind that, but that is for another time. The family has the second of two protraits done by Dean Keller, in which my grandfather is painted in his full naval uniform, with the Gunnery School seal in the upper left corner of the portrait (you’ll note that the protrait contained in this article has him in his clerical robes, with the naval seal in the upper left corner – that portrait hangs at the Gunnery School). While I was growing up, I had NO idea what my grandfather’s accomplishments in life were, and I only knew “Aunt Marianne” was a poet, again having little idea of her accomplishments in life. I began to realize that he was more than just “Grandad” when I attended his funeral at Arlington. He go the “full boat” funeral, flag draped casket on caisson, full honor guard with riderless horse, and an 18 gun salute. I rode with my grandmother out of the cemetery, with the folded flag on her lap. Every 50 feet was a serviceman, Army, Navy, Marine and Airforce, who, as the car approached, would snap to attention and do the slow hand salute. My grandmother saw me gawping at this, and reminded me that they were saluting the flag, hoping to bring me back to reality. It wasn’t until my adult years that I began to fully appreciate who my grandfather, and his sister, really were. I am now the Administrator of Marianne Moore’s Literary Estate, and I’m pleased to say that the definitive biography of Marianne Moore will be published within a year’s time. There will be much more of the interaction of Marianne and Warner in this coming work, and some of the answer to the question above will be found in thoe pages. Thank you for the scholarly biography of my grandfather!

    Comment by David M. Moore, Esq. — April 17, 2013 @ 12:23 am |Reply

  4. How close were they theologically? I think it’s hard to tell. In the letters, it is Mrs. Moore who takes on theological questions or at least biblical ones. The letters from Warner were read by Mary and Marianne; each of them wrote in answer, sometimes on the same letter, sometimes not. Most often, Mary responded to Warner’s questions/sermons while Marianne wrote about her activities/readng. What she has to say in print is all in the Prose but there’s not much of it. I have a feeling that she was more interested in questions of morality than doctrine.

    Comment by moore123 — June 23, 2011 @ 6:14 pm |Reply

  5. I wish the entire correspondence of the family were published. I’d especially like to see what brother and sister had to say to one another over the decades. A few letters are in the Selected Letters, but only a few. It would be wonderful to have the whole sweep. How close were he and she theologically?

    Comment by Kirby Olson — June 22, 2011 @ 8:31 pm |Reply

  6. I was a student at The Gunnery 1957-1960 and fondly remember Chaplin Moore’s leading vesper services in the evening. In 1961, when I was in Marine Boot Camp in San Diego, Chaplin Moore visited myself and Al Carr to see if everything was okay with training. You can imagine the DI’s reaction when we were called away from our platoon to meet with the Chaplin.
    He was a giant of a man, who loved the Lord and loved all he came in contact with.
    I remember him fondly.

    Comment by Jeff Farrington — April 28, 2011 @ 1:55 am |Reply

  7. Dear Kirby,
    Thanks for your comment. Rev./Chaplain Moore must have been an extraodinary person.

    Comment by moore123 — January 5, 2011 @ 10:32 pm |Reply

  8. Very extensive. There are pieces of his sermons in the MM correspondence in the Rosenbach. I liked his stuff.

    I liked this stuff, too.


    Comment by Kirby Olson — October 10, 2010 @ 4:43 pm |Reply

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