Oral History of Chandler Moulton
At the outset of World War II, the United States was recovering from a devastating world wide economic depression, known as the Great Depression. As a result of Hitler breaking a nonaggression pact with neighboring countries by invading Poland; Britain and France declared war on September 3, 1939. Meanwhile the United States stayed calm, however, subtly prepared for war by increasing the power of the Armed Forces. By 1940 the United States began transferring past World War I munitions to overseas Allies and in 1941 President Roosevelt passed the Lend-Lease Act allowing the supply of war goods to allied countries. The United States entered the war the day after the Japanese surprise attack of Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. Troops were sent overseas to both the Pacific and European fronts for combat. Germany had already begun its aggressive takeover of Europe, including France. However, the Allied forces regained power after the D-Day invasion of June, 1944. Meanwhile, the United States was transformed to provide for the effort overseas. “Rosie the Riveter” became the symbol for the surge of women into the workforce, where they made munitions and supplies for the war. Families were required to ration certain materials and foods such as sugar, gasoline, shoes, rubber, and other items in order to conserve all of the United States limited resources. In the Pacific, the United States made the first turning point in the war after defeating the Japanese at the Battle of Midway in 1942. The Allied forces, after gaining supremacy to the Japanese in the Pacific, began to take over previously conquered Japanese islands, including the liberation of the Philippines. Since the Japanese resisted surrender, the United States was forced to launch atomic bombs on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan in 1945. Japanese surrender finally came September 2, 1945 a month after the devastating bombings. After the war U.S. troops still occupied the Philippines to re-establish a democratic government and maintain peace.
Chandler Moulton, best known as Chan, was born February 2, 1927 in Lewiston a growing city in Maine. He was the younger brother to two sisters, Nancy and Virginia, in a close-knit family setting. At the outset of the Great Depression his father, Ralph, lost his job when the corporation he worked for went bankrupt and his family began moving in search of jobs. Chan and his family moved from Maine, to St. Louis, to Maryland, and finally Massachusetts where they lived with his grandmother and Ralph retained a steady job as a salesman. When Chandler was in third grade his father was promoted to sales manager and the Moultons moved to La Grange, Illinois where they would reside for the rest of Chan’s childhood. He attended Lyons Township High School where he played basketball, baseball, and his favorite sport, football. When the war first began Chandler knew United States involvement was inevitable, however, not against the enemy he imagined. On December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Chan was shocked but he knew that when he turned eighteen he would enlist in the Army Air Corp and fulfill his dreams of flying. At home he and his family felt the effects of the war when all of his favorite goodies were rationed. Finally, on August 14th, 1944 Chandler Moulton enlisted in the Air Force, at that time known as the Army Air Corps, to become a pilot and serve his country along with his buddies. His friends, however, were not so lucky; Chan’s two best friends Richard and Charles were denied entrance into the Army Air Corps because they were both colorblind. Unfortunately, Chandler had just missed the cutoff for pilot training which was full but still had the chance to become a member of the Army Air Corps.
After completing his last year of high school he received orders to report to Biloxi, Mississippi two weeks after graduation. He traveled to Mississippi for basic military training (exercising, marching, and gun handling) and then was transferred to Denver, Colorado for overseas training. After Chan’s last leave he was sent to San Francisco, California to board a ship headed to the Pacific. Before the boat set sail for the Philippines, a storm hit California and the military men had to sit at dock for three days. Many of the men got seasick before the ship even left the dock, but Chan loved the sea and it didn’t faze him. When Chan first stepped off the boat in Manila all he saw was damaged buildings, bomb destruction, and debris littered streets. Manila was in bad shape and Chan was scared he wouldn’t get home because the harbor in Manila was completely destroyed. Douglas MacArthur had taken back Manila from the Japanese; but, the soldiers were still lurking in the hills. The first few days after arriving in Manila he stayed in “tent city” and was then assigned his location based on his duty, which was paying all the enlisted men. Chan was appointed to department head in charge of paying all the men at Clark Field and in the cities of Palawan and Mindanao. Every month Chandler would fly to the islands and pay the men in pesos so that they could use the money in Manila. Chan was also a member of the baseball and basketball team at his base and just like every other sports team, he practiced daily. On the weekends they would travel to other local bases to play their team and on one special occasion he had the opportunity to play in the Manila stadium. Chandler never saw any action, he never even had to aim a gun and he considered himself lucky. During the day he sat in the finance office and at night developed a group of poker buddies. As he said, he had it “rough.”
Going into the war Chan strongly disliked the Japanese and things didn’t change in Manila. The men were restricted to Clark Field because of Japanese resistance outside the camp. Chandler remembers Japanese soldiers coming into camp at night trying to steal their food. The only time he ever saw any action was when one of the men on his base shot a Japanese soldier on the field behind their barracks. The Filipino people, however, grew very close to the American men. Over half of Chan’s staff at the office was Filipino and he learned to work with them and their customs. At night the guys would go around the town and pick up the nicest Filipino women and take them out for dancing and fun, giving the men an opportunity to attach themselves to many of the townspeople. Chan remembers being at an island for payroll and having to watch a group of soldiers say goodbye to the Filipino people after being there for years. Some of the soldiers even raised families and fell in love with the Filipino women; he remembers it being very emotional. At that time in American history this behavior would have been seen as scandalous, the United States was barely even beginning its own civil rights movement.
Chandler enjoyed his time in the military so he rarely felt the effects of homesickness. He found it fairly easy to make friends. “Everyone was looking for a buddy,” he said. Most of his companions either worked with him or lived in a hut nearby, but his best friend, Marty Burke, was his roommate. Burke was the one friend that Chandler could confide in when he missed home or needed someone to talk to. He and Burke are still in contact to this day. His family was very supportive of his involvement in the war and expected letters once a week. They learned to cope without him but missed the baby of the family very much. He wrote pages and pages at a time, normally to his whole family, since he didn’t have a girlfriend at the time. He usually described his daily activities, sporting events, or anything interesting that was happening in Manila the past week or so, and he told them how much he loved them. However, one week Chandler forgot to write his family and was called into his commander’s office because his mom was frantic at home wondering if anything had happened to him; from that point on Chan never forgot a letter.
For fun Chan and his friends would go banana picking, up to the officers’ quarters for a good dinner, or off to Lingam Gulf for swimming. The first weekend in Manila he swam in the bay and got a fungus infection in his ears that would last him his entire military stay. His ears still bother him to this day, and he will never forget that. Chan, however, cannot complain about his stay in Manila. Being a finance officer gave him some perks and his living conditions were well above average compared to the other boys. He took outdoor showers in a special facility with running water, although it was cold, it was far better than most other soldiers’ conditions. Manila was hot and sticky but he was indoors most of the time and it cooled down at night.
When returning home it was easy for him to adjust back into normal society, he went right back to school, where he was living with roommates, just like the military. Being in the military taught Chandler how to live with others and make do with little; he grew up very quickly and earned a sense of confidence that would carry on throughout his life. Chan is very proud of his service to the United States and it has given him a respect for authority and the military. He wishes that young men and women who don’t go to college would serve at least a few years because of the opportunities it can bring in employment and in building character. Even today he keeps in contact with his closest buddies from the Army Air Corps because the bond in the service is unlike anything else. Looking back on the time Chandler spent overseas he wouldn’t change a thing, except joining sooner so that he could fulfill his dreams of being a pilot.
After returning home from Manila, Chandler attended community college in La Grange, Illinois for two years and then transferred to Kalamazoo College in Michigan. While attending Kalamazoo he met the love of his life, Fran Pulliam, and after graduating the two married in 1950. Chan then went to work for General Motors in Cleveland, Ohio building diesel locomotives. After Chan was transferred to Chicago, Illinois, Fran and Chan had their first two baby girls, Debbie in 1953 and Lori in 1954. In 1955 he joined the New York Central Railroad and the new family moved to New York City where their youngest daughter, Cathy, was born in 1957. The family then moved to Emmaus, Pennsylvania where Chandler worked for the GAC Corporation. For the next twenty five years they would raise their family in Emmaus and watch their daughters grow up and move out of the house. With Chandler’s job, Chan and Fran moved to Omaha, Nebraska in 1982 and then to Anaheim Hills, California for a few years. However, this was too far away for the new grandparents so Chan and Fran moved to Virginia for twenty one years of retirement. They now have seven grandchildren and a new great granddaughter that they love more than anything in the world. To this day the military has changed Chandler’s life. He joined the American Legion six years ago and is the financial officer of Midlothian Post 186. Chandler will never forget his service to the United States and the impact it had on his life.
Researched by Kelsey Kramer
Volunteer for the Cold War Museum
Cosby High School
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