Marvel Leo Moon, Melvin Fitzgerald

Sharna Johnson

Editor’s note: World War II officially ended Sept. 2, 1945, when the Japanese signed surrender terms. We’re honoring the war’s area veterans over the next several months with these brief profiles.
Marvel Leo Moon
Date of birth:
July 12, 1926
Dates of service: 1946-1948
Hometown: Forest
Lives in: McAlister
Theater or location of
Japan occupation forces
Branch: Navy
Rank: Yeomen 3rd class
Unit and specialty: Flagship USS Chicago, 7th fleet.
After discharge: Forest
In his words: Moon was one of the many men sent in to Japan as part of the occupation effort immediately following the end of conflict. The cost of war was high for Japan, their cities and psyche in shambles. Moon recalls vividly the state of things, saying he saw first-hand the aftermath. A clerk, Moon served as a reporter to the captain, more often than not by his side, taking shorthand and documenting things.

Filling such a position took Moon into areas that he might not have seen otherwise. Pearl Harbor, Manila, China, Guadalcanal, Hiroshima and Nagasaki — all are places that stand out in his mind as he recalls his travels.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki were decimated by the nuclear bombs that were dropped. Moon says no safeguards or extra cautions were in place when they toured these areas. They simply had no knowledge of things such as radiation but they were made acutely aware of the destruction wrought by these new devices.

Initially, Moon had a deep skepticism of the Japanese people, born of the tales of war that had circulated. He said, “I had a chip on my shoulder from all I had heard.”

Expecting hostility and hatred, his negative feelings were replaced with a strong sense of gratitude when he inadvertently experienced kindness at the hands a one-time enemy. It was late at night and Moon remembers rising from bed to help unload a ship. Alone and traversing the dark, slippery dock, Moon lost his footing and plunged more than 12 feet below, coming to rest on a raft. Stunned and shaken, Moon realized that he was in quite a predicament. Nearby some Japanese “stevedores” or dock workers saw his fall and cast their cargo nets to rescue him.

“They didn’t have to save me” he says, “they could have left me there.”

For Moon, the experience showed that the Japanese too had compassion and were just as glad to see the war end as the Americans.

He worked from that point forward to learn the Japanese language. In reflection, Moon enjoyed his service saying, “I probably never would have gotten a tour across the water if it hadn’t been for the war. I couldn’t have had a better experience.”

Melvin Fitzgerald
Date of birth: Aug. 21, 1924
Dates of service: 1944-1946
Hometown: Portales
Theater or location of service: Philippines, Laetee
Branch: Army
Rank: E5
Unit and specialty: 1279 Combat Battalion (deactivated), 153rd Construction Battalion, 1279 Combat Engineers, 8th Army
After discharge: Portales
In his words: Luckily his wife and baby boy were able to follow him to California while he trained. “They got $90 a month and I got $21,” he said.
It wasn’t long before he was sent to the South Pacific. They “zig-zagged” across the South Pacific, staying on the Marshall Islands for a while. Fitzgerald recalls staying 100 miles from Tokyo through Christmas one year.

“Everything was wooden” he said. “When we woke up the first morning, we had fleas all over us.”

During his service, he trained infantrymen and had several construction assignments including building a bridge. While he considers himself lucky in his experiences, by the end of his tour he was ready to get out and start living.

World War II profiles are compiled by CNJ staff writer Sharna Johnson. Contact her at 763-6991 or by e-mail: