Frank Moorman writes about his grandfather, Lt. Colonel Frank W. Moorman, and his father Major General Frank W. Moorman
Thank you for this opportunity to dig further into a part of my family history that has been somewhat distant. A few years ago, I typed
my name, Frank Moorman, into Google to see what would come up. I found a few
references to myself, from the acting I have done with local theatres. I found
some historic references to my father, which I’ll discuss later. There was
information about the Frank Moorman listed on the Vietnam Memorial Wall, a
Frank Moorman from the
In reading around, I understood that this was a reference to code-breaking and that it was about my grandfather. I copied the passage and e-mailed it to my brother Jere, my father’s oldest son from his first marriage and the only one of us who had much contact with Moorman, who died before I was 2. He didn’t know about the cipher reference, but he did know that grandfather worked on a calculus problem every day of his life to keep his mind sharp.
Last May, on another Google search, I saw a reference to my grandfather and Troop 33. I opened your website, with this picture featuring my grandfather and, next to him, a gawky 15-year-old version of my father. I got in touch by e-mail, and your scoutmaster invited me to come talk to you. So here I am.
I want to talk briefly about my grandfather’s life, such as I have been able to learn about it from a number of sources, including my uncle Hal, now 91, a former member of Troop 33. I have a few pictures you may not have seen, and then I’d like to talk a bit about one of your early Eagle Scouts, my father.
Frank Moorman was born September10, 1877, in
At age 21, then, Frank became the main support of his mother and five siblings. In 1899, he joined the Army and spent the next five years in the First Infantry Division as a private, corporal, and battalion sergeant major. In 1904, he was offered and accepted a commission as a second lieutenant.
It’s interesting for me to note that my other grandfather graduated from
For the next ten years or so, Lieutenant Moorman moved around as required,
got married somewhere along the way, and was in the
He graduated from the
Meanwhile, in 1914, war had broken out in
There’s a lot of information about this section and Major Moorman in a book called The Codebreakers by David Kahn. In it, the author says of grandfather that, “As a boss he was well regarded by his men for his fairness and blunt honesty.”
At the end of the war, Major Moorman wrote a comprehensive report of his
unit’s activities and made detailed recommendations for maintaining a
comprehensive “code and cipher” cadre in the Army. At the end of the war,
however, the government cut back on all its activities, so that, in 1941, we
lacked the resources and coordination to intercept and understand messages
that might have given us earlier warnings about the upcoming attack on
One of the men working under my grandfather in the Radio Intelligence Section was a William Friedman, who would continue in the field as a leading teacher of cryptography and cryptanalysis and would become a major figure in the work that led to the creation of the National Security Agency.
In 1920, Major Moorman was stationed in
He retired in 1927, in order to work with a cadet program in
We only have two photo albums from my father’s side of the family, but I did find a few pictures that might interest you, plus one from my uncle Hal. You may keep these copies that I will pass around. I also have for your permanent records a CD with all the pictures, some notes, and these remarks.
These first two are of a parade, probably the Fourth of
July. The scouts are carrying something that they built. You all may know
that better than I do. In the second picture, you can clearly see the words
This next one is of members of Troop 33 gathering chestnuts at
I mentioned that my father was an Eagle Scout. Here are some pictures of
him in his uniform and at a camp in 1927. You also might be amused to see the
short newspaper clipping about his working as a sentry at
And here’s something you may find interesting. A Boy Scout certificate, showing that the scout in question had qualified as an Eagle Scout, signed by the scoutmaster, Frank Moorman, and the scout himself, Frank W. Moorman.
Let me take a few extra minutes to talk about Eagle Scout Frank W. Moorman. I know that you recognize the history and service of scouts who died in World War II in Camp Waldo Schmitt. I’d like to fill you in on one who was lucky enough to survive.
After earning his Eagle Scout rank in what my uncle said was record time,
my father, known as Willie or Bill, graduated from high school in 1930 and
He graduated in 1934 as a second lieutenant in the infantry, where he
spent four years. He transferred to the Signal Corps, went to the
He was signal officer for their campaigns in Africa,
My father served for another ten years after Ridgway retired in 1955,
including two long tours in
Dad retired in 1965 as a major general. Let me leave you with two quotes that may give you a flavor of your founding scoutmaster. One is from him, the other from my father.
When my parents married, it was a second marriage for both of them. After a meeting between the two fathers – my two grandfathers-to-be – grandfather Moorman wrote a thank-you letter to my other grandfather, in which he said, "I have long admired an old proverb, ‘Wealth doesn’t consist of things, but of power to do without them.’ That is one form of wealth that can never be taken from us."
This is the only document I have from grandfather Moorman, and I leave you to draw your own conclusions from that message.
When I turned 30 in 1979, I asked my father what his life was like when he
turned 30, in February 1942, three months after
He spoke of this time of his life as intellectually arid and said, "Death, tragedy, divorce, desertion, human frailty are all part of the ultimate absurdity of life and fall indiscriminately on the just and on the unjust. One learns to live with them. But the life of the mind is like a garden. It must be fertilized, watered, weeded, planted, hoed and harrowed. When it lies fallow, the nutrients leak out."
I think his father, your founding scoutmaster, a man who didn’t finish high school, who studied the works of western civilization on his own and did a calculus problem every day of his life to keep his mind sharp, would agree with his son in that sentiment. And so I pass that on to you as a message from the past.