October / November 2002

Wolf Stories

My dear friend and a true American patriot, Moe Hamill, passed away on September 18, 2002 at the young age of 82.  I didn't get to know Moe until a couple of years ago as I was writing my second book - I Always Wanted to Fly.  And if there ever was a man who wanted to fly it was Moe Hamill.  Moe was one of those self-made men - easy to like, and even easier to want to model yourself after.  He was born in 1918 on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in Hamill, South Dakota, and grew up in the Great Depression.  His circumstances were humble, but that didn't mean that Moe, the boy, couldn't dream of better things.  Dream he did, and he worked hard to make his dreams come true.  With no money, and at a time when student loans would have been considered an extravagant investment by any selfrespecting banker, Moe Hamill set out for college.  He was a big kid and built his muscle on road construction jobs when he was fortunate enough to get hired.  Coach Dudley DeGroot, who later coached the Washington Redskins, thought Moe had potential and gave him a chance.  The San Jose football team in those days was a national powerhouse.  Glenn S. "Pop" Warner, an American football icon, then got a hold of Moe and made a real football hero out of him.  By 1941 Moe was good enough to get offers from professional football teams - and he got his education as well.  Moe laughed when he told me that the Chicago Bears offered him $150 a game in 1941.
In December 1941, Moe Hamill, who was voted Little All-American, didn't go to play football, instead he volunteered for the Air Corps and went to fight in North Africa and Italy.  His story is in my book, I Always Wanted to Fly, and I highly recommend you read it.  But there are some things of course I didn't put into the book.  Here is one of those incidents.  Moe was flying a B-25 near Mount Aetna, on Sicily, when he got hammered by an 88mm shell.  It took the top turret off the plane, killed the gunner, put hundreds of holes in the plane - yet Moe went right on and completed his bomb run.  When I was in Vietnam we gave Silver Stars to men who completed their bomb runs after getting hit - Moe and his crew got nothing for a courageous act, except the dead gunner got a Purple Heart.  Said Moe to me, "I am still mad at myself to this day for getting the Awards & Decs Officer pissed off at me a few days earlier.  My entire crew was denied an award because of me, and they deserved one"  Moe never thought of himself - he always thought of others, how he could help others, how he could be of service to others.
After War II Moe flew C-54s out of Fassberg.  Fassberg, where I lived at the time as a refugee kid.  I don't know if I ever passed Moe Hamill on the street in Fassberg, but it was men like him - men with a smile, with a kind gesture, even a hello to a German kid dressed in rags, which made me want to be just like them - just like Moe Hamill.  In time I was privileged to fly alongside the Moe Hamill's and I will always be proud of that.  Moe flew his heart out, like many of you veterans of the Berlin airlift.  He even helped the German load-crews wrestle the heavy sacks of coal onto his plane.  He was never too good for anything - the man with the generous smile and a helping hand, who never forgot that he came from the Rosebud Indian Reservation.
After Berlin Moe went on to serve a full career in SAC, first as a commander of a KC-97 outfit, then as a staff officer at SAC Headquarters, at Offutt AFB, NE.  He was actually on the general officer selection list, removed because of a medical condition.  After retirement Moe kept right on running, building up a successful financial investment business.  At eighty years of age he talked to me as if he had a whole life-time ahead of himself.  He did.  He never talked or thought of giving up, resting on yesterday's laurels.  For Moe Hamill, every day was a new opportunity, a bright sunny day to do the very best you can give.  I am glad I met Moe.  I am a better man for our friendship, and I wish him a smooth trip on his heavenly journey.  Someone once said to me, "Wolfgang, as long as anyone still remembers you, you are alive."  Moe, for me you will always be alive.  I will always remember you.  The only thing I'll miss is going out with you and Dorothy for breakfast and having one of those huge omelet's which only you could finish.
And if you saw a tear running down my face - well, you must have made a mistake.  I am sure you made a mistake, Moe.  Men don't cry.  Right?  I wish you God's speed my dear friend.  And remember, I'm always on your wing.  The German kid from Fassberg.