Recognizing the Top 10 Accomplishments of Julia Compton Moore,
Military Spouse, U.S. Army
The idea to recognize Julia Compton Moore is from Donna Engeman, the surviving spouse of a service member killed in action during the Iraq War. I asked Donna who I should write about for Military Spouse Appreciation Day and she immediately thought of Julia. “Mrs. Moore was an amazing lady and a leader in her own right. Her courage and tenacity in taking the Army to task over its callous and outdated casualty notification and support set the standard when it comes to supporting families. Years later, at the start of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, the Army again was in need of transforming its casualty care system. I am grateful for Mrs. Moore’s example that led the way in helping me find my voice in advocating for change.” Donna Engeman is a dedicated civilian employee with HQ IMCOM, Fort Sam Houston, TX.
Julia Compton Moore (February 10, 1929 to April 18, 2004) was a U.S. Army daughter, wife, and mother. She was depicted in the 2002 film We Were Soldiers by actress Madeleine Stowe, and Mel Gibson played her husband, Lieutenant Colonel Harold G. Moore, known as Hal. War correspondent Joseph L. Galloway co-wrote the book We Were Soldiers Once . . . and Young with Lt. Moore, and the movie We Were Soldiers is based on it. Galloway describes Julia as “one of the finest Army wives who ever walked.” After the pivotal 1965 Battle of Ia Drang in Vietnam, she led an effort that brought about needed improvements in the Army’s casualty notification systems and support.
Julia’s Top 10 Career Accomplishments
Daughter of a Career Army Officer.
Born in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Julia Compton was Army Colonel Louis J. Compton and Elizabeth Boon Compton’s only child. She experienced the distance and risk military families undergo in war starting at age 12. Her father fought in Europe during World War II, her husband was wounded in both Korea and Vietnam, and one of her sons was with the 82nd Airborne Division in Panama and the Gulf War.
Her Marriage and Children.
Under crossed sabers, Julia Compton was married in November 1949 to Hal Moore.
They have five children:
- Greg Moore
- LTC Steve Moore, USA (Ret)
- Julie Moore Orlowski
- Cecile Moore Rainey
- COL David Moore, USA (Ret)
Contributions to Army Family Life as a Military Spouse.
Hal Moore served 32 years of active duty. His service included time at Ft. Bragg, Ft. Benning, West Point, Ft. Leavenworth, the Pentagon, and NATO. Wherever the Moores were stationed, Julia was active in the military community. Her volunteering included work with the Red Cross at Army hospitals as well as efforts through Officer and NCO Wives’ Clubs and Advisory Councils to enhance the lives of service members and their families. She was a Brownie and Girl Scout Leader and Cub Scout Den Mother. She was instrumental in creating the Army Community Service (ACS) programs which continue to support military families today.
Vietnam Deployment Preparation.
In a 1996 letter written to We Were Soldiers screenwriter/director Randall Wallace, Julie described her experience preparing her husband for deployment to Vietnam. She told the writer that there was “a tight knit group of wives” at their base who helped each other with the children and other responsibilities. When President Johnson announced that the 1st Cavalry Division would go to Vietnam, these wives packed for their husbands. Among their efforts was dying the underwear (“two forest green to one black”) as the Army had no camouflage undergarments at the time. She tried to make the night before Hal left like a regular one with the family – with dinner together and her husband reading a bedtime story to the children. She hid her tears and acted as if asleep as he left at 1:30 a.m., not to add to his worries.
Improved Army Casualty Notification System.
The thirty-four day campaign in the Ia Drang Valley was the first major ground conflict between U.S. forces and the People’s Army of Vietnam. Lieutenant Moore received the Distinguished Service Cross for his leadership and heroism during this encounter, and he was promoted to Colonel. Meanwhile, a system for notifying relatives of Army battlefield fatalities was yet to be established. One hundred and twenty-one American lives had been lost at Ia Drang. The Army was using taxi drivers to deliver telegrams with the sad news. To help families grieve, Julia started following the taxi drivers after being notified by Western Union, and she participated in the death notifications and offered her sympathy. She pushed for a more humane system and took her complaint all the way to the Pentagon. Her efforts led to a system being set up of teams pairing a uniformed officer and a chaplain for the notifications. Julia also attended local funerals of fallen Vietnam Army soldiers who were under her husband’s command.
Award Created in Her Honor.
Julia Compton Moore is recognized as one of the most influential military wives from the Revolutionary War to today. The Army honored her service by establishing the Julia Compton Moore Award in 2005. The Award recognizes outstanding contributions to the US Army by civilian spouses of soldiers. In creating the award, the citation read: “Mrs. Moore’s actions to change Pentagon death notification policy in the aftermath of the historic battle of the Ia Drang Valley represents a significant contribution to our nation… It serves today as a shining example of one of Mrs. Moore’s many contributions to the morale and welfare of the Army Family.”
Saluted with 2004 Alabama Senate Resolution.
When she died in 2004, the Alabama Senate recognized Julia Compton Moore’s contributions with a Resolution sponsored by 35 Senators. The bipartisan resolution by the legislature commended her contributions, character and values. It read: “The death of Mrs. Julia Moore has indeed left a deep void in the life of her community in the hearts of her family, neighbors, and friends who knew and loved her as a warm and gracious lady who cared and showed concern for the happiness and well-being of others.”
Julia’s Contributions Were Recognized in Her Own Husband’s Annual Appraisals.
Hal wrote, Julia is a “great asset to our own military community and the Army.”
The Movie We Were Soldiers Had an Impact.
Seen by millions, the film documented the change in how loved ones were notified of Army lives lost in the battlefields of Vietnam. Through the film, audiences saw how notifications were originally delivered by taxi to isolated wives and families living in modest housing.
Movie Inspired We Serve, the 2015 US Soldier Show.
The film We Were Soldiers also inspired a script in the 2015 US Army Soldier Show called We Serve. The production was written to honor gold star families, the survivors of fallen warriors. It also recognizes the support they receive from the US Army Installation Management Command’s Survivor Outreach Services. The 90-minute live musical production features amateur actors auditioned from the ranks.
For The Family
The family of Julia and Hal Moore have proposed that Fort Bennington, in Georgia, be renamed Fort Moore in honor of both their parents. In 2021, the Federal government ordered the renaming of bases that use names of Confederate generals. “We wanted the base to honor the ‘command team,’ as we call it,” son David Moore said. “Dad couldn’t have been as successful without Mom.” Hal was highly decorated, including the Distinguished Graduate Award by the West Point Association of Graduates, and he rose to the rank of United States Army Lieutenant General. A decision over the name must be made by October 2022. For more information on the campaign, go to: www.fortmoore.com