Michigan's DFC: Supreme Sacrifice

  • Published
  • By TSgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Wing Public Affairs
(Part of a series of stories on heroic flights that took place in the state of Michigan)

Awarded before Col. Russell Luff Meredith received his Distinguished Flying Cross, the events of this second DFC from the state of Michigan actually took place more than eight years after the events that prompted the award for Meredith.

U.S. Army Air Corps pilot 1st Lt. Robert D. Moor earned the award for his heroic actions during an Aug. 23, 1931, flight that took place near the Wayne County Airport in Romulus, known today as Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

According to the award citation and an account of the incident in the Air Service Newsletter, Moor, an Army instructor assigned to duty with the Michigan Air National Guard's 107th Observation Squadron (today, fighter squadron), was leading a formation of three aircraft "when the airplane of a formation-mate, flying on his flank, was thrown by a terrific air current into the airplane piloted by Lieutenant Moor, disabling the tall group of the latter's airplane and causing it to become almost entirely uncontrollable."

The impact threw Moor's unnamed enlisted passenger into the cockpit of the aircraft with Moor. (The type of the aircraft was not identified.) Knocked unconsciencious by the impact, the enlisted man slowly began to regain his senses, but was unable to respond to Moor's repeated commands to bail out.

Moor elected to remain in the aircraft himself, continuing to fight for control of the damaged craft. Eventually, Moor's passenger regained his sense enough to be jump from the damaged plane and he parachuted to safety.

The sudden change in weight in the already damaged aircraft caused the aircraft to go into a dive from which Moor was unable to recover. The aircraft "crashed to the ground, and burst into flames, resulting in Lieutenant Moor's death and the destruction of the airplane."

The award citation states "the circumstances under which Lieutenant Moor sacrificed his life in an effort to save the life of his companion furnish an outstanding example of the loyalty and the heroism which characterize the traditions of the military service."

Moor's DFC was awarded to his mother, Agnes Moor, in Moor's hometown of Holland, Ohio, in 1932. Moor was also awarded the Cheney Award in 1932, which was presented annually to the Air Service member who performed an "outstanding act of valor or extreme fortitude and self-sacrifice" in connection with a flight. A scholarship in the name of Moor is awarded annually at the University of Toledo.

The 107th was first organized as the 107th Aero Squadron at Kelly Field, Texas, on 27 Aug. 1917 in response to the U.S. entry into World War I earlier that year. The unit was demobilized and disbanded in March 1919, following the conclusion of the war. In 1925, a squadron of 20 officers and 90 enlisted men began meeting weekly in a Detroit garage and created the Michigan National Guard's first flying unit. On 7 May 1926, the unit received federal recognition and was designated the 107th Observation Squadron. Today, the 107th Fighter Squadron is assigned to the 127th Wing, Michigan Air National Guard, at Selfridge Air National Guard Base. Since 2009, the squadron has flown and operated the A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft.

Comprised of approximately 1,600 personnel and flying both the A-10 Thunderbolt II and the KC-135 Stratotanker, the 127th Wing supports Air Mobility Command, Air Combat Command and Air Force Special Operations Command by providing highly-skilled Airmen to missions domestically and overseas. The 127th Wing is the host unit at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, which is also home to units of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection.