I attended a memorial service a few days ago for another one of the World War II veterans that we are losing so fast. This one was for a very special lady, Lt. Mary Appler Moon, one of the first woman officers in the regular Navy, the very first one from York County.
Mary donated her naval uniform, papers and other items some years ago to York County Heritage Trust. Her uniform and some of the material now preserved by YCHT were featured in last year’s From Front Porch to Front Lines comprehensive exhibit on York County participation in 20th century conflicts.
I was fortunate to have done an oral history interview with Mary in conjunction with her YCHT donations. A hard copy transcription of the session can be read at the YCHT Library/Archives. Since YCHT is one of the partners of the Library of Congress with its ongoing Veterans’ History Project, a copy of the taped review and transcription is also on file at the Library of Congress.
A plea for help: The YCHT Library/Archives, with the assistance of individuals and also York College’s oral history students, has completed numerous oral history interviews for the Veterans’ History Project, but there are many, many more veterans that need to be talked to before they, and their memories with them, are gone. Interviews are very easy to conduct and transcribe, with just a little instruction from the YCHT Library/Archives staff. This can be done in a short time, at your convenience. Whether you are thinking of sitting down with veterans or your own family members, you might want to attend the free May 6 session of Lunch with the Librarians at York County Heritage Trust. The subject is “Oral Histories: The Basics of Where to Start and What to Ask.” Contact Assistant Director of Library and Archives Amanda Eveler for registration at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now—here is a very brief synopsis of Lt. Moon’s story:
Mary grew up in Hanover and graduated from Susquehanna University. After teaching for a year in Hershey, she joined the Navy in the fall of 1942. Upon completion of officer’s training school, she was assigned to Naval Operations, serving in Washington, D.C.; San Francisco; Cleveland; Great Lakes; Seattle and Yorktown, Va. during her career. She would never divulge exactly what she did during much of her time in the Navy, citing a lifelong oath of secrecy that she had taken.
You could tell, over 50 years later, how much Mary loved her time in the Navy. She served until 1951; married by then, she resigned to start her family. She later taught English, mostly at York Suburban High School, and also at York High, Penn State York and HACC. Many of her students still relish the quality English education they received.
At the memorial service, her children aptly conveyed not only how much they loved and respected her as a mother, but how she broadened their world through travel, perhaps a love she acquired with the U.S. Navy.
Mary felt that the servicewomen of World War II do not get the recognition they deserve. I hope that will change. I wish I had taken more time to stop by occasionally and hear more of her adventures, but I am glad to have had the privilege of meeting this interesting woman.