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A World War II veteran recounts his memories of the war to his daughter

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Time now for StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative, recording and sharing the stories of service members and their families. Sergeant Daniel Moon joined the U.S. Navy in 1944 during World War II, choosing that branch because he could enlist at the age of 17. He later served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. At the age of 96, Daniel Moon told his daughter Laura about a battle that continues to haunt him.

DANIEL MOON: March 7, 1951, was my first day in combat. And our - right away, bullets were flying at me. They seemed to say, pity you, pity you. That's the sound of bullets. Like, I pity you. They're sneering at me. But they all missed me. And I threw myself down in a sprawl, and in front of me, the trench line opened up like the devil opening his mouth to show his fangs. And I fired a whole half of a magazine right into that mouth. And I could see bullets hitting their winter tunics that they had on. And I could see blinking out white tufts of cotton. And I knew they were dead.

My mouth was all dry and nausea coming up, but I held it down - and then the guy shouting, move over, Moon. And all of a sudden, boom, a huge explosion blew blood into my face and into my ear. I woke up about 10 yards away on the other side of the ridge, and after I recovered and went back to the crater, I saw this group of three or four men. They were blown up right at the spot where I had been. Me and my buddies, we took our helmets off and looked down at the pitiful sight. And from that pile came this shout. Hey, you guys up there, when you get back home, will you write us an epitaph? Let it say, for your tomorrow, we gave our today.

SIMON: Ninety-six-year-old veteran Daniel Moon. Versions of that epitaph have circulated since World War I, but Sergeant Moon doesn't remember hearing it before that day on the battlefield. After their recording, his daughter Laura, came back to StoryCorps to reflect on their conversation.

LAURA MOON: I didn't really have any expectations about the conversation. I was hoping he would talk about some of the humorous things that happened, and I wasn't really sure if we should talk about the real combat. But as it happened, that's where the interview went. When we were growing up as kids, my dad really didn't talk about his war experiences. Maybe he didn't want to traumatize us. He just maybe had buried them. But he had made up a poster that had the names of his buddies who had been killed. And he carried this poster every Memorial Day parade with a saying underneath it - we gave our today for your tomorrow. He believed his three buddies were talking to him. And that is what they said.

My dad and I have not been that close all these years. And some of the stories that he talked about, that was the first time I had heard them. And I can now see him as a young man going through some really harrowing things that most people can't imagine having gone through or being in a position to have to bear.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: And that's Laura Moon remembering her StoryCorps conversation with her father. Their interview is archived at the Library of Congress. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.