After World War Two, veteran found peace on the river
At age 22, Frank Moore landed on the beach at Normandy with a gun and a mission to fight Nazis. Nearly 70 years later he returned, this time with a fishing rod and a mission to catch salmon.
So goes the story of “Mending the Line,” a touching short documentary about Moore’s two very different trips to Europe. In the years between, fishing was integral to readjusting to peacetime and putting behind him the trauma of D-Day and the campaign of battles across Europe that followed.
“It would cleanse my soul, that’s the best way to put it,” said Moore, now an astoudingly virile 92, in a recent phone interview. “It rebuilt a part of me that I could have lost.”
The movie won the People’s Choice award at last year’s 5Point Film Festival in Carbondale and went on to win the same prize at the Banff Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival. Moore will be coming to Aspen for a screening of the movie Saturday at a 5Point Film showcase at the Wheeler Opera House.
The idea for the project was born a few years ago, when filmmakers at the Oregon-based production company Uncage the Soul shot a television segment on Moore.
“When they got through, the producer asks me, ‘Frank, is there anything in your long and active life that you wanted to do and never have?’” Moore recalled. “Immediately I thought, ‘Gee, the thing to do would be to go back and fish some of those salmon streams that I saw in Normandy after we chased the Germans out of the hedgerows toward the Cherbourg Peninsula.”
Based on that wish, the filmmakers launched a crowdfunding campaign, via Indiegogo, and successfully raised more than $50,000 for the project. It brought Moore, his wife, Jeanne, and their son, Frankie, to France and Luxembourg for a fishing tour of the former warzone in May 2013.
Running just 20 minutes, the film vividly portrays how fishing and family lent meaning to Moore’s life following the war, as it follows his trip back there with his wife Jeanne and Frankie.
“I don’t know what they called it at the time, but now they call it PTSD,” Moore said. “(Jeanne) and my son pulled me out of that.”
During peacetime, Moore spent years building and running a fishing lodge in Steamboat, Oregon on the Umpqua River. He became a renowned angler and guide, adding accolades such as membership in the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame to his wartime honors, which include the Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor.
In one moving scene in the film, Moore brings his wife to a café in Luxembourg from which he wrote her a letter in 1944 during a brief lull in the fighting. The letter, which he reads aloud to her, mentions the local rivers and how he hopes to return to fish them during a time of peace. The letter is cut short, as Moore writes that he has to go for “a walk” (a euphemism, it turns out, for a mission to reinforce the embattled 83rd Infantry Division). Watching Moore read that decades-old letter to Jeanne, his wife of 72 years, is among the most moving scenes you’ll see on film in any movie.
During the war, Moore said, he clung to thoughts of Jeanne, fishing and family, along with acts of kindness on the battlefield.
For Thanksgiving after D-Day, he recalled, local citizens hosted soldiers after learning about the American holiday. They fed and sheltered them — one of the few times, Moore noted, that he slept under a roof during his service overseas.
“They didn’t have anything, but this one family took us in and fed us, and it was the finest meal I had over there, by far,” he recalled.
The stop in Luxembourg, when he wrote the letter, was a relatively laid back part of his tour, coming after his division “took a pounding” in a series of battles after Normandy and before a series of more fights as the allies moved inland.
His unit left the area in early December that year, just before it came under fierce attack from the Germans, and went into the infamously deadly Battle of Hürtgen Forest, which Moore calls “one of the meat grinders of the whole war.”
As a member of the “greatest generation,” Moore has some advice for today’s generation of veterans struggling to readjust to life on the homefront.
“The best thing I can say is, ‘Get outdoors,’” Moore said. “And don’t be afraid to give and receive love. Don’t go into yourself, go out.”
His post-war life, he said, found purpose in the mountains and on rivers and with the love of his wife and son.
While he’s in town, Moore will be getting in a day of winter fly-fishing with Taylor Creek Fly Shops. Moore said he didn’t get to fish the one time he was previously in the valley, in the early 1970s, for a conference in Snowmass Village, when he was chair of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission.
“Mending the Line” is one of 11 short films on the docket for 5 Point’s show at the Wheeler Opera House on Saturday. Others in the lineup include “Afterglow,” a visually astounding night-skiing short from Sweetgrass Productions, released this fall, and “Sufferfest 2,” following a pair of adventurers on a 700-mile bike ride through Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona (it’s the sequel to “Sufferfest,” which screened at last year’s 5 Point Film Festival).
Since the last outing of the festival, the nonprofit has taken to the road for film showcases across the U.S. in cities from Richmond, Virginia to North Bend, Washington and now — a little closer to home — in Aspen. Those events provide a taste of the full festival’s signature slate of thoughtful adventure films, which return to Carbondale April 23 to 6 this year.
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