As told by William Ayers Jr.
On a hot September day in 1969, I arrived in Seoul, Korea, a young First Lt. with an ROTC commission, three years of law school behind me, an Air Defense Officer Basic Course, and one year as a Personnel Officer at the 15th Artillery Group (AD) at Biggs Army Air Field, Ft. Bliss, TX. I had no idea what the next 12 months would bring me, but I was excited at the challenge of serving in Korea.
Within hours of my arrival, I was taken to the G-3 Shop of United Nations Command/US Forces Korea and the 8th US Army. I sat around the Admin office for 2-3 days while they tried to figure out what to do with someone like me. I’m sure it was not easy, given my limited military experience and their critical mission.
I had been there maybe 2-3 weeks, still working in the Admin Office, when the Lt Col serving as Gen. Moore’s Executive Officer called for me to come down to his office. When I went into the XO’s office, he told me, “The General wants to see you.” I looked around to make sure he wasn’t talking to someone else. Why would the General want to talk to me? I had just arrived in-country, had not done anything which would have gotten me in trouble (I didn’t think), had no particular Operations or Training experience, and just wanted to serve my time, get back to Kentucky, and practice law in my hometown.
After a few minutes, I was taken into Gen. Moore’s office and was introduced to him. I had not heard of Gen Moore before that day, but as soon as I met him, I could tell he was a different sort of fellow. I knew nothing about his Viet Nam experience. I didn’t know he had attended West Point, and I didn’t even know he was also from Kentucky, but he quickly let me know about being from Kentucky.
We spent a short time talking about backgrounds. It was mostly him learning about my background. Do you really think I was going to be quizzing a General, who was the G-3 of all those commands, about his background? Not this young Lieutenant!
Finally, he wound his way around to talking about what he had really summoned me to discuss. It seems his XO was going to have to return to the States due to a family emergency, and it would be another 2-3 months before the Pentagon could get a replacement of the proper rank to Korea. He looked me straight in the eye and said,
“Lt. Ayer, while you have limited military experience, you have been to law school, you have had a few more life experiences than most of the young officers in this shop, you are most likely not going to make a career of the Army, although I would like to change your mind, and you have some administrative experience which might be helpful. I would like for you to serve as my temporary Executive Officer until a replacement gets here. If you do, and if you make any really big mistakes, I’ll keep you out of Leavenworth.” I ask you, how could I refuse an offer like that? I didn’t.
I was then ushered out, after which the XO began briefing me on my new job duties and the routine, which included arriving at the office at 4:00 a.m. Why, you might ask? Because the General arrived no later than 4:30 a.m. and the XO was expected to get the office open, pick up the early mail, open it, sort it for the General and have everything ready to go by the time the General arrived.
Within a few days, after I took over the XO duties, the Officer’s Club was having an Octoberfest. You can imagine what the Octoberfest consisted of–drinking beer. But since I was not a beer drinker, I opted for Tom Collins–too many Tom Collins. Oh, and Octoberfest was on Friday night, which meant I didn’t have to be in the office until 4:30 a.m. because the General didn’t come in until 5:00 a.m. on Saturday.
On Saturday morning after Octoberfest, I dragged my body out of bed in the BOQ, made it to the office just in time, feeling none too good after the night of revelry before. I immediately went to the second floor to pick up the mail for the General from the Staff Duty Officer. Went back to the office, opened the mail, and proceeded to take it into the General’s office so it would be on his desk when he arrived. Only one problem, someone had locked the door to the General’s office after it was cleaned the night before and they had misplaced the key. Yep, the key to the door was missing.
I scrambled around trying to find a key, but there was none to be had. I was in a panic. No one seemed to know where to find a key. Before I knew it, there he stood. “What’s the problem Lt. Ayer? Why is my office door still closed?” I explained my predicament to him. He directed me to go to the Staff Duty Officer and get a key. They did not have one. He then told me to go to the Chief of Staff’s office and get one, no luck. Finally, he said, “There’s only one thing left to do.” I asked him what that was, and he said, “Kick the door in.” I said, “What, sir?” He answered, “I said kick the damned door in.” I obeyed the order and kicked the door open with two swift kicks with my size 10 1/2s.
I must admit, it felt pretty good to be kicking in the door of a US Army General. However, by Monday morning, the rumor had already made the rounds around UNC/USFK/8th US Army HQ that Lt Ayer had gone to the Octoberfest on Friday night, came in a little hungover on Saturday morning, and kicked in the General’s door. To my knowledge, General Moore never told anyone any different. I think he sort of liked the idea of having an XO with a badass reputation.
General Moore was a boss who expected everyone to do their job the right way the first time. He always made sure you had the resources to accomplish the mission, and he provided you with the inspiration needed to get the job done. He did it in a way that always bolstered the morale of the unit which he led. I will never forget this brave, decent, and honorable man. Duty. Honor. Country.
William C. Ayer, Jr.