Moore Amoss was born on July 7, 1922 in Baltimore,
Maryland. The son of a pathologist and diagnostician at Johns
Hopkins Hospital, he became interested in flying after a
trip to China with his parents.
Amoss found his way into a cockpit any way he could. His
first lesson was a prize from a naming contest at an air
show and, after catching the flying bug, he hitchhiked all
the way to Florida from his school in Connecticut for more
lessons from the instructor. He never stopped thinking about
After graduating from high school, Amoss visited his brother
at school in North Carolina, found a pilot to befriend and
began to trade maintenance work on airplanes for flight time.
From there, he joined the Navy ROTC and put in an application
for flight school. When the Navy turned him down, Amoss traveled
to Florence, South Carolina and earned his private pilot’s
He heard the Royal Air Force (RAF) was looking for pilots,
so he enlisted in the RAF in New York City in January 1942.
After passing his flight exam on Long Island, New York, he
traveled by train to Florida for flight school, finishing
in nine months and flying aircraft such as the Boeing-Stearman
PT-17, the Vultee BT-13 and the North American AT-6.
After spending some brief office time in Canada, Amoss traveled
to England only to find no available pilot positions. He
was offered a position in North Africa, but didn’t
want to fly there, so he asked the Americans in England if
he could join them. While waiting for his chance, the British
sent Amoss to an operational training unit where he gladly
He learned that the Americans were finally looking for pilots
and, after the British recommend him, Amoss was assigned
to the 38th Fighter squadron of the 55th Fighter Group, starting
out as a Staff Sergeant and then given the non-commissioned
rank of Flight Officer.
His first contributions came in September 1944
when Amoss destroyed an unidentified enemy plane and shared
in the destruction of a Junkers Ju-52/3m on the ground. After
this modest success, Amoss had an embarrassing incident,
accidentally shooting down one of his own, mistaking an American
aircraft for an Me-109 from a great distance. Captain John
F. (Jack) Coonan would become a prisoner of war and later
be told the truth about who shot him down – by Amoss
himself – after Amoss was also captured. Coonan reportedly
just grimaced and shook his head.
By February 1945, Amoss, now a Second Lieutenant, scored
his first aerial victories. First an Fw-58 transport and
a share of another. Then, as he was leading his flight group
away from a strafing mission over Amberg, Amoss spotted a
lone Me-262 heading in his direction. He flew low and passed
under the Messerschmitt, allowing the unknowing German pilot
to pass over him before spinning around and firing on him
from about 800 yards. The German fighter went down in flames
as the pilot ejected.
On his 59th and final mission in March 1945, Amoss was taking
one final strafing pass across an airfield when he was hit
by ground fire in the radiator. As he was limping back to
allied territory, he came upon three Fw-190s returning from
a mission. Flying low, Amoss was able to pull in behind the
leader and hit him as he turned, forcing him to clip the
trees and crash. Amoss then turned on the second and, just
like the first, caused the Fw-190 to clip the trees and go
down. As the third German pilot tried in vein to turn away,
Amoss turned with him, shot him down and, that quickly, Amoss
was an ace.
But there was no time for a celebration. His P-51 was losing
power fast and he needed to land. Amoss was fortunate to
find a clearing and bellied-in near Lingen, Germany. Because
German civilians were known to have shot Allied pilots, Amoss
became concerned when he saw a group of Germans near him,
but a Luftwaffe officer arrived and took charge.
Amoss was taken to Stalag Luft 1 where he was interrogated
and eventually rescued by B-17s and taken to France, and
freedom, at the end of the war.