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Fateful choice leads to 5 big battles

Anthony Moley was raised to respect his mother's wishes. Brought up by parents who came from Sicily in search of the American Dream, he promised his mom that he would not go into the Navy when his draft notice arrived.

Moley reported for a physical at the local recruiting station and passed with flying colors.

"The recruiter looked at me and said, 'Congratulations, you're in the Navy.' I almost slid off the chair," Moley recalls.

"My mother feared water and didn't want me to have any part of water. She figured if something happened at sea, I wouldn't have too much of a chance; but on land if something happened, you could run or crawl someplace.

"So I looked at the recruiter and said, 'I have a fear of water. I just can't be near boats or water.' He slammed my papers down on the desk and said, 'I'll rewrite your papers, but six months from now, you'll be kicking yourself in the butt.' "

Nineteen-year-old Anthony returned that day to his parents' home in the North End of Niagara Falls and proudly told his mother he had escaped the Navy.

"She was happy," he remembers. "Oh, boy, was she."

It turns out, though, that Moley kicked himself in the butt many times over after that. As a foot soldier battling the Germans in Europe, he had many close calls.

Moley arrived a dozen days after the June 6, 1944, invasion of Normandy on D-Day and remained in Europe until the Germans gave up nearly a year later.

He fought in five major battles in France, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg and Germany.

There were other skirmishes as well, though the Battle of the Bulge, he says, was the worst.

In one of the battles, Moley says, the convoy in which he was traveling received orders to stop while more forward-moving troops broke through a German roadblock.

"I went off to the side of the road to a knoll and leaned up against a tree to catch a little relaxation," he recalls. "At some point, I fell asleep, and this priest walked up to me and said, 'Soldier, do you have any confidence in that medal you are wearing?'

"I said, 'Oh, yes, father, I do.' "

The priest and Moley were discussing the St. Christopher medal that Moley's mom, Anna, had given to him before he went off to war.

After Moley awoke from his dream, he looked around to see if a priest might have come to him; the dream seemed just that real.

"I started asking the guys if they saw a priest, and it was a big laugh. There was no priest, and they thought it was funny," he remembers.

But Moley was unamused. He believed he had experienced an apparition. A few moments later, he knew that was the case.

"We got word to move out. So as I went over the little knoll, about 50 yards ahead of me was a woods, and a German rifleman had picked me up. He's firing at me while I was still up on my feet.

"I hit the ground, and I'm looking for this guy. I had a pistol, but it was useless. I picked up my head, and I'm looking, and he fires at me a second time. I picked up my head again, and I still couldn't see where he was. He missed me again. That third bullet was so close, I swear I could feel the heat from it."

At that point, rather than run because of fear, Moley believes, he received a rush of divine inspiration.

"I said to myself, 'It's time to play dead. I'm not playing with you, buddy.' I laid down and made believe I was dead, and he stopped shooting at me. German artillery started, and I could hear the shrapnel going over me.

"Finally, we got enough troops, and we broke through. We chased the Germans right through the woods. They were a bicycle brigade, and there were so many abandoned bicycles in the woods."

Before that day ended, Moley said he thanked St. Christopher at least "101 times."

He was not so blessed in the Battle of the Bulge.

"It was tough," he said. "We had no planes to give us support with strafing and bombing because it was overcast. The tanks couldn't move or nothing. They just stood still in the snow and ice.

"We stayed two or three weeks, and the Germans always left behind a machine-gunner who fired once every half-hour or so, just to let us know they were out there. But after a while, we decided we would attack at night.

"We moved about 1,000 yards up and took high ground, a big hill, and we stopped. The lieutenant told me to set the machine gun down and he'd have others dig it in. He said, 'You go back and have the boys bring ammunition up, then have yourself a rest.' He knew I worked hard for him."

On the way back, Moley and the three other soldiers with him came under heavy fire.

"I knew where a big foxhole was, and we took cover there," he said. "We jumped in, and there were three other guys in it. There were six of us, and we were like rats in it."

Moley was at the top of this pile of humanity and could hear an 88 mm artillery round coming their way.

"By the sound of it, I knew it was going to hit close. I said, 'That baby is dragging its trail legs.' It hit the tree above us, and my arm was out in the open because another guy's head was in my right armpit, and that's where the shrapnel went through me.

"The guy said, 'If it hadn't been for your arm, that would have went right through my head. You saved my life.' "

Despite the sensation of a hot poker tearing through his arm, Moley said, he felt good at having saved his buddy.

"I went back to Metz, France, to a big armory where there was a hospital for about a month. I then returned to my outfit, and by that time, they had already crossed Rhine River."

More battles followed, but Moley's division, the 35th Infantry, put the brakes on at the Elbe River, and the Russians captured Berlin.

The war in Europe was finished.

Moley was moved to Camp Lucky Strike in France, where soldiers were being outfitted to fight in Pacific jungles, but the Atomic Age changed that. Two atom bombs were dropped -- in Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- and the Japanese surrendered.

Back in Niagara Falls, Moley got a factory job at Olin Chemicals, married Theresa Malinowski and settled on a farm in Wilson, where they raised five children.

He grew vegetables and tended beef cattle.

Now his grandson, Michael Moley Jr., runs the farm.

> Anthony J. Moley, 88

Hometown: Niagara Falls

Residence: Wilson

Branch: Army

Rank: Private first class

War zone: Europe

Years of service: 1943-45

Most prominent honors: Purple Heart, European Theater of Operations Ribbon with five battle stars

Specialty: Machine-gunner

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