Memorial planned for pair killed in Vietnam

By Matthew J. Webster , Staff writer
Gloucester Daily Times

ESSEX - Almost 40 years after their deaths, an effort is underway to create a memorial for Bobby Moore and Paul Knowlton.

A veterans group is raising money for a monument to honor the two men, the only Essex residents killed in the Vietnam War.

"It's important because Vietnam vets are following in the footsteps of World War II vets; there are fewer of us and we don't want to go any longer without them being memorialized," said Paul Doucette, a member of Essex Veterans of Wars, the group that organizes the town's Memorial Day ceremonies.

Doucette approached selectmen and the Department of Public Works last spring about dedicating the newly built playground behind the fire station to Moore and Knowlton.

Both groups agreed, and the veterans group hopes to formally dedicate the Knowlton Moore Memorial Playground on Memorial Day with the unveiling of a bronze plaque set on a granite base. Essex Veterans of Wars is seeking donations from the community to help pay for the construction and placement of the monument.

"This wasn't an easy subject to deal with right after the (Vietnam) war, but people are more at ease now," said Doucette, who served in Vietnam with the U.S. Army's 14th Combat Engineers.

Doucette and Knowlton graduated from Gloucester High School in 1965. Moore graduated a year later.

"Paul Knowlton was a quiet young man, but he was well-liked and a friend to everybody," Doucette said of his good friend. Doucette also remembers Knowlton's enthusiasm for dirt bikes and trail riding.

Both Knowlton and Moore were from military families. Moore's father, LeRoy, joined the Marine Corps in 1943 and fought in the battle of Iwo Jima. Knowlton's father, Richard, served in the Army during World War II, while his older brother, Jim, served in the National Guard in the 1960s.

Knowlton's mother, Mabel, lives at the Seacoast Nursing & Retirement Center in Gloucester. Moore's mother, Barbara, lives on Story Street in Essex.

"We're very proud of Bobby. From the time he was eight, he always said, 'I want to be a Marine,'" said Barbara Moore, 78, of her oldest son.

"Bobby was outgoing and he could empathize with anybody, whether they were seven or 70," his mother said. "He had a great sense of humor; he used to tease his sister, but he was good to her."

Barbara Moore said her son enjoyed hunting and fishing, even building a smelt house for ice fishing on the Essex River when he was a teenager.

She remembers her son was so motivated to join the Marines after graduating that when he drove to the Gloucester post office to sign up and found the recruiter was out, he chased the man to Rockport rather than wait another day to sign up to serve his country.

In November 1967, Bobby Moore was killed in combat in Quang Nam Province, South Vietnam. He was 19.

Paul Knowlton joined the Army shortly after graduating and was killed in 1968 in the Gia Dinh Province of South Vietnam. He was 20.

Barbara Moore said that when she and her husband learned of Knowlton's death, they went to visit his parents. Knowlton's parents asked if their son could be buried next to Bobby Moore in the Spring Street cemetery. The Moores agreed.

Moore said she has only missed one Memorial Day ceremony since her son died almost 40 years ago. She was usually joined by Paul Knowlton's mother, Mabel.

"We sat side by side. We shared something that only someone who's lost a child can know," Moore said. "And when they unveil the memorial, Paul and Bobby will be side by side, just like at the cemetery."

Donations for construction of the monument can be sent to: Knowlton Moore Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 183, Essex, MA 01929.

Army Specialist Paul D. Knowlton

Born: June 2, 1947

Died: Feb. 24, 1968

Private First Class Robert E. Moore, Marine Corps

Born: Feb. 16, 1948

Died: Nov. 2, 1967