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Purple Heart recipient played vital role in World War II
John Burch Mooney served as an observer for intelligence and reconnaissance during World War II. Mooney was shot on the side of his face during the Battle of Balete Pass in Luzon, Philippines. The soldier was later awarded a Purple Heart for his injury. - photo by Photo Contributed

Private First Class John Burch Mooney, Jr. received a number of decorations during his time serving with the 35th Infantry Regiment during World War II, including an Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, a Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one bronze star, a Good Conduct Medal, and a World War II Victory Medal.

In addition to these awards, Mooney was also awarded a Purple Heart in 1945 after he was wounded in Luzon, Philippines. Only 21 at the time, Mooney was shot on the side of his face during the Battle of Balete Pass. Surgeons later reported removing the copper from his jaw.  

At the time of his injury, Mooney wrote to his parents, Ethel and John Mooney. 

“It’s been a tough go,” he wrote, “and it’s my opinion it will only get tougher before it gets easier. When I first came overseas, some were going home on eighteen months. When I had put in that time, two years became the minimum. Now, I find in my outfit men with three years and more are still wondering why they’re here.”

Mooney was born in Seattle, Washington and later moved to San Diego, California, where he graduated from San Diego High School. He was a stock clerk at Consolidated Aircraft Company for approximately seven months prior to entering the Army. 

When he decided to enlist in the army, his parents were not surprised since their son had already expressed an interest in joining the army. 

Mooney reported that he originally wanted to join the Navy; however, he was turned down because he was colorblind. 

For over two years, Mooney served in the Philippines and Japan as an observer for intelligence and reconnaissance.  

During this time, he assisted the battalion as an intelligence officer, manned observation posts in combat, and kept a journal that recorded events and enemy activity. 

Mooney served on the Northern Solomons and Luzon Campaigns, which were just two of the 21 different campaigns in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater. 

The Northern Solomons Campaign, from February 1943 to November 1944, witnessed allies using skill, determination, and endurance to make evident dominant American strength on isolated Japanese positions on the islands. 

During the Luzon Campaign, Mooney and fellow allies fought from December 1944 to July 1945 in the Battle of Luzon to take control of strategically and economically important locations on the Philippine island.

Mooney served as an intelligence officer until 1946. Upon separating from the Army, Mooney ultimately became an English teacher at Los Banos High School.