Saga of Roxborough Man Has More Thrills Than Hollywood Extravaganza
The Suburban Press, August 14, 1958
Eyes of the world are on Beirut Lebanon. Where more than a dozen marines and sailors from Roxborough-Manayank area landed last month on the wide beaches and have dug in to keep peace in the tiny country.
That is the picture today. What about yesterday?
This area was represented in a similar cause on those very same beaches 43 years ago. Those beaches stretch for miles of yellow sand and the surf is hardly ever rough.
Alvion P. Mosier, a “soldier of misfortune” if ever there was one, was there. He was aboard the armored cruiser, U.S.S. Tennessee, where they rescued Americans, Jews and other national groups from the Turks, who were then over-running the land, then part of Syria.
That was February, 1915. The 900-plus crewmen of the Tennessee took the endangered Americans and others to Brindisi, Italy, to find refuge and safe passage home. The well-armed ship returned to Jerusalem, where they took more than 1,000 Jews from there to Egypt -ironically, this would be impossible today.
Mosier, who served aboard the Tennessee eight years, speaks of it as if it were his best friend. “We had some great experiences aboard the Tennessee.” He said, “but disaster struck after it was renamed the Memphis.” (The Memphis sank in a typhoon off Santo Domingo in July 1916 with 100 lives lost. Mosier in life jacket and carrying the ship’s mascot, a monkey, swam to shore.)
But for Alvion P. Mosier, who lives with his wife, Anna, at 611 Rector St., that was only one close call. In fact, Mosier’s entire life is a fabulous one of hair-raising adventures, thrilling experiences and a list of exciting and varied occupations. He has been shot, ship-wrecked, scalded, bombed, mugged by hoodlums and generally mussed up.
He crossed the country in a covered wagon, was a cowboy, seaman, bodyguard to an ambassador, infantryman wounded in battle, police patrolman, detective and government agency employee.
Mosier’s saga could very well become a Hollywood extravaganza –the story of a modern Ulysses.
The scene opens July 30 in a cabin in Vincennes, Ind. Alvion P. Mosier is born. As an infant, he was taken by his parents in a covered wagon to Oklahoma.
The family started ranching near Southard, Okla,, right smack in the middle of the reservation of Arapaho Indians. Oklahoma was then still a territory. Tom Mix, then a deputy marshal, was among those who taught him tricks of riding. But the itchy feet of the adventurer could not continue to roam the range punching cattle.
Al enlisted in the Navy in 1908 at Wichita, Kan. He was sent to San Francisco and soon was aboard the U.S.S. Milwaukee at Bremerton, Wash. After a six months “hitch,” he was transferred to the Tennessee.
His first cruise took him to Hawaii, Japan, the Philippines, Admiralty Islands and some lesser ports. This was 1909.
Now it is May, 1910. The “Tenny” as she was affectionately known to the men, sailed for an international congress at Buenos Aires and her arrival coincided with the most spectacular “satellite” of the century -the arrival of Haley’s Comet.
On the return run, the Tenny stopped at Rio de Janeiro and the crew saw the Panama Canal under construction as they cruised the east coast. It put in at Guatanamo Bay, Cuba, for maneuvers, but returned in time to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.
It’s 1911. The Tenny is selected to take President Taft to see the Panama Canal. It’s 1912, Seaman Al Mosier is paid off as his enlistment ends.
It’s 1913. Seaman Mosier is “shipped over” (re-enlisted) and was clamoring aboard the Tenny again. Not long after he stowed his gear, Al and his 900 shipmates were on their way again. This trip to Mexican waters to be ready for action in the trouble at Vera Cruz.
1914: War in Europe.
The Tenny is now assigned to take $50-million in gold to aid American tourists stranded in Europe. The big cruiser put in at LeHavre, France.
Volunteers needed: Personnel of the Tenny heard a six-man squad was to be assigned from the ship to guard Myron T. Herrick, ambassador to France. Mosier drew one of the assignments.
But, he got a better deal -he was appointed personal bodyguard to Ambassador Herrick. The Roxborough resident cherished a letter of thanks from Herrick when the ship was in an Italian port.
Mosier was among the first Americans to be caught in an air raid in World War I in which anyone was injured. A little girl was seriously hurt when a bomb shattered glass in a store.
1915! The Tenny is quickly deployed in the Middle East to rescue the Americans and Jews being harassed by the Turks. On the return trip the ship stops in Barcelona, Spain, and the crew takes liberty to see a bullfight.
Back in the states. A presidential order said all sailors were to receive 30 days leave. “We’ve yet to get it,” Mosier says.
Then a South American cruise, carrying Secretary of State, William G. McAdoo. Returning, the Tenny is ordered to Santo Domingo with a Marine contingent to quell an uprising there.
1916. The Tenny is re-christened “U.S.S. Memphis.” (Battlewagons are now being built and one of the new ones is given the name Tennessee).
July, same year. The Memphis is riding anchor not far off shore. But a big blow comes -a typhoon. A huge wave suddenly engulfs the Memphis. The swirling waters roll over the ship and pour into the four funnels.
The ship is transformed into a huge cauldron and men boil like lobsters as the waters turn to steam when they strike the red-hot boilers in the bowels of the ship. Lost, 100 men; one great ship to the bottom.
Mosier had grabbed up the ship’s mascot and he and monk were washed into the boiling sea. Both man and beast were rescued by Marines before being dashed against the rocky shore.
1917. Early in the war. Mosier is aboard the U.S.S. Hancock as it transports dignitaries of the U.S. to take official possession of the newly-acquired Virgin Islands from Denmark. Two German ships are nearby and taken by the Hancock.
The ships, Oglewald and Presidente, were brought back to Philadelphia, refitted and used as troop transports.
July 5, 1917. Mosier is scalded by steam in an explosion aboard the Hancock. He is hospitalized, recuperates and is discharged Nov. 13, 1917 from the Navy.
1918. Ex-seaman Mosier gets itchy feet. Enlists in the Army, sent to Texas. His 34th Infantry Regiment, Seventh Division, is sent to France in August.
Oct. 22. Private Mosier and a buddy take a direct hit from an artillery shell. Shrapnel pelts Mosier from head to toe and his buddy is killed in the Meuse-Argonne drive near Lorraine. The shrapnel caused Mosier a limp and arthritic pain he still endures.
Back home, he joins the Philadelphia police department and as a patrolman gets smashed over the head by a bottle wielded by one of two thugs he was called to subdue. Promotion to the detective division and settling down to married life.
1924. Policeman Mosier was cited for courageous duty and devotion to duty. A citation from the famous Smedley D. Butler, then director of public safety, reads in part: “For courageous action… in placing under arrest at risk of your own life… a desperate criminal and to advise you that such deeds deserve the highest commendation, which I herewith most cordially extend.”
When he was on the narcotics squad, Detective Mosier assisted in the arrest of Pius Lanzetti, notorious public enemy.
In addition to these deeds, citizen Mosier has won commendation for his work in the United Fund drive, Community Council, Red Cross and Salvation Army.
Mosier served on the Philadelphia police force 26 years, retiring in 1944. He was employed five and half years by the Veterans Administration until a year ago.
He has held local, county and state offices in the Veterans of Foreign Wars and other veterans organizations. He is past commander of Hattal-Taylor Post 333, VFW and its chairman of Americanism 25 years; past commander of Chapter 63, Order of the Purple Heart; past commander of Philadelphia VFW Council; past president Seventh Division Association; past commander of Municipal War Veterans and past patriotic instructor of Department of Pennsylvania VFW.
Fantastic? Yes. “Tis strange, but true; for truth is always strange -stranger than fiction.”
–Article, The Suburban Press, August 14, 1958 (Roxborough, Philadelphia, PA).