Friday, March 17, 2017

A Charger "all-time great" gives up his life ...

"One of Chariton High's all-time basketball greats" was how The Chariton Leader described this smiling young man, Lyle E. Mosbey, when it reported in its edition of March 21, 1944, that he was missing in action, age 23, presumably in the Pacific theater of operations.

About 50 young men from Lucas County gave up their lives during World War II, none more honorable than another, but some were more widely known. Lyle, because of his athletic record, was one of the latter.

Now, more than 70 years later, I doubt that the name --- or face --- is remembered by anyone. That's the way life works as time moves on, despite promises never to forget. And it would be a challenge to find any trace of Lyle in Chariton, although his parents did some years later erect a cenotaph to his honor in the Goshen Cemetery.

Lyle's parents, Carl and Lillie, who lived at 620 East Court, had learned of their son's status a few days earlier, on Saturday, March 18, when one of those telegrams, dreaded by the loved ones of all in service at the time, arrived at their home. They hadn't seen Lyle in two years and his most recent letter had arrived on Jan. 1.

Their younger son, U.S. Army PFC Laurel Mosbey, then stationed in Kansas, came home to be with his parents, but because of the uncertainty there was little to do. There's no indication that a memorial service ever was held.

Months later, the family learned that the U.S. Navy had declared Lyle missing in action as of Jan. 11, 1944, but that the date was guesswork. He was carried as missing until declared "presumed dead" on Jan. 11, 1946. His father, Carl, had died 9 days earlier at the age of 53.


Lyle was born on a farm near Chariton on April 20, 1920, and had moved into town with his parents during 1925. The family belonged to First Baptist Church and he was baptized there, age 10, on Jan. 25, 1931.

No individual statistics survive to tell us exactly why Lyle came to be considered an "all-time great" among the Chargers, but it is possible to recover details of the seasons he played by taking a look at  slim paper-bound Charitonian yearbooks of the depression and war years --- contrasting sharply with the lavish hard-bound editions of the 1920s.

Lyle hadn't played for the Chargers until the first semester of his junior year, 1936-37, when the season commenced in early December. The team started strong, with Lyle on the bench much of the time, but was severely handicapped at the end of the first semester, during late January, when three senior standouts --- Jay Dee Threlkeld, Harold Kendall and Vincent Mahoney --- graduated. 

The Chargers entered the second semester 3-1, tied for first place with Centerville in conference standings, but ended the season 7-7.

Of Lyle, the yearbook staff wrote, "Mosbey, our southpaw, was a forward with accurate passing ability as well as a shooting eye that loomed up after mid-year and earned him a berth with the regular 5."


His performance during 1936-37 had been sufficiently impressive to earn Lyle, as the 1937-38 season opened, pairing with Richard Shelton as co-captain. The Chargers went on then, with only four minor losses, to emerge as Southern Iowa Conference champions.

Of "South Paw Mose," the Charitonian staff wrote, "his shots fooled everyone, they even fooled him, because one or two didn't go in."

Lyle graduated that spring with the Class of 1938, and the yearbook staff worked very hard to find quotes from classical literature with which to characterize all the graduates. For Lyle, it was a bit of Antony's characterization of Brutus from Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" --- "His life was gentle and the elements so mix'd in him that Nature might stand up and say to all the world 'This was a man.' "

High School graduation was not, however, the end of Lyle's basketball career. He enrolled during the fall of 1938 at Chariton Junior College and continued to play, now for the Bluejays rather than the Chargers. His team won all eight 1938-39 Southern Iowa Conference junior college games, brought home the Southern Iowa Conference Championship trophy and was runner-up in state junior college championship tournaments.

Lyle did not return for a second junior college year, however, and went to work instead --- although he was reported as a member of a town basketball team during the winter of 1939-40.


During the fall of 1941, as war clouds darkened, Lyle enlisted in the U.S. Navy as an apprentice seaman and was inducted in Des Moines on Oct. 26 or 27. After basic training, he attended Electrical School in St. Louis and Submarine School at New London, Conn., emerging as a electrician's mate.

His final assignment --- as an electrician's mate 2nd class --- was to the USS Scorpion, a Gato-class submarine whose mission was to patrol  in the Pacific.

On Jan. 3, 1944, the Scorpion departed Midway Island after refueling and reprovisioning to patrol the East China Sea.

On Jan. 5, the Scorpion rendezvoused with the USS Herring to attempt transfer of an injured crewman, but the transfer was unsuccessful because of sea conditions.

The Scorpion was not seen again.

It is presumed that the submarine struck a Japanese mine and was lost with all hands on board.

In addition to his cenotaph in Goshen Cemetery, Lyle is commemorated on the Tablets of the Missing, Manila American Cemetery, in the Philippines.

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