Orange County Branch Newsletter

August 2015

In Memoriam Return “Ret” Moore

Return “Ret” Moore

Return "Ret" Moore was the seventh president of the Orange County Branch from 1958 to 1959.

Ret Moore was born in Los Angeles in 1923, but grew up in Long Beach. He was valedictorian of David Starr Jordan High School in 1941.  For the next 2 years he would attend Long Beach City College, earning an AA degree in chemical engineering.   A little prior to this he had enlisted in the Naval Reserve V12 program and after graduation was called to active duty. In July, 1943 Ret started the accelerated program at Caltech as an Apprentice Seaman, with a change of majors to Civil Engineering.

After completing his junior and senior years at Caltech he reported for officers training, where he would be commissioned an Ensign and sent to Pearl Harbor assigned to the 17th Naval Construction Battalion. The 17th C.B. was located on Saipan at the time (Sept-Oct 1944) and its work there was primarily the construction of an airstrip for fighter planes which was vital for the defense of an airstrip for long range bombers on the nearby island of Tinian. On the second day of the invasion of Okinawa (late June 1945) the 17th Battalion landed its equipment and took up the task of building roads in support of the invasion. After the Japanese surrender, Ret was sent down to Manus Island, off of New Guinea, where a CB detachment prepared two large floating dry docks for towing back to Pearl Harbor.

Moore was discharged from the Navy in June 1946 and re-enrolled at Caltech.  In the following two and a half years he would receive his Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in civil engineering and complete the under graduate and graduate work for the Master’s of Science (MS) degree in geology. He studied under Fred Converse who was an influential figure in a close-knit group of Caltech engineers; including Converse, Ret Moore,  William J. Carroll (who became CEO of J.M. Montgomery, the largest sanitary engineering firm in the nation), LeVal Lund (who became chief engineer of the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power). The group influenced much of the post-war engineering practice in Los Angeles. All of these engineers were fellow Navy V-12 officers who matriculated through Caltech during the war.

In December 1948 Ret accepted the first “engineering geologist” position with the Foundation Investigation Section of the State Division of Highways Bridge Department in Sacramento. In this position, Ret teamed with Ray Taber and developed written procedures to guide bridge engineering studies, which included a thorough engineering geologic examination of all sites, including borings on both upstream and downstream ends of any supporting bent.  Both Ret Moore and Ray Taber were instrumental figures in the foundation investigations for the parallel span of the Carquinez Bridge, which was constructed in 1958.

In 1955 Ret Moore left the Division of Highways and founded his own firm, named Geo-Engineering. About seven months later he persuaded Ray Taber to join him as a principal. In 1956 they formed Moore & Taber, with Moore as president. Ret opened their office in southern California, while Ray Taber operated the office in Sacramento. The southern California office was located in Fullerton in 1964, where Moore lived. The firm later moved to Anaheim, with branch offices in Bakersfield, Sacramento, Santa Rosa, and San Diego. In 1974 the company split into two separate firms, Moore & Taber Northern California and Moore & Taber Southern California.

In the early 1960s there were no standardized test procedures for quantifying or predicting the behavior of expansive soils, which were widespread in most of the inland valleys of southern California.  Most of the soils engineers employed their own tests, yielding answers in expected “percent swell.” Ret was a member of a AEG Building Codes Committee that was chaired by Len Krazynski of Woodward- Clyde-Sherard, and included J. Robert Davis of Converse-Davis Foundation Engineers, Stan Gizienski of Woodward-Clyde-Sherard, and Dennis Evans of Evans, Goffman & McCormick, and developed UBC Expansion Index Test No 29-2 (1965-68) and ASTM D 4829. 

An Orange County Advisory Committee on Slope Stability was established in 1965 and was comprised of various soils engineers then practicing in Orange County. This group was set up to examine the problems the County was experiencing with development of tracts on the upper Pliocene age Niguel and Capistrano Formations along the southeastern side of San Juan Creek in south Orange County, which was proving to be especially troubling. Large landslides had developed which did not appear to be influenced by bedding planes like similar scale slides in Los Angeles County.  This group included Ret Moore and representatives of the other established firms, including Woodward Clyde. They developed specialized recommendations for analyzing slope stability in the Niguel and Capistrano Formations, as well as for landscaping and landscape watering. 

In 1981 during heavy winter rains a large wedge of the Capistrano Formation in Dana Point, California near the top of a 150 to 200-foot high bluff near Quiet Cannon Restaurant failed along the fault surface and spilled onto Cove Road below. The landslide left a nearly vertical headscarp (cliff) 20 to 30 feet high just below the restaurant.  Moore & Taber were selected for the repair.  Ret Moore, Don Clark and Jack Eagen provided engineering and geologic review and assistance. The relative steepness of the adjoining bluffs and the other topographic constraints, when combined with the magnitude of force needed to stabilize the slope, precluded a simple reconstruction of the slope with earthen fill. In addition the county requested that the existing alignment of Cove Road be maintained. Consequently a large retaining structure on the upslope side of the roadway and a special support system for the head of the slide were selected as remedial measures. The ASCE Orange County Branch designated this project as the Project of the year in 1987 and it was nominated for the national Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement Award.  For more details on the Cove Road Landslide, please read the article [url=][/url]

Ret Moore passed away at the UC Irvine Trauma Center on June 13th at the age of 91.  Ret was married to his wife Margaret for 68 years, they were married in Los Angeles on June 30, 1946.  He was an avid fly-fisherman and enjoyed all facets of mountaineering. He twice climbed Mt. Whitney along with hundreds of other Sierra peaks.


John Rogers, 2015, Threadlines of Geotechnical and Engineering Geology firms in the Greater Los Angeles Metro-Southern California Area, July 31, 2015.

OC Register article - [url=][/url]

The Davis Enterprise - [url=][/url]

Scott Kerwin, Restoration of the Cove Road Landslide, Dana Point, California.

Related Groups/Committees