b. 26/09/1921 Baltimore, Maryland. d. 12/08/2011 Columbia, South Carolina.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 16/12/1944 near Kaysersberg, France.
Born on September 26, 1921, in Baltimore, Maryland, Murray moved to Wilmington, North Carolina, at age one. After graduating from Wilmington’s New Hanover High School in 1938, he attended the University of North Carolina. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942, after his third year of college.
Arriving in northeastern France in October 1944, Murray was assigned as a replacement platoon leader to Company C of the 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. The division had landed in Saint-Tropez on the southern coast of France months earlier and was pushing northward towards Germany. On December 8 of that year, Murray became company commander.
Early on December 16, Company C crossed the Weiss River in the northern Vosges Mountains and established a defensive position atop Hill 512, just south of the village of Kaysersberg. Later that morning, Murray, by then a first lieutenant, led a platoon-sized group on a reconnaissance mission to the southeast, towards Ammerschwihr. Descending the vineyard-covered hill along a winding footpath, the group noticed German soldiers in a sunken road, about 150 yards (140 m) away, firing on an American hilltop position. Creeping forward to a point from which he could see the German unit, about 200 men strong, Murray made a radio call for artillery support. When the artillery landed slightly off target, he attempted to call for a range correction but the radio went dead. Not wanting to send his patrol against the much larger German force, he retrieved rifle grenades from his men and returned to his vantage point to begin a single-handed attack on the position. Although his fire alerted the Germans to his location, he continued to shoot grenades and later an automatic rifle into the German unit. As the soldiers attempted to withdraw, he disabled a truck which was carrying out three mortars. Members of his patrol brought up their own mortar, and Murray directed its fire until the Germans had scattered towards Ammerschwihr.
Continuing on the footpath, he and his men captured ten German soldiers. An eleventh soldier approached him with his helmet off and his arms raised. When Murray turned to shout orders, the soldier tossed a grenade; the explosion knocked Murray to the ground and sent eight pieces of shrapnel into his left leg. After getting back to his feet, he stopped his men from killing the prisoner. Only after organizing the patrol into a defensive position did he turn over command of the company and find an aid station.
After receiving medical treatment, Murray rejoined his unit on December 28, 1944. He learned that he had been recommended for the Medal of Honor in March of the next year and, per Army policy, was soon removed from combat. He remained with his division and was in Salzburg, Austria, on May 7, 1945, when a ceasefire was declared. The next day, Germany’s surrender was finalized and the war in Europe was over.
Murray was issued the Medal of Honor on August 1, 1945, eight months after the fight near Kaysersberg. It was formally presented to him during a ceremony in Salzburg on July 5, 1945, with the entire 3rd Infantry Division in attendance. He arrived home in Wilmington in September to a hero’s welcome, but later returned to Europe and served four years of occupation duty. During this time, he was stationed in Salzburg and became the head U.S. intelligence officer in that city.
In addition to the Medal of Honor, Murray received three Silver Stars, two Bronze Stars with Valor devices, a Purple Heart, and the Combat Infantryman Badge for his World War II service.
Murray remained in the Army after World War II, serving with the 82nd Airborne Division and participating in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. He eventually rose to the rank of colonel and commanded the 3rd US Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), a ceremonial unit tasked with guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns, among other duties. In 1970, he transferred to Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina, from where he retired in 1973.
As a civilian, Murray worked for the South Carolina Department of Corrections until his final retirement. He and his wife, Anne, lived in Columbia, South Carolina until his death from congestive heart failure on August 12, 2011. Murray Middle School in Wilmington is named in his honor.
For commanding Company C, 30th Infantry, displaying supreme courage and heroic initiative near Kaysersberg, France on 16 December 1944, while leading a reinforced platoon into enemy territory. Descending into a valley beneath hilltop positions held by our troops, he observed a force of 200 Germans pouring deadly mortar, bazooka, machine-gun, and small-arms fire into an American battalion occupying the crest of the ridge. The enemy’s position in a sunken road, though hidden from the ridge, was open to a flank attack by 1st Lt. Murray’s patrol but he hesitated to commit so small a force to battle with the superior and strongly disposed enemy. Crawling out ahead of his troops to a vantage point, he called by radio for artillery fire. His shells bracketed the German force, but when he was about to correct the range his radio went dead. He returned to his patrol, secured grenades and a rifle to launch them, and went back to his self-appointed outpost. His first shots disclosed his position; the enemy directed heavy fire against him as he methodically fired his missiles into the narrow defile. Again he returned to his patrol. With an automatic rifle and ammunition, he once more moved to his exposed position. Burst after burst he fired into the enemy, killing 20, wounding many others, and completely disorganizing its ranks, which began to withdraw. He prevented the removal of three German mortars by knocking out a truck. By that time a mortar had been brought to his support. First Lt. Murray directed the fire of this weapon, causing further casualties and confusion in the German ranks. Calling on his patrol to follow, he then moved out toward his original objective, possession of a bridge and construction of a roadblock. He captured 10 Germans in foxholes. An eleventh, while pretending to surrender, threw a grenade which knocked him to the ground, inflicting eight wounds. Though suffering and bleeding profusely, he refused to return to the rear until he had chosen the spot for the block and had seen his men correctly deployed. By his singlehanded attack on an overwhelming force and by his intrepid and heroic fighting, 1st Lt. Murray stopped a counterattack, established an advance position against formidable odds, and provided an inspiring example for the men of his command.
BURIAL LOCATION: ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA.
SECTION 60, GRAVE 9725.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: FAMILY.