WWII hero Murray dies in Columbia
Col. Charles P. Murray Jr., who received the Medal of Honor, three Silver Stars, two Bronze Stars and the French Legion of Honor for valor in World War II, passed away at his Columbia home Friday. He was 89.
Murray - who spent his later years participating in numerous education, youth and veterans' programs - was remembered as a humble man who never missed an opportunity to serve his country.
"He was the epitome of the American hero," said Maj. Gen. James E. Livingston of Charleston, also a recipient of the Medal of Honor. "He was a humble guy. Never self-serving. We all love him and are going to miss him. He's a loss for the country and certainly for South Carolina."
Visitation will be held Tuesday from 5-8 p.m. at Dunbar Funeral Home, 3926 Devine St., in Columbia. A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 1324 Marion St., Columbia. Interment will be in Arlington National Cemetery.
Murray died of congestive heart failure six weeks after having a pacemaker implanted, his son Brian Murray said.
"He was taking a nap," Murray said. "He died at home in his bed."
He is survived by his wife, Anne, son Brian of Fort Payne, Ala., and daughter Cynthia Anne of Roswell, Ga. Another son, Charles P. Murray III, of Columbia passed away in 2004.
Along with Audie Murphy, with whom he served, Murray was one of the most decorated soldiers in the most decorated division in the U.S. Army.
A Baltimore native raised in Wilmington, N.C., Murray was a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill when he enlisted in the Army Sept. 7, 1942.
Murray joined the famed 3rd Infantry Division in 1944 after it went ashore in southern France in what is termed the Forgotten D-Day - two months after the more famous D-Day in Normandy. The 3rd Infantry Division - part of an invasion force of American, British, Dutch, Canadian, French and even Italian troops - landed at St. Tropez in France and advanced up the Rhone Valley.
It was there, on Oct. 20, 1944, that Murray, fresh from the United States, joined them as an officer. Through hard fighting and attrition, the 23-year-old was made a company commander Dec. 8.
"I was old, compared to a lot of those 18- and 19-year-old kids in the division," Murray told The State newspaper last year.
A week later, near Kaysersberg, France, necessity made him a hero.
His battalion was pinned down on a ridge under heavy fire by 200 well-entrenched Germans. Murray, using a variety of weapons, killed 20 enemy soldiers and captured 10 more, single-handedly driving the Germans from the position.
At the end of his assault, a German grenade riddled him with shrapnel, wounding him in eight places. He spent only four days in an aid station before "borrowing" a uniform and returning to his unit.
Although Murray said the fight near Kaysersberg was "the hardest of the war, because I was alone," it certainly wasn't the end of Murray's or the 3rd Infantry Division's heroics.
They fought in the Vosges Mountains in eastern France, cleared the Colmar Pocket in the Alsace, broke through the Seigfried Line and crossed the Rhine. In April, they took Nuremberg in fierce block-by-block fighting, as well as Munich and Augsberg. The division had pushed to Salzburg when the war in Europe ended.
There, Murray was awarded the Medal of Honor. The entire 3rd Division passed in review.
In addition to the Medal of Honor, Murray was awarded three Silver Stars for other heroics. He would go on to become Salzburg's chief U.S. intelligence officer during a four-year occupation stint.
After the war, Murray served in another elite unit - the 82nd Airborne - and went on to command the Old Guard, which protects the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.
In 1970, he came to Columbia to serve at Fort Jackson and retired a quiet hero.
Murray returned to Salzburg last year to commemorate the 65th anniversary of V-E Day - Victory in Europe Day - May 8, 1945.
Published in The State from Aug. 15 to Aug. 16, 2011