The Library of Congress Veterans History Project Home 
Experiencing War: Stories from the Veterans History Project
Home » Text Transcript

Interview with Joseph E. Murray [10/22/2004]

Andrew L. Fisher:

It's October the 22nd, 2004. This is an interview for the Veterans History Project. I'm talking to Mr. Joseph E. Murray of 6844 Terry Towel Lane. Toledo, Ohio. 43617. Telephone, [number redacted]. Mr. Murray was in the U.S. Army Air Corps in the China, Burma, India Campaign.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Mr. Murray, before we begin with your military service, let's start with where you were born and raised, and we'll go from there.

Joseph E. Murray:

Okay. I was born and raised in the fine little community of Belfast, Ohio. Yes, my mother had passed away when I was five years old, and dad remarried when I was in the sixth grade, and it was a battle your own way. I passed papers and went to the school. There's practically no one that went to college, but I became very close friends with a young priest that was at our perish, and school, and he convinced me that there was no question that I should go to college. And he then recommended the University of Detroit.

And in September of -- I graduated from high school in 1941, but I had no money to go to college, and my father declined to help, and so I worked for a year on the Nickle Plate Railroad, the New York, Chicago, and St. Louis Railroad, for a year, and earned money to be able to go to college then and started in September of 1942. And shortly thereafter the Government came across and convinced nearly one hundred percent of the males in college that you should -- you should sign up for some branch of the service, because if you did this you would be assured that you wouldn't have to be called in to the draft, and you could finish your four years of college, get your bachelor degree before you had to go in the service. And when they were finishing this presentation they said there's only one little thing that could happen, and that would be an act of congress, and you can't begin to vision such a thing happening.

(Laughing) About two weeks later, after they had gotten about 98 percent of all males in the college in the United States to sign up, congress passed the law and we were called in immediately into the service. And I had signed up for the Army Air Corps and left with a group from Michigan. And we went down to Florida, Southern Florida, Palm Beach, West Palm Beach area, and got our basic military training down there. And from there I was sent around over into the general area of St. Louis and proceeded with training. I had one session first where I was sat down with a group of about six administrative type males, and they discussed how long I had been unconscious when I had a very, very bad bicycle accident, where riding a bicycle I was hit head-on by a car going 60 miles an hour.

And they finally concluded that I hadn't been unconscious for over an hour, and, therefore, I could qualify to proceed with pilot training, and so I did. And that took, I don't know exactly, I'll say probably six to eight weeks, something like that, and going to different locations in the general area of St. Louis, not in St. Louis proper but in other communities around there, and air bases, and got my training there. And when I took advanced training for a pilot the instructor says, oh, you're just an automatic passenger plane pilot. And, thus, when I completed the training, sure enough, I ended up -- well, first of all, I was in Fort Wayne, Indiana, I do recall that, and it was -- I think the only time in my father's life that he took a day off of work and came to Fort Wayne to visit me, which I so thoroughly appreciated.

And just a few days after that I was sent down to West Palm Beach, Florida, and given a brand new C-47 airplane, and a crew that I had never met before. And please understand that at this time I was 20-years old, and had no idea where -- where we were going, but I totally presumed we were going to Europe to fight the battle with Germany. But the first order that I had took me to Rio de Janeiro, and we flew down there with no navigator.

The crew was a co-pilot, radio operator, crew chief, and that was it. And we flew down to Rio de Janeiro. And from there we were given orders to fly to a sanctioned island, which is out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. And having such little experience, and not having a -- a -- I can't come up with the name, the -- to help give directions. I absolutely refused to fly across the Atlantic Ocean without a person who could help with directions. And --

Andrew L. Fisher:

Navigator?

Joseph E. Murray:

A navigator, that's what I'm trying to come up with. Thank you. And after blindly, blankly, refusing to take off without a navigator, I was finally told that while it's 10 o'clock this evening there's one coming back from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean and we will assign him to you. So I did have a navigator to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. And of course as quick as we got to the Eastern Coast -- well, we flew one day, one evening -- we actually flew nights because the weather was better at night than it was during the day time, so we flew to a sanctioned island. And that was interesting, because when we got there the runway, the one and only runway that we had to land on went straight up the hill, and cut over the top, and went down the other side of the hill. That was the runway. And that was kind of an experience too for a young person, such as this, landing an airplane on a highly sloped runway.

But, at any rate, we made it there, and then continued on across the Atlantic Ocean, and still not knowing where we're going to end up, because we still had one place to the next, to the next, to the next, and we finally ended up in India. And when we got there we were pretty well assured that China was where we were going, and for sure we were right with that. And so we did land in Kunming, China. And the forces were so thrilled to see a brand new C-47 that, man, they took it from me immediately, and our crew sat there.

We were then, in a few days, assigned to the 27th Troop Carrier Squadron, which was quite a ways away. But for some reason there were new jeeps that had arrived in Kunming, and they were to go to Paoshan, China, which is where the 27th Troop Carrier Squadron was located. And we were told that it would be greatly appreciated if we drove those jeeps to Paoshan, and we did. And it took about two days to do that, driving all day long.

And we had quite an experience driving through the mountains with two-lane roads and very few of them paved at all. But that was our experience. And we got there, and I was assigned to -- we didn't have specific crews. The way we worked was there was all the pilots were in one category, the co-pilots in another, and what have you.

And whose ever name came up to the top of each of the positions made up the crew that you flew with. And I was the first pilot so I flew with many, many others there. And we would actually carry -- our backdoors on the planes were never in place, they were always off so that material, material being food, supplies, military equipment, guns, ammunition, whatever, could be parachuted, or free-dropped, out of the backdoor of the plane, and that is how we supplied the Chinese who were fighting the Japanese.

And from Paoshan it was about a three-quarter hour flight to get to where the battle was really taking place. And we would, just about everybody, would make closely to a flight a day, or sometimes you even made two or three flights a day, to the frontline's carrying supplies up to the Chinese who were fighting the Japanese. And things went very, very well for me until on March 24th of 1943. I was -- I felt sorry for the pilot who was supposed to take this flight, just carrying supplies up to the frontline, because the weather was quite bad that day, and this pilot had just had a bad experience, very bad experience a few days before, and I felt sorry for him so I volunteered to take the flight myself.

And we got to the very forward base, landed, dropped off our supplies. And there were four passengers there who wanted to come back on this flight with me, and of course we took them very graciously. And we had taken off, and a few minutes after takeoff one engine conked out. And I ordered everybody to get parachutes on at this point in time and took care of positioning this propeller such that it was not causing a great drag on the plane. And low and behold about five minutes after that occurred the other engine went out. And, wow, what a position.

So I gave the order to bail out promptly. And those who could did. And after they had an ample time to get out I told the co-pilot to jump out, and he proceeded. And after he had ample time I proceeded to put -- throw a parachute on. And when I get to the passenger compartment of the plane here is one elderly passenger sitting there and he's saying go on, sonny, go on, sonny, go on, don't worry about me. Well, I just wasn't built that I could do that so I went back and started flying the plane. And of course we're in clouds at this point in time, and you got high mountains all around you, so the prospect of surviving that was almost zero, very close to zero. And low and behold I broke out of the clouds, and here was a mountain on each side of me.

And, wow -- and God was so kind. Right in front was a large river, about the size of the Mississippi, and I said to myself, oh, my goodness, I could never make this turn. I'm so low to the ground surely my right wing is to going to head into that river and going to flip us over. But I proceeded to do it. And, sure enough, I had sucked the speed back to hold our elevation as good as I could. And low and behold we ended up landing in the river at 60 miles an hour, which the plane is not -- our instructions said that the plane would never fly below about 90 miles an hour.

But here I landed it at 60 miles an hour in the river. And we had a rather soft landing. We had about three bumps when we hit. And as quick as we did I told the passenger that we had to jump into the river and swim to the shore, because I was taught that the plane would sink in 60 -- in 60 seconds, or one minute, and so we had to get the hell out of there. So the passenger jumped in, and came up. And what do you suppose happened, the worse thing possible, the airplane started turning in the water. And when he came up from his dive the wing hit him right in the forehead and he goes down. And I said, oh, my God, how do I help him out now.

And I ran up to the pilot's escape hatch, which is in the pilot's area, went out on the wing, and low and behold he came up on the other side of the wing and proceeded to start swimming in to shore. And he got to -- well, headed in to shore when all of a sudden he couldn't make it any longer and proceeded to start sinking. So I jumped in the river and went to try to save him again. And, low and behold, I had gotten quite a ways in and I start going down. And I'm feeling weeds with my hands, and I start pulling on the weeds, and I didn't know whether I was pulling myself back out in the middle of the river, or what, but it ended up that I got into shore and passed out as quick as I got on shore.

And low and behold there was a jungle group that lived right in the general area where we had landed in the river. They, of course, were living on land. And there was about 40 or 50 of them together there, and they had a fenced area out in the jungle where they had cleared everything off and had a fence about eight to ten feet tall isolating them from anything else. And they saw what had happened with the plane, and they threw a 30 foot bamboo pole out to the doctor -- or to the -- to the passenger that had been in the water and pulled him back in to shore.

And they came down and were taking care of me as well. And then I figured surely that the passenger had died. Well, he didn't. They pulled him in, and he lived. And it turns out he was a doctor, and -- from Texas. And he had actually lied about his age to get into the service to help out the country, and he was at the point where he just couldn't stand it any more and was going back for a medical discharge, and that's why he was in the plane to start with. So, wow, you know, here we are with a jungle group, and what an experience that was.They ate two meals a day. They got up at sunrise. And then about 10 o'clock in the morning they would go out and do whatever they had to do in gardens, or trees, jungle area, whatever they had to do. And they would come back in about 10 o'clock and they have had their first meal, and then they would go back out and do their duties. And about 3 o'clock in the afternoon they had had their second meal. And these meals were always all the same, a great big large pot of white rice with one little piece of meat on the top of it that was about three inches by two inches by three-quarters of an inch thick.

And that was the pie amongst all the people that were there eating at that period of time. So we were there. And the second day we were there -- of course we can't communicate with them at all because all they know is Chinese, and all we know is English, but we heard them shouting for all they were worth the first night. And come to find out they -- they found out, by their means of communication, which was just shouting at the tops of their voices, that about two miles down the river the rest of the members of the flight who had bailed out of the plane were with the next group of natives down in a little community that was about two miles away. And then we found out that there were two members missing.

And, finally, in the next day or so a little piper-cub comes flying over us and told us that they had located two parachutes in the mountains, and told us roughly where they were at, and this was just by dropping us supplies, and they dropped us a whole bale of newspapers so that we could write on the ground what any communication we wanted to give back up to them. Well, at any rate, they gave us general directions, and we did get the two bodies, and it turned out one was a passenger. And it was rather obvious that he was swinging in his parachute, and he was in the clouds and was squashed against the side of the mountain and was killed that way.

And the other happened to be, unfortunately, my co-pilot, and he had made the very basic mistake of not connecting his leg straps when he had -- before he jumped out of the plane. And when he opened -- when his parachute opened he was just jerked right out of the parachute. So he free-fell to the ground and was killed when he got there. And of course he landed in the clouds also. So it was a very bad situation. But we -- we did get the two bodies.

And after a few days the natives volunteered -- again, it was very difficult without being able to talk, but to take us down the river. And the doctor and myself that -- went with them in a Sanpan, which is a small boat with a housing over the top of it, and we got down to where the other members of our airplane were. And the first night we were there they held a royal celebration for us at dinnertime. And all of the top people -- there was a military, a Chinese military establishment at this point also. And they -- top military people joined us for supper that evening.

And it was really a royal gathering. And all of our people were there. And we had a very good Chinese meal. And when we finished, when we all finished -- again, communication was almost zero because nobody could speak the other language, and when they -- when we finished our dinner the Chinese sang their National Anthem for us. And when they finished I said, well, we should sing our National Anthem for them. And somebody said, yeah, the Beer Barrel Polka. So we sang the Beer Barrel Polka as the American National Anthem.

But, at any rate, the next day they put together two Sanpans and took the six of us back to civilization. And when we got to civilization, and got ahold of somebody who could speak both English and Chinese, we offered the people from the jungle area, that brought us back, anything on earth that they wanted. And we got that across to them very, very explicitly that anything you want is yours for having brought us back to civilization and saved our lives, really. And after they finally came back they said we just want one thing, please replace the food that the -- that each -- that all of you have eaten while you were with us.

And they absolutely, positively, refused to take anything more than a replacement of the food that we had eaten while we were with them, which was really a wonderful thing. So from there we got back to our own Air Force place and proceeded life again.

Andrew L. Fisher:

You have spoken for quite a while.

Joseph E. Murray:

Yes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And I have written a number of questions.

Joseph E. Murray:

Okay.

Andrew L. Fisher:

As you spoke these questions came up.

Joseph E. Murray:

Sure.

Andrew L. Fisher:

So I don't -- I hope you don't mind if we go back --

Joseph E. Murray:

No.

Andrew L. Fisher:

We will --

Joseph E. Murray:

All right.

Andrew L. Fisher:

We will go all the way back to Belfast.

Joseph E. Murray:

Okay. All right. Real fine.

Andrew L. Fisher:

You said that your father had -- was not inclined to support your college education?

Joseph E. Murray:

Right. Correct.

Andrew L. Fisher:

But it occurred to me, when you said that, that this was during the Depression, and things were probably very tight, as with most of us who were raised during the Depression.

Joseph E. Murray:

Well, I had older sisters, and a brother, and when I asked my dad to help pay for college he -- he was just absolutely negative and said that he had put my sisters, and my brother, and myself, through high school and he had done his job. Period. And of course dad went just through the eighth grade himself. So in his mind he had really done everything that could be done for his children.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Uh-huh.

Joseph E. Murray:

And, actually, never contributed a cent to my college education. And he didn't work -- he was a repairman of locomotives at the Nickel Plate Railroad, and he worked seven days a week, from 12 noon to 9:00 p.m., seven days a week. Yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

You said you went to college --

Joseph E. Murray:

Yes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

At the University of Detroit?

Joseph E. Murray:

Yes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And I told you I was from Detroit.

Joseph E. Murray:

Yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And during the Depression in Detroit we were all pretty poor.

Joseph E. Murray:

Uh-huh.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Was it -- had the Depression hit Belfast that hard?

Joseph E. Murray:

Not to my recollection, no. No.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Well, we knew there was a Depression, even as young as we were.

Joseph E. Murray:

Yes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Of course everybody was poor, so --

Joseph E. Murray:

Yeah. Yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Why did you choose, when you had a choice, why did you choose the Air Corps when you originally signed on?

Joseph E. Murray:

I had never been in a plane in my life, to be perfectly honest, but as a high school kid I thoroughly enjoyed making model airplanes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Uh-huh.

Joseph E. Murray:

And having done that, and having developed an interest in that area, I figured, boy, oh, boy, oh, boy, you know, why not the Air Corps. And then why not go to the top and be a pilot. Wow, that would be the best thing on earth you could do.

Andrew L. Fisher:

So you had no previous experience?

Joseph E. Murray:

None. Never even been in an airplane.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Something you were aspired to do?

Joseph E. Murray:

Right. Right.

Andrew L. Fisher:

So you went to basic training?

Joseph E. Murray:

Uh-huh. In Florida, yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

If there's one thread that goes through all of these interviews --

Joseph E. Murray:

Yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Is basic training was a shock. We all left home, you know, in our private little bedroom, in our house, and went to join the thousand people in a mess hall.

Joseph E. Murray:

Uh-huh.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And communal toilets, and showers, and so on.

Joseph E. Murray:

Uh-huh.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Did you find that difficult?

Joseph E. Murray:

No, I really didn't. I took it -- took it very much that this is the way it is, and this is what you do, so do it.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Well, that's good.

Joseph E. Murray:

Yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

That helped you get through?

Joseph E. Murray:

Oh, yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And I was curious about -- you're flying a C-47 --

Joseph E. Murray:

Yes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Or other -- later known as a DC-3?

Joseph E. Murray:

Yes. Correct.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And it had a very short range, didn't it?

Joseph E. Murray:

Yes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

It had two engines, and a short range.

Joseph E. Murray:

Yes, it did. And we had six 50 gallon barrels in the passenger compartment of the plane that were continuously filled with gasoline.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And were they automatically filling --

Joseph E. Murray:

And they were tied into the plane tank, and could be fed into the tank whenever we desired, and that's how we got increased range that we could go halfway across the Atlantic Ocean.

Andrew L. Fisher:

How far was that to the island, sanctioned islands?

Joseph E. Murray:

Yeah, I would say probably 1,100 miles.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And you said from -- first flight, the first top, you had no navigator?

Joseph E. Murray:

Right. Correct. None whatsoever. And after I got to the Eastern Coast of the Atlantic Ocean, again, I had no navigator.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And you were flying across the ocean obviously not very high?

Joseph E. Murray:

No.

Andrew L. Fisher:

But what you were looking for was a little dot?

Joseph E. Murray:

Yeah. Yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

You obviously --

Joseph E. Murray:

That's why I absolutely insisted upon having a navigator with me that I would -- I refused to go without it, because I couldn't make it all the way across the ocean if I wanted to.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Uh-huh.

Joseph E. Murray:

Because of the shortage of gasoline. And a navigator was very, very helpful throughout that flight across the ocean. (END OF SIDE ONE, TAPE ONE; BEGIN SIDE TWO, TAPE ONE.)

Andrew L. Fisher:

Well, the DC-3 was the commercial airliner --

Joseph E. Murray:

Uh-huh.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Of this country right after the war.

Joseph E. Murray:

Right.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And I guess there are a few left?

Joseph E. Murray:

There are still a few left in service, yes. Every once in a while, maybe once in two or three years I see one, or hear of one here, there, or the next place, yes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Now you were talking about this -- this accident, not accident, or misfortune you had --

Joseph E. Murray:

Yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Where you were flying. What was your -- where were you going? From where to where?

Joseph E. Murray:

I was going from the very front airport landing area back to Paoshan, my regular assigned area.

Andrew L. Fisher:

This is in China?

Joseph E. Murray:

Oh, yes. Oh, yes. This is all in China, yes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Your theatre of operations was called China, Burma, India?

Joseph E. Murray:

Right.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Now did you fly to China -- Burma or to India?

Joseph E. Murray:

No. No.

Andrew L. Fisher:

You didn't?

Joseph E. Murray:

Well, I flew from India into China originally.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Yes.

Joseph E. Murray:

When I was first going to China. But, no, on a day-to-day basis not at all, and -- no. The only time I got to Burma was after the war was over and I got a ride back, airline -- one of our -- well, there was another group called the ATC, which we -- they never actually entered into combat, and we nastily called them ATC, allergic to combat.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Well, it --

Joseph E. Murray:

But --

Andrew L. Fisher:

Go ahead.

Joseph E. Murray:

But they flew us back to China then, across Burma and into China -- into India, I'm sorry, from China to India after the war was over.

Andrew L. Fisher:

I can remember reading, a number of times, stories of flying the hawk?

Joseph E. Murray:

Yes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Now what does that mean, flying the hawk?

Joseph E. Murray:

Flying across the mountains.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Now that would mean flying from China to --

Joseph E. Murray:

India, Burma.

Andrew L. Fisher:

I see.

Joseph E. Murray:

Yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Was the mountain range?

Joseph E. Murray:

Yes. Right.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Did you have to do that on occasion?

Joseph E. Murray:

Oh, our daily flights were in that general area.

Andrew L. Fisher:

In the mountains?

Joseph E. Murray:

In the mountains, right.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And when you had this -- when you lost your engines you were in the mountains, weren't you?

Joseph E. Murray:

Yes, indeed. We were indeed, yes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

As you described that, it sounds like a miracle to me.

Joseph E. Murray:

Oh, it is a miracle. I thank God regularly for saving my life, and the life of those that were with me. Yes. Yes, indeed, it was a miracle. Yes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Now you were part of -- the 14th Air Force was the Flying Tigers?

Joseph E. Murray:

Yes. Yes, it was.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Flying Tigers had quite a reputation.

Joseph E. Murray:

Uh-huh.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And I remember seeing P-40s --

Joseph E. Murray:

Yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

With --

Joseph E. Murray:

P-40s, P-51s were in that general area also.

Andrew L. Fisher:

They were painted up with --

Joseph E. Murray:

Uh-huh.

Andrew L. Fisher:

The mouth on the front of them.

Joseph E. Murray:

Yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And that was, as I recall, under the command of General --

Joseph E. Murray:

Channault.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Claire Channault?

Joseph E. Murray:

Claire Channault, right.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And you were a part of his organization?

Joseph E. Murray:

Right.

Andrew L. Fisher:

But --

Joseph E. Murray:

We were just a little organization all by ourself.

Andrew L. Fisher:

I see.

Joseph E. Murray:

We didn't associate in any way with bombers, or fighters. We were supposed to have fighters that were flying the general route that we were flying, but we practically never saw them. It was a very, very rare occasion when we saw them.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Well, a DC-3, as I recall, goes maybe 200 miles an hour?

Joseph E. Murray:

Uh-huh.

Andrew L. Fisher:

If that, if loaded.

Joseph E. Murray:

Yeah. Yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Did you ever encounter the Japanese Air Force?

Joseph E. Murray:

Yes, I did. I had one occasion in which I was flying along, and one of my crew members, probably the crew chiefs, says, oh, my gosh, there's a Japanese fighter plane heading towards us. And I aimed our plane directly into the mountain to go as fast as it could go and headed right into the mountain. And the Japanese fighter plane pursued right behind coming after me, and I flew the plane at speeds that had had no right to fly at at all. And at the very last minute the -- I made a turn to miss going straight into the mountain, and low and behold the Japanese fighter plane, his plane could not do the same thing, and he crashed into the mountain. So, yes -- and when we got back I reported what had happened. And they said, well, we have to check that plane over. And they found out that rivets had been split open, many, many, rivets had been split open, so they grounded the plane until they could completely go over and repair it. Yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And what were the flying -- what was the flying group, or the Flying Tiger doing? They were supporting the ground forces?

Joseph E. Murray:

Well, they were supporting us, for one thing. I mean we were always told that there would be fighters along the general route that we were flying. Those -- very, very infrequent we ever saw them, really.

Andrew L. Fisher:

That P-40 had a short range too?

Joseph E. Murray:

Uh-huh. Yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Probably less than the C-47?

Joseph E. Murray:

Yeah. Yeah. Well, we were on -- basically we were on short hauls, really.

Andrew L. Fisher:

I see.

Joseph E. Murray:

Yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

So you never saw Claire Channault at all?

Joseph E. Murray:

No. Never. Never. No.

Andrew L. Fisher:

When you had to bail out --

Joseph E. Murray:

Yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Or rather when you had to crash land --

Joseph E. Murray:

Uh-huh.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Where were you in relation to the Japanese lines, or the front it's called?

Joseph E. Murray:

I wasn't a hundred percent sure at all.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Uh-huh.

Joseph E. Murray:

Because I felt that we could be in enemy area territory.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Uh-huh.

Joseph E. Murray:

And I really wasn't sure whether we were ending up with friends or enemies.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Uh-huh.

Joseph E. Murray:

So I didn't know when we got in. And it was only that they were so kind to us, and so nice to us, and -- that we -- we finally realized, yes, these are Chinese.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Now were they -- were they like jungle --

Joseph E. Murray:

Yes. Oh, yes. Yes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

They were like natives to the jungle?

Joseph E. Murray:

Jungle group, yeah. About 40, 45, 50, people living in this one area, and fenced it in so that animals, and what have you, couldn't get into their area. But, no, they lived there as isolated people.

Andrew L. Fisher:

But what --

Joseph E. Murray:

No communication, no power.

Andrew L. Fisher:

As part of their isolation they knew that you were the friendlies?

Joseph E. Murray:

Yes. Yes, they did. Quite obviously they did, yes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

I would suppose if they had any encounter with the Japanese they would know that they were not the friendly people?

Joseph E. Murray:

Yeah. Yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And --

Joseph E. Murray:

Well, one of these natives, who joined us as we were coming back in these two Sanpans, was about an 18-year old boy. And we particularly liked him because the first day out, and we were about a week getting back to civilization, about the first day out he took off from the boat and came missing for quite a while, and came back with what we had never heard of before, wild bananas. And they tasted just like our bananas, but one thing was different in them, they had seeds in them, much like our watermelon do.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Oh --

Joseph E. Murray:

So wild bananas. And he saw how much we loved those, and from that day forward every day he would run out and get us wild bananas to eat. And we just really super appreciated that from him.

Andrew L. Fisher:

I'm looking at a thing that says -- a publication that says Jingbal, I think I've said that correctly, J-I-N-G-B-A-L Journal, Official Publication of the Flying Tigers of the 14th Air Force. And in there I'm looking at page -- this is August, September, 1993, I'm looking at a story about Lieutenant Murray.

Joseph E. Murray:

Oh, yes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And it tells the story of your crash landing.

Joseph E. Murray:

Uh-huh.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And how you saved your passenger.

Joseph E. Murray:

Yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And then it goes on to say that you were recommended for a Silver Star?

Joseph E. Murray:

Uh-huh.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And -- but you were turned down?

Joseph E. Murray:

Yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

It sounded like a Silver Star thing to me.

Joseph E. Murray:

Yeah. Yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

I wasn't making the decision.

Joseph E. Murray:

Right.

Andrew L. Fisher:

But it was, I think at that time, it was subject to the next person in command.

Joseph E. Murray:

Right.

Andrew L. Fisher:

To decide, and he may not have decided -- decided in your favor.

Joseph E. Murray:

Uh-huh.

Andrew L. Fisher:

But you -- the doctor you saved --

Joseph E. Murray:

Yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Certainly thought you earned the Silver Star?

Joseph E. Murray:

Yes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

You thought you earned the Silver Star by saving your own life.

Joseph E. Murray:

Right.

Andrew L. Fisher:

But you were turned down. Is there any -- any revisiting that issue?

Joseph E. Murray:

No. None whatsoever. And to my best knowledge, the only thing I can say, whoever did turn it down was probably on the basis that I did not insist, or even request, that the passengers put on parachutes before we took off, because no one in our squadron ever did that at all. We had parachutes available but we didn't put them on. And the backside of that story is that later on I had the highest ranking people in the military as my passengers, and I absolutely refused to take the plane off unless all of them got parachutes on. And they fought, and fought, and fought, and I fought, and fought, and fought, and finally won because they finally all put parachutes on realizing that this son-of-a-gun isn't going to take this plane off until we do. So I won that one.

Andrew L. Fisher:

You know, it occurs to me also that you said that this -- these experiences happened when you were 20-years old.

Joseph E. Murray:

Yes. Yes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Yet today we think of 20-year old people as young, inexperienced --

Joseph E. Murray:

Yes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Youths.

Joseph E. Murray:

It shocks me when I think of it today that I lived through this.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Here you were piloting a plane, and had people under your command.

Joseph E. Murray:

Yep.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And had people whose lives you were in charge of.

Joseph E. Murray:

Uh-huh. Yes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And you were 20-years old.

Joseph E. Murray:

Right. Absolutely. Very amazing when I think of it today. At that stage in my life -- I did it because this is what you are here for.

Andrew L. Fisher:

That's right. And it proves, I guess, that the war is fought by the young men.

Joseph E. Murray:

Yes, indeed.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And the war makes --

Joseph E. Murray:

Uh-huh. Yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Us mature. And this article goes on to say that, that your -- the fellow you were talking to said that isn't it remarkable that God could lift the overcast and place a river under Joseph's plane at the right moment.

Joseph E. Murray:

Yes. Yes, indeed. The possibility of surviving that was --

Andrew L. Fisher:

Near zero?

Joseph E. Murray:

Darn near zero, yes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

That's --

Joseph E. Murray:

A little fraction of one.

Andrew L. Fisher:

That's a wonderful story.

Joseph E. Murray:

Yeah. Yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And it's something you will never, ever forget.

Joseph E. Murray:

Never. Never.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And even though our military service was short for many of us, it is a experience that we never forget.

Joseph E. Murray:

Right. Absolutely.

Andrew L. Fisher:

We remember our serial numbers. We remember all of these things.

Joseph E. Murray:

Right.

Andrew L. Fisher:

So then when the war ended --

Joseph E. Murray:

Uh-huh.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And I'm in -- in China, and -- this CBI, it ended with the dropping of the atomic bomb.

Joseph E. Murray:

Yes, it did. As a matter of fact, our base rule was that when you had completed a hundred missions you were going to be released to go back home. And I had completed my hundred missions, and just about that time is when the atomic bomb was released. And I was told, no, no, no, the war is going to be over soon, and, nope, nobody is going home now. So I was there another three or four months after I would normally have been released to go home.

Andrew L. Fisher:

How did you fellas greet the news of the atomic bomb?

Joseph E. Murray:

Total shock. Yeah. Wow, what is this, and what's this all about. Yeah. Yeah. Real shock.

Andrew L. Fisher:

The other day I talked to a man who was on the air base where the Enola Gay flew out of and he didn't know what was happening and he was right there.

Joseph E. Murray:

Sure.

Andrew L. Fisher:

It was a well kept secret.

Joseph E. Murray:

Right.

Andrew L. Fisher:

So then the bomb was dropped, and it was a great source of relief to you.

Joseph E. Murray:

Oh, my, yes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And it seems that most veterans can justify the dropping of the bomb.

Joseph E. Murray:

Right. Well, it was a little confusing to me because I couldn't go home.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Yes. Then finally you did get to go home, and how did you go home?

Joseph E. Murray:

Well, the whole squadron went home at the same time. The air transport command, ATC, which we always joked was allergic to combat, ATC. The air transport command flew us from China to India, and we settled in India for about a month waiting for a Navy ship to take us home. And finally there was a general ship that came in to our harbor in India and we ended up boarding that. And it took us 27 days to get from India to get to New York Harbor. And quite a thrill for the first time in my life, and I guess only time, seeing the statute there at New York.

Andrew L. Fisher:

How was the ocean waves?

Joseph E. Murray:

It wasn't bad. We had bunk beds, and I slept on the upper bunk, and -- it wasn't bad at all, really and truly. There was some times that you would get some pretty heavy shocks. But of the whole 27 days I had nothing to do, except one day I was given an assignment, and that was it out of the whole 27 days that I was on board. So it was really quite a easy going trip home. And we had a few days where it got kind of rough, but not real bad. So it was a pretty gentle trip.

Andrew L. Fisher:

So you got into New York Harbor?

Joseph E. Murray:

Yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And from there --

Joseph E. Murray:

From there went to Philadelphia. And, again, because I had a problem over in China where I would wake up during the night, run out of my bed outside and throw up blood night, after night, after night, I told them about this, when I was getting my physical for discharge, and they insisted that I get further examination. And I -- they held me for several days for that. And finally analyzed it as anxiety reaction, that the situations that I was under in China created such anxiety that this was tearing up my system. And I would wake up at night throwing up blood, and going back to bed, and ultimately ended up giving me a 20 percent disability for that. Which about three years later I had to take one physical, it's the only physical I've ever taken since being out of the military, for the military, and they reduced it from 20 percent to 10 percent, and I still today get a 10 percent disability from the government.

Andrew L. Fisher:

You said that when you got back you finished college?

Joseph E. Murray:

Yes. Yes, I went right back to college, pronto.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Did you go to the University of Detroit?

Joseph E. Murray:

Detroit, yes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And did you use the GI Bill?

Joseph E. Murray:

Yes, I sure did. How wonderful, yes. Yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

We had the best educated ex-GIs of any country in the world, didn't we?

Joseph E. Murray:

We sure did. Oh, it was wonderful, yes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

The GI was a wonder thing.

Joseph E. Murray:

Yes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And you could also buy a house with a low down payment, and a low percent interest rate.

Joseph E. Murray:

Four percent interest rate. Yes. Yes. We did that, and we lived there for some 36 years. Something like that.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Uh-huh.

Joseph E. Murray:

Yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And --

Joseph E. Murray:

Here in Toledo.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Oh, you moved from Belfast then to Toledo?

Joseph E. Murray:

Oh, yes. Yes. Yes. When I got out of the service I continued my education at the University of Detroit, which -- in engineering was a five-year program. Two years were just regular college, and then the last three years were year-round where you went to school for three months, and then you worked for three months, and you did this year-round for three years. And when I completed that work my very best buddy at the University was from Toledo, and he told me, hey, I'm putting in a job request at Toledo Edison Company where my father works. And I said, oh, is that right. Well, I thought about it, and thought about it, and I had been working for a company up in Detroit that I considered seeking a full-time job. But after I really thought about it I said, gee, maybe working for the utility would be better than this place here. So I came down to Toledo and put in a application and got accepted, as my -- as did my friend, and came here to Toledo at that point in time. And that would be about 1949.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Considering all that you went through, and --

Joseph E. Murray:

Yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Considering the interruptions of your life --

Joseph E. Murray:

Uh-huh.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Do you feel like your government was properly grateful for what you did?

Joseph E. Murray:

I do, yes. I really do. Yes. Because I feel that I was really taken care of with that GI Bill. And then I -- I still worked part-time, but that it would have been, holy, Toledo, to try to have completed that college education without any income from the government at all that would have really been a toughy.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Now when you got out -- I see that you belong to the Flying Tigers organization?

Joseph E. Murray:

Yeah. Yes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Do you belong to any other, VFW, American Legion, any of those?

Joseph E. Murray:

Yeah, I belong to the American Legion, and the 335th Group that meets in downtown Toledo at the Toledo Club every Friday, noon, for lunch.

Andrew L. Fisher:

I have been there, yeah.

Joseph E. Murray:

And that's wonderful, really.

Andrew L. Fisher:

I spoke to that group one time.

Joseph E. Murray:

Oh, did you?

Andrew L. Fisher:

Yeah.

Joseph E. Murray:

Yeah. Real nice group. I don't know many of them, really. And -- but it's a very, very nice group. So I --

Andrew L. Fisher:

Yes.

Joseph E. Murray:

So I join them as often as I can, which ends up maybe twice a month.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And have you ever been called upon to speak to the schools?

Joseph E. Murray:

No. Never.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Never. It appears that the American Legion, and the VFW, and other veterans organizations --

Joseph E. Murray:

Uh-huh.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Are spreading the message of Americas wars.

Joseph E. Murray:

Yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

To the school children who get, apparently, very little in their regular curriculum.

Joseph E. Murray:

Yes. Yeah, I'm sure that they do get practically nothing, right.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Well, this has been very interesting for a couple reasons.

Joseph E. Murray:

Yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Foremost being that very little is known about the so-called China, Burma, India.

Joseph E. Murray:

Yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

We know a lot about the Europeans --

Joseph E. Murray:

Yes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Of course. And we know about the island hopping in the Pacific. But the China Burma thing remains somewhat of a mystery.

Joseph E. Murray:

It does. It does, really. It's never really discussed at all in any way, shape, or form.

Andrew L. Fisher:

It was a very vital campaign.

Joseph E. Murray:

It was indeed, yeah.

Andrew L. Fisher:

So I'm expecting that in the future historians, teachers, whoever, will be accessing this information. And let me remind you that this tape that we are doing right now will go to Washington DC.

Joseph E. Murray:

Yes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

It will become part of a national archive. A copy of the tape will be at the University of Toledo, and if anybody wants to get it, see it, hear it locally.

Joseph E. Murray:

Well, I'll have a copy also.

Andrew L. Fisher:

Then we will send you a copy.

Joseph E. Murray:

Yes.

Andrew L. Fisher:

And you'll get a letter from the Library of Congress thanking you for your participation. So thank you very much.

Joseph E. Murray:

Okay. Thank you.

Andrew L. Fisher:

I appreciate it.

Joseph E. Murray:

Thank you. (END OF SIDE TWO TAPE ONE.)

 
Home » Text Transcript
  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
  Legal | External Link Disclaimer Need Help?   
Contact Us