The biggest war clash in the history, the World War II, produced many heroes who shifted the boundaries of human bravery and durability.Some remained uncredited and forgotten, but others received the highest honors and awards. One of those is the Medal of Honor recipient, Charles P. Murray Jr.Charles Murray was born in Baltimore on 26th September 1921.
He was recruited by the U.S. Army in 1942, while he was still studying at the University of North Carolina. In October 1944, the 23 years old lieutenant joined the 3rd Infantry Division and was sent to France. The division has landed in the south part of the country and fought its way north, towards Germany. By the time the company has arrived in Northeastern France, Charles was assigned a replacement platoon leader. Later, due to heavy losses and numbers depleted, Charles was given the role of the company commander on December 8th.
On 16th December 1944, the company was positioned near the village of Kaysersberg. Leading a platoon of 35 soldiers down a narrow mountain path, Charles noticed a group of 200 German soldiers attacking another U.S. battalion. As they were outnumbered, the company leader made a decision to protect his men and pushed toward the German soldiers alone. He then ordered an unsuccessful artillery attack on the radio.
Before he could recalculate the correct coordinates, his radio died. Stubborn and determined, Charles Murray decided to take matters into his hands. He launched a grenade attack on the German troops, thus revealing his position and making himself vulnerable. After firing all the grenades, he went back to his platoon, grabbed his rifle, went back to his position and started shooting at the enemy. The Germans were confused by the frenetic attack and attempted to retreat. The young lieutenant managed to sabotage a German truck carrying mortar guns. Soon, his platoon brought their mortar, and Charles took the role of a gunman. Firing towards the scared Germans, he killed and wounded many of them, and the rest scattered towards the village of Ammerschwihr.
Murray with his wife Anne after returning from Europe in September 1945
After the attack, a sergeant from his platoon counted 50 dead German soldiers. Charles Murray and his company managed to capture ten enemy soldiers, and another one approached the commander with his arms raised.
Pretending that he’s surrendering, the soldier threw a grenade towards Charles, knocking him off to the ground and wounding his leg. Charles was back on his feet in no time and has forbidden his men in their attempt to kill the soldier. Even wounded, he wouldn’t leave the battlefield until he made sure his men are safe and everything is in order. Charles then turned command to another officer and went to the battalion nursing tent. He was hospitalized until after Christmas and rejoined his men on the same hill where he left them on 28th December 1944.
Murray being congratulated at his military retirement ceremony at Fort Jackson on July 30th, 1973
Charles came to a knowledge of his Medal of Honor award when his wife sent him a piece of the local newspaper with the news. As per the military policy, he was removed from combat and sent to Salzburg. On 1st August 1945, he was awarded the highest military award in the United States Army: the Medal of Honor. He received the award in Salzburg, surrounded by the entire 3rd Division. One month later, he was sent home in Wilmington, where he was given a hero’s welcome.
Charles soon returned to Europe. He served another four years in Salzburg, where he became the head of U.S. intelligence for that city. Later, he participated in the Korean and the Vietnam wars, rising to the ranks of colonel. In 1970, the soldier was transferred to Fort Jackson in South California. In 1973, Charles officially retired from the army. After the army, he worked as a civilian for the South Carolina Department of Corrections. He lived in Columbia, South Carolina with his wife Anne until his death. The hero died from congestive heart failure on 12th August 2011.
Murray after being presented with the Medal of Honor on July 5th, 1945
Besides the Medal of Honor, Murray was awarded two Bronze Stars, three Silver Stars, the Combat Infantryman Badge and a Purple Heart.
Aside these, one of the biggest honors he had ever received was the naming of a school in his hometown Wilmington after him: The Murray Middle School.