Marine Corps Veteran Jack Murphy tells his story of fighting at The Battle of Peleliu

WWII Veteran Jack Murphy fought with the First Marine Division at Peleliu and Okinawa.

"I grew up over here in Polk County," Jack Murphy told me one afternoon in November 2017.

Mr. Murphy is now 92 years old.

When Jack was a boy his grandfather was a doctor and Jack's mother was his nurse. His grand father passed away and his mother contracted tuberculosis. So he and his brother and sister went to live in an orphanage near Murphy, North Carolina

"I'd run off from the orphanage and went all the way to Raleigh, North Carolina trying to enlist in the Marine Corps," Jack Murphy said. "I found out they had their quota for the month. Here I am two-three hundred miles from home and I had never been anywhere before."

When he was seventeen he ran away to Blue Ridge, Georgia and enlisted in the Marine Corps.

"My doctor that checked me out said you're in as good a shape as anybody who came through here as far as I'm concerned," Mr. Murphy said. "He put 'choice' on my papers."

His close friends tell me he's been telling these Marine Corps stories for years.

On the day we met in Cleveland, Tennessee he brought photos and a stack of papers. He also brought worn books that showed their age. One was With The Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by E. B. Sledge. That is one of the books that the miniseries The Pacific is based on. Mr. Murphy fought two battles with E. B. Sledge. He also brought a copy of The Old Breed: A History of the First Marine Division in World War II written by George McMillan in 1949. Both books are excellent histories of Marines fighting in the Pacific in World War II. He used all of these things to explain where he was and what he saw in the autumn of 1944 in the South Pacific.

"I'll pick it up here about where I came in. I didn't make Guadalcanal or New Britain," Mr. Murphy said. Those were the first two campaigns for the First Marine Division in World War II.

He did his boot camp training in San Diego. He was a replacement and was shipped out for the Russell Islands.

"They called me for the 11th Regiment that was a 75 millimeter pack Howitzer outfit the last one the United States had," Mr. Murphy said.

The first fighting he saw was on the Island of Peleliu.

"I couldn't get ashore the first day we had so many casualties," Mr. Murphy said.

They were floating at sea waiting on a LVCP. That's a boat that would be big enough to get his crew and the howitzer on the beach.

"Flagged one down out there at sea and asked him if he could take us. He says, 'I got a load of wounded on here now. I'm going out to hospital ship,'" Mr. Murphy said. "Can you pick us up on the way back? He says, 'No. Because I got another load of wounded waiting for me on the beach over there."

He got to shore early in the morning on day two. He says when he got on land the worst of the fighting was on an airfield on the island.

It was brutally hot. Mr. Murphy says it was 118 degrees, and they didn't have clean water to drink for days.

"My lips got chapped so much and parched the skin would come off your lips when you opened your mouth," Mr. Murphy said.

It was a controversial battle because of the high cost to take the small island.

"We didn't take many prisoners. I'll say that. Very few," Mr. Murphy said.

There are conflicting reports about the number of American forces who were killed in the two months of fighting. Most estimates have the number at close to 2,000. Another 8,000 Marines and soldiers were wounded.

Close to 10,000 Japanese soldiers were killed there.

Coming soon on The Price of Freedom we will tell you more of Jack Murphy's story including what he saw at the battle of Okinawa.

Special thanks to the Cleveland History Library for allowing us their space to interview Mr. Jack Murphy.

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