Courage defines honoree: Murray one of three living South Carolina Medal of Honor recipients
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Courage defines honoree: Murray one of three living South Carolina Medal of Honor recipients
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Courage defines honoree: Murray one of three living South Carolina Medal of Honor recipients
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Courage defines honoree: Murray one of three living South Carolina Medal of Honor recipients
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Courage defines honoree: Murray one of three living South Carolina Medal of Honor recipients
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FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- In every person's life there comes a defining moment that tests his or her character, courage and integrity.

For retired Col. Charles P. Murray, Medal of Honor recipient, that moment came Dec. 16, 1944, near the Rhine River in the vicinity of Colmar, France. Company C, 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division had the mission to take and secure a hill at Kaysersberg, but the Germans had blocked all the roads.

Throughout several days, as other officers in the company were killed or wounded, Murray moved up the ranks from rifle platoon leader, to company executive officer, to company commander. He soon accompanied one of his three platoons on a special mission.

As the platoon of about 35 Soldiers traversed down a narrow winding mountain trail leading to a valley below, he spotted the enemy and ordered his platoon to take cover. Murray had located nearly 200 Germans firing mortars, bazookas, and machine guns into an American battalion occupying the crest of the ridge.

Enemy Soldiers were hiding in a sunken road, but they were visible from Murray's position on the hillside and open to attack. Hesitant to commit his small platoon to battle a much larger and stronger force, and wanting to protect his platoon, he crawled ahead to pinpoint the exact location of the enemy and radioed for artillery.

The first round missed the target and as Murray was calling for corrections on the range, his radio went dead.

Murray returned to his patrol, secured a rifle with grenade launcher, and resumed his position on the hill. His first shots on the Germans revealed his location and the enemy directed heavy fire against him. He fired the platoon's supply of grenades into the sunken trench until he ran out of ammunition.

Murray moved back to his patrol and brought back an automatic rifle and ammunition to his exposed position. Two of his Soldiers continued tossing him ammunition until he had fired an estimated 2,000 rounds at the Germans. By the end of this attack, 20 enemy combatants were killed and many others wounded.

As the rounds landed, the Germans became confused and began to withdraw. A truck he had seen earlier carrying three mortars finally came into position where he could fire upon it. The driver and passenger were killed and the truck was disabled.

By now, mortar had arrived and Murray took over as gunner, firing until all the rounds were gone. This caused about 50 more German casualties, and the enemy began running down a creek. Murray then grabbed his pistol and he and his patrol charged down the trail.

Along the way, he captured 10 Germans. Another German, pretending to surrender, tossed a potato masher grenade, wounding eight Soldiers. Wounded by shrapnel, bleeding, and in pain, Murray took the German Soldier prisoner and continued down the trail.

He refused to return to the rear until he had chosen a position for his men and seen them correctly deployed. Only then did he walk back up the steep hill for assistance. He turned command of his company over to his executive officer and walked to the Battalion Aid Station.

Murray would be hospitalized until after Christmas. While waiting for surgery, he assisted the nurses in taking care of other patients. After surgery and eager to return to his unit, Murray borrowed a uniform and headed back to his men.

He hitched a ride on an ambulance going to the 3rd Division, caught a ride on a ration truck to the 30th Infantry Aid Station, and hopped a Jeep ride to the battalion command post. Eventually, he returned to his men on the hill where he had left them.

His company held this position until a replacement unit arrived Jan. 1, 1945. Murray continued to command Company C for the rest of the fighting in Europe. The unit fought through the German Siegfried Line.

The Soldiers crossed the Rhine River at Worms and were the first allied unit to enter Munich April 30, 1945. Company C, as part of the 30th Infantry, arrived at Salzburg, Austria May 5, 1945, two days before fighting in Europe ended.

Murray learned from a newspaper article his wife Anne sent him that he had been awarded the Medal of Honor. Gen. George Patton was to present him the medal July 4, but severe weather prevented Patton from arriving. Gen. Geoffrey Keyes presented Murray with the Medal of Honor July 5, on at the Salzburg airport in Austria.

Murray was born in Baltimore Sept. 26, 1921. Murray attended the University of North Carolina for three years before induction into the Army. In 1943, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant. In the summer of 1944, he went to England and joined the 3rd Infantry Division several weeks after D-Day. He later resumed his studies at UNC and received his bachelor's degree in June 1946 and returned to active duty in September.

He received a Master's in International Affairs from George Washington University. In addition to Officer Candidate School, Murray attended the Infantry Officers Advance Course, Airborne School, Armed Forces Information School, Canadian Army Staff College and the National War College.

Murray's assignments included command and staff positions in Army training centers, the 82nd Airborne Division, United States Forces, Austria; The Infantry School, Fort Benning, Ga.; 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), Fort Myer, Va.; and the Army General Staff, Department of the Army.

He served in Vietnam in 1966-1967 as executive officer and deputy commander, the 196th Infantry Brigade, and commander, 3rd Brigade, 9th Infantry Division. Next, he was assigned to the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon as director, Politico-Military Division, and Joint War Games Agency. At Fort Jackson, he served as commander for the 1st Training Brigade, the United States Army Personnel Center and Headquarters Command. He retired in 1973 with more than 30 years of service.

After retirement, Murray served 10 years as a senior planner for the Department of Corrections. Murray and his wife, Anne, live in Columbia, and will celebrate their 67th wedding anniversary in November. His sons, Charles Murray III (deceased 2004) and

Brian Murray both served in Vietnam.

They also have a daughter, Cynthia Anne Jones.

AWARDS

Murray was awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest honor presented to members of the Armed Forces. Murray is one of 95 living Medal of Honor recipients, and one of three living recipients who call South Carolina home.

His other awards include: Silver Star (3 clusters), Legion of Merit (3 clusters), Bronze Star (V Device and 1 Cluster), Purple Heart, Air Medal (6 clusters), Army Commendation Medal, American Campaign Medal, European African Middle East Campaign (4 Bronze Stars), WWII Victory Medal, Army of Occupation Medal, Germany, National Defense Service Medal (1 Cluster), Vietnam Service Medal (2 Bronze Stars), Combat Infantryman Badge (2nd Award), Presidential Unit Citation. The awards from France include: Legion of Honor, Order of Officier, Croix de Guerre with Silver Star, Fourragere. The awards from Vietnam include: Cross of Gallantry with Palm and Gold Star, Civil Action Honor Medal (1st Class), and Vietnam Campaign Medal.

Organizations

Murray is a member of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, VFW, American Legion, Combat Infantrymen's Association, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Military Order of the Cooties, Military Order of the World Wars, MOAA, S.C. Sheriffs Association, Celebrate Freedom Foundation, American Society of the French Legion of Honor, American Order of the French Croix de Guerre, AUSA, Society of the 3rd Infantry Division, Society of the 30th Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division Association, 196th Light Infantry Brigade Association, The Old Guard Association, United States Forces Austria Veterans Association, UNC Alumni Association, and National War College Alumni Association.