John M. Murray

[ Age 76 ] The Georgia Pacific manager fought on Pork Chop Hill as an Army infantryman in the Korean War.

October 10, 2007|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN REPORTER

John M. Murray, a decorated Korean War veteran and retired Georgia Pacific Corp. manager, died Oct. 3 of complications from emphysema at his Catonsville home. He was 76.

Mr. Murray was born in Baltimore and raised on Ellamont Street in the city's Walbrook neighborhood. He was a graduate of the old St. James School at Eager and Aisquith streets.

He was 17 when he enlisted in the Army in 1948, and, while serving as an infantryman at several stateside posts, was division boxing champion.

After Mr. Murray joined the 7th Infantry Division in 1952, the division was deployed to a remote military outpost in Korea along the 38th parallel that had been nicknamed Pork Chop Hill.

He was wounded during the first battle of Pork Chop Hill in April 1953, which killed 104 U.S. forces and wounded 373.

On July 6, Chinese forces launched a surprise second attack on Pork Chop Hill during a heavy monsoon, and as a result of the furious fighting, resupply of U.S. forces and evacuation of casualties were nearly impossible.

Early on July 11, the decision was made to abandon the position and the 7th Infantry withdrew under heavy fire. U.S. casualties for the five-day battle included 243 killed and 916 wounded.

Mr. Murray earned two Purple Hearts, for being wounded twice at Pork Chop Hill, and the Bronze Star.

"While leading his infantry squad against a much larger enemy force during the infamous battle for Pork Chop Hill, he was seriously wounded in the shoulder while moving a fallen comrade to safety," said a nephew, retired Army Col. Daniel Garvey, former deputy commander of the U.S. Army Physical Disability Agency at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. "No one knows what happened to the man he was trying to save.

"He was evacuated to Walter Reed Medical Center and spent the next 11 1/2 months in a body cast up to his shoulders. He found it very difficult to talk about what had happened in Korea. It was a very tough experience.

"John was medically retired in 1954 after six years of selfless service to his nation," added Colonel Garvey, who served in Operation Desert Storm. "He was always an inspiration to me."

Mr. Murray returned to Baltimore and took night classes at Loyola College and Strayer's Business College.

An expert in wood products, he worked as branch operations manager in building supplies for Georgia Pacific Corp. in Baltimore for 25 years before retiring in 1982.

An avid sports fan, he enjoyed bowling and in his early adult years was a member of the West Baltimore Sports Club, where he pitched for its baseball team.

He was a member of the Smithsonian Institution and liked traveling to Washington to attend lectures.

"He constantly read the Army Times and other newspapers and liked keeping up on current events," his nephew said. "He also liked to read a lot of history."

Mr. Murray was a longtime active communicant and volunteer at St. William of York Roman Catholic Church, Cooks Lane and Edmondson Avenue, where he had been an Eucharistic minister and brought Holy Communion to people who were homebound or in nursing homes.

"He was a good Christian gentleman and a faith-filled man," said the Rev. Martin H. Demek, pastor of St. William of York. "He had a deep faith and had a love for not only his family, but also his church community. He lived the words of Jesus to love God and your neighbors."

A funeral Mass was offered Monday at the church.

Also surviving are four sisters, Dorothy Beall of Elkins, W.Va., Ann Callan of Silver Spring, Kathleen Reuwer of Owings Mills and Mary Garvey of Catonsville; and 35 other nieces and nephews.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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