The past is the present for future generations who do not know their history

Because of them…

we are free. A least for a few days more if we are smart enough to hold on to the freedom they earned for us with their blood and buddies left on those faraway battlefields.

On this Veteran’s Day 2011, I want to pay respect to my Daddy. James A Murray — a member of the GREATEST GENERATION. He along with countless other Shoals area men, boys really, joined the cause of liberty during the war that was to end all wars. He was a member of the Victory Division. He served in battles that changed the history of the world in the South Pacific Theatre under General Douglas MacArthur.

Victory: 24th Infantry Division WWIIA brief history of the Taro Leaf Victory Division comes from their website:

“The Victory Division”

24th Infantry Division, US Army  1941 to 1996*

     There are some histories of the battles of the 24th Inf. Div. and  its men and women over its 55 years of service to  country, especially  for the Victory Division who fought so valiantly  in the Pacific in  WWII. They were truly the greatest generation. And we are free because of them.

 Nick named the “victory division” and the “pineapple army” because it was formed in Hawaii in early 1941. It also carried other nick names and mottos; “First to Fight; Last to Leave” and ” Taro Leaf “, which is now the name of its association’s news letter. They were boarded in Schofield Barracks in Hawaii. As the photos from his service bears out, they were mostly all just kids. Daddy could not persuade Granpa to sign for him to go to war, so like so many others he changed his birthyear so he could sign for himself; he was just a kid when he trained and then set sail to venture to Hawaii, Diamond Head, and onward to pivotal battles of the war.

Campaign Participation Credit of the Victory Division’s service during World War II:

1. Central Pacific;

2. New Guinea (with arrowhead);

3. Leyte (with arrowhead);

4. Luzon;

5. Southern Philippines (with arrowhead)

The website address is http://home.att.net/~victory24/Divhistory.htm

The Victory website welcomes us to the official Web site of the 24th Infantry Division Association, the Pride of the Pacific Theater.  Our motto is, “First to Fight.”   An Act of Congress confirms this.  We were first to take arms against Imperial Japanese forces, and we were first to engage the North Korean aggressor in 1950.   We are the division Japanese Army General  Yamashita said broke the back of the Japanese Army at Breakneck Ridge on Leyte, and we are the division the liberated people of the Philippines called, “Victory”.  Taromen have always stood ready to defend freedom and the democratic way of life, anytime, anywhere, against all aggressors . . . in the jungles, through the snow, or on the sands in far off lands.  We are fiercely Proud of our heritage, and when our nation calls upon us once again . . . we will be, First to Fight!!! The 24th Infantry Division (Mech) inactivated on August 1, 2006 at Fort Riley. Its most recent operations included preparing Fort Riley for the return of the  1st Infantry Division, previously stationed in Germany.

The 24th Infantry Division was among the first to see combat in World War II and among the last to stop fighting. The Division was on Oahu, with Headquarters at Schofield Barracks, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, 7 December1941, and suffered minor casualties. Charged with the defense of northern Oahu, it built an elaborate system of coastal defenses. Pvt. James Murray arrived in Hawaii on May 17,1942. In May 1943 it was alerted for movement to Australia and by 19 September1943 had completed the move to Camp Caves, near Rockhampton, on the eastern coast of Australia. After a period of intensive training, the Division moved to Goodenough Island, 31 January1944, to stage for the Hollandia (currently known as Jayapura)Tanahmerah campaign. The 24th landed on Dutch New Guinea, 22 April1944, and smashed its way to and seized the important Hollandia Airdrome despite torrential rains and marshy terrain. Shortly after the Hollandia landing, the 34th Infantry Regiment moved to Biak, 18 June, to reinforce the 41st Infantry Division, and captured Sorido and Borokoe airdromes before returning to the Division on Hollandia in July. After occupation duty in the Hollandia area, the 24th Division landed on Red Beach on Leyte, 20 October1944, as part of the X Corps, Sixth Army, and driving up Leyte Valley advanced to Jaro and took Breakneck Ridge, 12 November1944, in heavy fighting. While mopping up continued on Leyte, the 19th RCT moved to Mindoro Island as part of the Western Visayan Task Force, landing in the San Jose area, 15 December1944. Airfields and a PT base were secured for operations on Luzon. Divisional elements effected a landing on Marinduque Island. Other elements supported the 11th Airborne Division drive from Nasugbu to Manila. The 34th RCT, landing at San Antonio, Luzon, 29 January1945, ran into a furious battle on Zig Zag Pass and suffered heavy casualties. On 16 February1945 the 3d Bn. of the 34th Infantry took part in the amphibious landing on Corregidor and fought Japanese under a hot sun on the well-defended Rock. After numerous mopping up actions in March, the Division landed on Mindanao, 17 April1945, cut across the island to Digos, 27 April, stormed into Davao, 3 May, and cleared Libby airdrome, 13 May. Although the campaign closed officially on 30 June, the Division continued to mop up Japanese resistance during July and August 1945. Patrolling continued after the official surrender of Japan. On 15 October1945, the Division left Mindanao for Japan.

I wish I had asked Daddy more questions about his WWII service. He did tell me that they were fighting and had to retreat. He turned and ran as he gripped his gun with both hands; he ran as fast as he could and without any warning he slammed into someone and knocked them down. He thought for sure that he was busted. The person he had knocked down was General Douglas MacArthur. Nothing came of the incident, and I am proud that Gen. MacArthur saw fit not to punish one of our heroes.

I did think to  ask Daddy what was the hardest thing about being in the war, I got an answer that I did not expect. He said that, “the hardest thing was watching your buddies fall all around you, and stomping across them in the battlefield as battle positions moved.”

My most vivid memory of the war memories of Daddy involved sneaking a peek at pictures that were in a brown mailing envelope on top of the chifferobe when I was in 4th grade or such. These pictures showed palm trees, thatched roofed huts, a sandy beach………..and girls in grass skirts who were topless. I could not believe that any female could be so brassy with their dress…..and around soldiers. I now know it was the custom in their culture, but as a child I was shocked. There was a metal box of medals and ribbons that he had been awarded for his service; and a box of gold teeth.

List of Entitlements during WWII for James A Murray

List of Entitlements during WWII for James A Murray

And then there was the television show “The Big Picture” that would command his attention on Saturdays just when we wanted to go to town. Of course, I was a child at the time and did not know the importance of knowing.

And I did not hear Daddy talk about the war growing up.

James A Murray

I add to the above that when Taylor Anne speaks with the candidness of a child of two years of age that I see you. Her Dad was with her last Sunday in the very back row of the church and the preacher was touting something about the ‘pits of hell’ she said in her best voice, “Uh HUH!” and it was then that I could see that you still live within the ones you would have so loved to pieces.

We waited too late it would seem to have contact with those who were Daddy’s ‘Buddies’ during the war. With the graphic below, I salute them on this Veteran’s Day some sixty plus years later. Thank you, each and every hero of war, for serving the country that I so love.

Reunion of the Victory Division

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