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.
A 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);
5. Southern Philippines (with arrowhead)
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.
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.
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.
- Another Father’s Day without Daddy… (rememberingtheshoals.wordpress.com)