A day that will live in infamy . . .

Exactly 77 years ago today, my dad, Arthur Philip Murphy, was stationed as a U.S. Army first lieutenant at Camp John Hay adjacent to Baguio, North Luzon, Philippines. Early that morning, as he and his housemate, Lieutenant Lars Jensen, were preparing to head over to the Officers’ Mess for breakfast, they got a phone call ordering them to report to the Post Adjutant’s office for a special briefing at eight.

Following a hasty breakfast, the two headed over to Captain Giitter’s office in the headquarters building. The room was strangely quiet as it filled with other officers and non-coms. As they waited expectantly, the captain didn’t even say “good morning.” Instead, in a voice hoarse with emotion, he said, “The Japs have bombed Pearl Harbor.”

Thus began an odyssey that would last nearly four years, would test the very core of Murphy’s character and endurance, and would forever change the course of his life.

Today, I remember Pearl Harbor, but more than that, I remember Camp John Hay. I remember Baguio. I remember my dad.

Veterans Day 2018

Veterans Day 2018

Tomorrow is Veterans Day. As always, my thoughts turn to my favorite veteran, Colonel Arthur Philip Murphy, my dad, who spent nearly five years in the Philippines during World War II, most of that time listed as “missing in action” (translation: presumed dead). His was a fascinating story. During the last week of this month, November 2018, my book about his experiences will be published and available through First Steps Publishing, Amazon.com, and other sources. I’m excited and happy; writing it and following through to publication has been a long, sometimes arduous, though ultimately rewarding process. But on this Veterans Day I’d like to quote some of my dad’s own words, written in North Luzon, Philippine Islands, in mid-1945 as the war was drawing to a close, finally, and it was becoming more likely each day that he was actually going to survive to return home to his wife and family in California. His words doubtless reflect the sentiments of many veterans of many wars.

June 6, 1945: “War can be a boring thing. The trouble is you don’t have an opportunity for any other interests, so when the fighting isn’t exciting—which it is not most of the time—I’m like a fish out of water. I’m afraid that when I get home, I’m going to have to learn to have fun all over again. Sometimes, when I think of living back home with no war to engross me, it seems an incredibly boring prospect, and that scares me. You see, this war has calloused over many of my tender spots. When one learns to look at destroyed towns and cities without emotion, when one learns to give information to the Air Force for the wholesale destruction of others, when one learns to have little regard for the uniqueness of human life—‘We took Hill X cheaply, only ten men killed’ or ‘In Town Y are 100 Japs and 100 civilians; recommend bombing and strafing’—in the process one becomes hardened. During the [Japanese] occupation, many of our [guerrilla] soldiers surrendered to the enemy because their families had been imprisoned or tortured. We regarded them as traitors and, if we caught them back in our area, we shot them on sight. Cruel and tough, it’s true, but that’s the reason we survived and grew while other [guerrilla] units failed. The worst thing about this war is not the destruction and death that men have accomplished but the indifference with which they’ve had to learn to accomplish it in order to stay alive. Sometimes I think of the damage and destruction these years of war have done to the world and I shudder.

    Art Murphy, North Luzon, Philippines, 1945

“But I’m getting morbid. This is not the first war in the world’s history, and it probably won’t be the last. I suppose death and destruction will always be just another aspect of living. I only hope that when I come home, I can learn again to do the everyday, inconsequential things and get a bang out of doing them. Right now, that’s hard to imagine.”

August 16, 1945: “Well, the war is finally over, but the Japs haven’t started to surrender yet. The radio says the [Japanese] Emperor’s order to cease firing and surrender will be given sometime today. But just yesterday we had four men killed and twenty-one wounded up on our front, and last night a lone Jap was killed trying to attack one of our command posts. But there’s a general feeling that the big show is over. Anything after this will be an anticlimax. Not that the news caused any big celebrations here. Our principal reaction is that of a plow horse when his harness is removed at the end of a long, hot afternoon. He just feels like having some chow and resting in his stall, not going out and kicking up his heels. We’ll leave that to the people back home who can muster the necessary excess energy in spite of the privations they’ve endured.”

 

‘Guerrilla’ Lt. Made Col. in 3 Years

(Source: “The Stars and Stripes,” Ramstein Bureau, Tuesday, August 18, 1964, by Ray Wright.)

VERDUN, France (S&S)—From a first lieutenant to a bird colonel in three years while he was listed as missing in action may sound fantastic, but it happened. The man to whom it happened is Lt. Col. Arthur P. Murphy, liaison officer of the Supply and Maintenance Agency, Com Z, Maison-Forte, with offices at Verdun, France.

Art Murphy Verdun France circa 1964

This was guerrilla war in the Philippines during World War II, after the fall of Bataan on April 9, 1942, and the Corregidor surrender on May 6, 1942.

“While MacArthur’s slogan was ‘I shall return,’ our motto was ‘We remained,’” Murphy said of the mixed forces of Americans and Filipinos that made up the guerrilla army.

Murphy was at Camp John Hay, Baguio, in the Philippines when the war came. “We were bombed the first day. Eleven of our men were killed and 21 wounded. Under the old war plan, our two companies were supposed to go down to defend the beaches, but in the meantime, two divisions of the Philippine Army had been mobilized in the same area.

“We were told to stay put until further orders. Then the Japanese moved down the coast, driving back the two divisions and cutting off all roads leading out”

The small force in Baguio marched over the mountains in an attempt to get out and rejoin the main American-Philippine forces retreating toward Bataan, but failed to make contact by midnight.

“A group of us—a couple of Army officers, a couple of enlisted men, and some civilians we picked up along the way—then followed the Japanese who were following the Americans to Bataan. We were almost to Manila when we heard over the radio that another unit which hadn’t headed for Bataan but had remained in North Luzon, had wiped out a Japanese airfield there.

“We figured there was no point in going to Bataan if there was fighting going on up north. We worked our way back through the countryside now occupied by Japanese and were almost at Baguio when we heard of the surrender of Bataan and Corregidor.”

Many American guerrillas eventually surrendered in response to an official order issued because of Japan’s threat to wipe out the prisoners of Bataan and Corregidor unless all American forces on the island surrendered.

Murphy and a number of others refused even though they were informed that after the war—if they should live that long—they would be court-martialed for disobeying orders. “I don’t know if I was stubborn or just lucky,” Murphy said.

“I was just a lieutenant at that time and had lots to learn—and unlearn. One thing we all had to unlearn was our formal military strategy. We had no connection with the outside, and our only weapons and ammunition were what we scrounged. We lived off the land. When there were just a few of us, we ate with the local natives and moved in with them.

“As time went on, we picked up more Americans and Filipinos and organized into companies and platoons. Meanwhile, other guerrilla units were doing the same thing. We spread ourselves out in various areas and made arrangements with people to supply our ‘Army’ with certain hard foodstuffs on a periodic basis.

“Local people built houses of bamboo and grass for us in our camps and, more than that, they were essential to our security. When a Japanese patrol came into our area, the local chief sent a runner to warn us where they were, how many, and what they were doing.

“We reaped the benefits of 40 years of good government in the Philippines by the United States,” Murphy said. “The people were loyal, went without food so we could eat, and suffered torture and death at times to protect us. I probably wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for their support. Certainly our guerrilla action couldn’t have succeeded without them.

“Americans remained U.S. Army officers,” Murphy said. “Fortunately for us, the U.S. Army, when they later wrote our paychecks, also recognized retroactively the promotions we received in the guerrilla army.” Murphy reverted to his present rank during the postwar demobilization.