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A Hero Among Us: Vietnam Veteran Claude Murphy

Claude Murphy

Though he may not have spoken of it in the years after, Claude Murphy, a member of the Buffalo class of 1964, was also a member of the Marine Corps in 1967, and served his country with honor and served his fellow Marines with dedication in Vietnam. The event briefly described here was with the 3rd Battalion, 26th Marine Regiment in an area known as the Co Bi Thanh Tan Valley, also referred to as ?The Street Without Joy.?

Fifty one years have gone by, but it is not too late to remember and honor Claude Murphy?s service as the soldier he was in one of the most demanding wars in which our nation engaged. It was January of 1967, and Murphy was a part of Mike Company, tasked with a search and destroy operation of the southern quadrant of the battalion?s area of responsibility.

The group encountered a bridge, but knowing that bridges are often a site of ambush, caution was used. Lt. Flick, who led the men, ordered a scout fire-team to cross ahead and conduct a reconnaissance of the opposite side. Crossing was similar to walking a tight rope as the the bridge was rudimentary at best, and the Marines each carried a load of supplies and weaponry. Murphy was one of the three men scout team who crossed first.

Once across the bridge, the three were to spread out, one in the lead, the other two twenty meters behind on either side. Murphy, was the natural point man. No one told him to take the point, but he would always automatically slip himself into the point man?s position. And, according to another Marine who served with Murphy, ?no one would dare challenge him.? His natural, innate skills and fearless attitude, seemed to compel him to be there.

Just after the three men crossed the bridge, and just as the rest of the Marine group were crossing, forty to fifty Viet Cong opened fire and caught the three man reconnaissance team flatfooted. One of the flank men was gravely wounded. Murphy and the remaining soldier returned fire as they sought what little cover was available. Murphy was hit and took a round high in the right arm near the shoulder. The bullet passed through the arm and entered his side and lodged in his back. The other soldier was able to get to Murphy and help stem the bleeding from the wound.

At one point, Lorne Le Mieux, the machine gun runner, who had made it across the bridge, was rushing towards the treeline, when he heard Murphy cry out, ?Load me up! Load me up!? Murphy, seriously wounded in his right arm and covered with blood, still continued to lay down covering fire. However, he was not able to reload with just one arm. Another Marine made it to Murphy, reloaded his gun for him, and Murphy continued his work to protect those going into the fire.

Years later, Le Mieux wrote about that day in 1967, ?If it were not for Claude?s courage, even after being wounded, I most likely would have not made it out alive that day.?

Le Mieux, who later the same day lost a leg from a booby trap, spent years relocating the team of Marines he served with on that mission. He found Claude and had time to talk with him again, and, as he wrote in a letter to Murphy?s widow, Nell, ?I wanted you and his sons to know of the heroism I am sure you never heard from Claude himself.?

After Claude Murphy was wounded in the service, he spent about a year in different hospitals with most of the time in a hospital in Corpus Christi. When finally released from treatment, Claude went to work as a deckhand on a tug boat that his brother was working for at the time. The work appealed to him, so he continued and eventually became a Captain and and a Master Mariner. He worked for years from the ports of Corpus Christi, and later moved to the Houston Ship yard before retiring.

Claude?s parents were Alfred and Mary Murphy. They raised nine children in the Keechi area. Claude?s sibling are Adelle, JoAnn, Margaret, Buddy, David, Calvin, Sammy, and Ricky. Claude has three sons: Carl, Calvin, and Scott; and eight grandchildren.

Claude reunited with his classmate, Nell Cadenhead Morris, and they married in 2002 while he was still working on the tugboats. After he retired, he helped Nell keep things repaired at the Weathervane Restaurant she owned and operated in Buffalo.

?Claudie could repair anything,? said Nell. ?He was good with finishing concrete, laying tile, painting, building cabinets, just about anything. He didn?t like plumbing or electrical work, but he was good on those jobs, too.?

For Claude, the best way to enjoy free time was hunting and fishing. At one point, he built his own shrimp boat. He enjoyed the outdoors all his life.

Claude passed away in February of 2015. The Buffalo Express, along with the community, together say ?thank you? to Claude Murphy.