In its mission to take history out of the textbooks by honoring a local veteran each month of the school year, the Hampton Bays School District is paying tribute to veteran Robert “Red” Murray by flying an American flag in his honor throughout the month of February.
“The district is proud to honor Mr. Murray for his bravery and service to the United States,” said Superintendent of Schools Lars Clemensen.
Mr. Murray was honored at a ceremony held on Feb. 17 at Hampton Bays Elementary School. During the event, the high school jazz band performed the national anthem and high school student Jared Strecker read Mr. Murray’s biography. High school student Andres Saldarriaga also read his VFW Voice of Democracy Essay, “My Responsibility to America.” The event culminated with the raising of the American flag.
Mr. Murray was born in Port Washington, New York, in 1923 and graduated from Port Washington High School in 1942. In the summer of that year, he served as a letter carrier for the U.S. Post Office and delivered his own draft notice.
Mr. Murray’s basic training began at Camp Upton, New York (now Brookhaven Lab), continued at Camp Maxey in Texas and culminated at Camp Gruber, Oklahoma, where he was trained as a field artilleryman.
From Camp Gruber, Mr. Murray was transferred to Stowbridge, England and assigned to the 731st Field Artillery. He was then transferred to France, where he served as a jeep driver/courier for the Third Army of General Patton for about six months. During this time, he learned that he was a lucky guy. Mr. Murray loved prune pie; his mother would send him prunes and the unit cook would make him a prune pie. One day, a sergeant asked Mr. Murray for a ride. Mr. Murray agreed to give the sergeant a ride, but he had an errand to do first — he had to pick up his pie from the cook. The sergeant became impatient waiting for Mr. Murray and got a ride with another jeep driver. Unfortunately, that jeep was attacked; the driver was wounded and the sergeant was killed. If Mr. Murray hadn't gone to get the pie, his jeep would have been the one that was attacked. His luck continued in France where he was sent to pick up a lieutenant and bring him back to the unit. Both Mr. Murray and the lieutenant had to stay overnight. The next morning, they learned Mr. Murray’s unit had been bombed during the night. Mr. Murray is a lucky man indeed.
He was later attached to various units wherever he was needed, including the Battle of the Bulge — the costliest battle to the U.S. Army with approximately 100,000 casualties. Soldiers were in the Ardennes forest in Belgium and Luxembourg in December and January of 1944-45. Brutal winter conditions caused frostbite for many soldiers. Mr. Murray was fortunate not to have severely suffered the results of frostbite. At the end of the Battle of the Bulge, Mr. Murray 's unit and other units in the battle received a letter of appreciation from General Patton. From the Battle of the Bulge, Mr. Murray was transferred to Germany and then to Austria. Mr. Murray's military awards include the World War II Victory Medal, the Bronze Star Medal; the Good Conduct Medal; the French Croix de Guerre medal; and the "Ruptured Duck" Medal.
After the war, Mr. Murray was discharged and he became employed by the U.S. Post Office again. He also applied to the Department of the Navy for a job. He got a call and started working at Sands Point and was soon married. His father-in-law had a business in New York City and Mr. Murray worked for a man named J.P. McGuire, who later had a heart attack. Mr. Murray took over Mr. McGuire's job. The office sold labels and tags for grocery stores and machines.
Mr. Murray first saw his wife in church but did not know her. They met at an office Christmas party. He took her shopping in Manhasset for Christmas gifts for her family. He and Barbara married in 1950 and were married for 54 years when she passed away. They have six children and 11 grandchildren.
Mr. Murray retired 25 years ago; his son had a restaurant in Water Mill, so he moved out east and now resides in Southampton. He belongs to the Knights of Columbus in Southampton and is an associate volunteer fireman after serving 26 years in the Port Washington Volunteer Fire Department, where he served as a captain. #engageHB