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The Suburbanite
  • WW II Then and Now: Flew on first daylight bombing of Berlin

  •  “When I got that airplane mechanic’s job I thought I’d be a ground man, back away from the fighting,” said T/Sgt. Arthur Murrey of Perry Township, who was living in Noble County at the time he was drafted into the Army in 1942.

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  •  “When I got that airplane mechanic’s job I thought I’d be a ground man, back away from the fighting,” said T/Sgt. Arthur Murrey of Perry Township, who was living in Noble County at the time he was drafted into the Army in 1942.
    He quickly was picked for the Army’s Air Corp.
    “First thing I knew they had me flying.”
    Murrey, newly married to the former Ruth Rossiter, was working at Atlas Engineering Co. in Weirton, W.Va., when he was inducted. He saw his pay drop from $300 a month to $50 a month.
    “That was a private’s pay in September 1942,” he said with a smile. “And they took $28 to give to my wife. That left me with $22.”
    Ruth and Arthur have been married for 69 years. “If we make it to July will be married 70 years, and we plan on making it.” So, the $28 deduction from his pay was worth the investment, he good-naturedly reasons.
    BOMBER MISSIONS
    Aboard a B-17 bomber, stationed in England and flying missions over France and Germany, Murrey was known as a flight engineer.
    “A flight engineer was a flying mechanic,” said Murrey. “But I also was a gunner, the top turret gunner.”
    Immediately upon arriving in England on Oct. 1, 1943, Murrey and his crew began flying missions. “We just had to fly 25 and get out of there.” But, “it was bad then.” At that time in the war, only 12 percent of crews finished their mission requirement. “Not all of them were killed. Some were shot down and became prisoners of war.”
    So numerous were the casualties that out of the five crews that took up residence in his barracks in England, “after the first five missions our crew was the only one left.”
    “After your number of missions got halfway through, you started to give up and think you were not going to make it,” recalled Murrey. “So many people were getting shot down ... you didn’t see how you were going to be lucky enough to hang on.”
    Murrey’s crew survived several close calls.
    “We got hit several times by antiaircraft guns. German fighters hit us, too,” said Murrey. “We had some holes in the plane. We were very lucky.”
    After completing one mission, near the occupied coast of France, enemy antiaircraft fire knocked off one of four engines from Murrey’s B-17 bomber. Without its weight the plane flew erratically.
    “I got down into the bomb bay to run the pumps and transfer enough weight in fuel (from one wing to another) so the plane would fly right,” recalled Murrey, who remembered that the plane made it back to England, but not to its air base. “We thought of bailing out, but we were too low. So, we went into a wheat field.”
    Page 2 of 2 - The incident caused an understandable amount of fear among crew members, said Murrey.
    “I remember that one of the waist gunners was a tough guy — drank a lot, didn’t go to church with the rest of us. When I went down into the bomb bay that day, I looked over and could see him praying. We all were saying our prayers, without a doubt.”
    COMING HOME
    Murrey was 22 at the time.
    “The first daylight raid on Berlin was on my 23rd birthday,” he recalled. “I don’t know if I even realized it.”
    By April 1944, Murrey’s missions were completed and he was back in the United States, training flight crews in Columbus. His parents had moved to Canton during the war, so that’s where he settled when he was discharged in 1945, working at first for the Hoover Co. and then for the Timken Co.
    “I was a tool grinder,” he said. “I retired in 1983 after 37 years.
    He and his wife, Ruth, raised one son, Donald, who lives in Columbus. The couple has lived in the same Perry Township House for 58 years.
    The war is decades behind him now, but in a way it is present every one of his days, notes Murrey. He is the last member of his flight crew to remain alive, he believes.
    “I suppose it makes you appreciate life more, having been in a real dangerous situation.”