Col. Charles Murray Jr., who received the Medal of Honor in World War II for single-handedly stopping an attack on U.S. troops by 200 Germans during World War II, died of congestive heart failure Friday at his home in Columbia, S.C. He was 89.
Murray was part of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division that fought through France and Germany during the last years of World War II. He received the highest military award given by the U.S. government for his actions as commander of a company in the mountains of far eastern France in December 1944.
Murray was ordered to lead his men to take over a bridge and build a roadblock. But as he descended into a valley, he found German troops had pinned down an American battalion on the crest of a ridge. The Germans were protected by a sunken road, and the only way to attack was from their flanks. Instead of committing his entire patrol, Murray decided to see what he could do on his own, according to the citation that accompanied his Medal of Honor.
Murray first ordered artillery strikes, but his radio went dead right after the first shells missed the German troops. Murray then started firing at the Germans, first with grenades, then with an automatic rifle, all while taking heavy fire. He killed 20, wounded many others and sent the enemy into such disarray that they withdrew.
Murray captured 10 Germans in a foxhole on his own. An 11th soldier appeared to be surrendering, but threw a grenade at Murray that sent shrapnel into his legs, causing eight separate wounds. Murray waited to go to a hospital until he positioned his men and selected the location for the roadblock. He returned to his unit four days later.
Along with the Medal of Honor, Murray also received three Silver Stars, two Bronze Stars and the French Legion of Honor for valor. He went on to serve in wars in Korea and Vietnam.
Murray was born Sept. 26, 1921, in Baltimore, reared in Wilmington, N.C., and was attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill when he enlisted in the Army in September 1942.
After retiring from the military, Murray worked in planning for the South Carolina Department of Corrections.
He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Anne; a son; a daughter; four grandchildren; nine great-grandchildren; and a great-great-grandchild. Another son died in 2004. Both of his sons served in Vietnam.