top of page

On Memorial Day 

May 29, 2023

The Springfield community will honor the life, service, and memory of its residents and our nation's service members whose lives were lost in service to our country.  This Memorial Day, we especially honor two Springfield brothers, William and Donald Murray, who were killed in WWII.

Although the focus of this year's remembrance is the Murray brothers, we honor all who gave their life for their country.  We keep them and their families in our thoughts and prayers.

The community's 2023 event consist of two short remembrance ceremonies (Veterans Memorial Park and WWII memorial at St. Francis of Assisi Church) followed by the primary event at the township building. 

  • 9:00 a.m.: Ceremony at Veterans Memorial Park, Springfield Rd

  • 9:30 a.m.: Ceremony at the St. Francis of Assisi Church WWII memorial, corner of Saxer Ave and Johnston Rd

  • 10:15 a.m.: Primary remembrance in front of township building, 50 Powell Rd

FIRST LIEUTENANT

WILLIAM MURRAY

U.S. ARMY

Killed in Action

 August 11, 1943

STAFF SERGEANT 

DONALD J. MURRAY

U.S. ARMY AIR FORCES

Killed in Action

December 11, 1944

On January 21, 1941 the Murray Family lived at 224 Sunnybrook Road, Springfield. Parents Bruce Sr. and Sarah and four Sons William, Joseph, Bruce Jr, and Donald.

 

During World War II all four sons were serving in the military in the European Theater. All four in units that had experienced combat.

Photo: Donald Murray carrying older brother William Murray January 21, 1941 (Photo from Advocate Magazine Feb. 1941 Edition)

Donald Murray carrying older brother William Murray January 21, 1941 Both were later Killed in Action in World War Two (Photo from Advocate Magazine Feb. 1941 Edition)

William Murray and Donald Murray were members of the Pennsylvania National Guard 166th Anti-Tank Battalion commanded by Captain Clarence Bell.

On January 21, 1941, the entire 166th Battalion departed on a train from Upper Darby to Camp Shelby, Mississippi for training. This was 11 months BEFORE Pearl Harbor and the United States' entry into World War II.

The eldest Murray brother, William, went on to become an officer assigned to the 58th Armored Field Artillery battalion. His role was Forward Observer. Their equipment was M7 Priest 105mm Armored Howitzers.

The 58th Battalion landed with the American forces in Operation Torch in North Africa in 1942 and fought across the deserts of North Africa until the Axis armies until May 1943.

m7 Priest.jpg

The next campaign was a combined landing of Sicily called Operation Husky of American and British forces. The Americans, commanded by Lt. General George Patton, and the British under Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery directed the attacks.

 

As the infantry units fought across the center of the island. They were halted by stiff resistance from the retreating Germans and Italians.

 

On August 8, 1943, the 58th Battalion was placed onto ships to bypass the enemy and to keep them from escaping to the east, toward the city of Messina. The maneuver was a success. On August 11, 1943, the Battalion performed another seaward flanking maneuver landing near Brolo, Sicily.

 

The Germans were prepared and attacked in force. That afternoon, seven of the eight M7 vehicles were destroyed along with a large number of the unit killed, wounded, or taken prisoner.

 

William was valiantly calling in the coordinates to protect his battalion when he was killed by the attacking German armor.

 

1st Lt. Murray was posthumously awarded a Silver Star for his actions during that campaign.

 

In the meantime, his youngest brother Donald transferred to Army Air Forces becoming a gunner aboard B-24 Liberator Heavy Bomber. He was assigned to the 15th Air Force, 451st Bomber Group, 725th Bomber Squadron.

 

On December 11, 1944, Staff Sergent (SSgt.) Donald Murray’s B-24, 44-41114, took off at 7 AM from an airfield in Castellnolo, Italy on their 11th mission. The target being the Railroad yards in Vienna, Austria.

 

As Donald's aircraft approached the target over Vienna, Austria, they were at an altitude of 24,000 feet at 12:35 PM. The bomb bay doors were open.  The navigator of the aircraft heard over the aircraft intercom waste gunner SSgt Murray say, “Bombs are away” confirming to the bombardier the bombs had been dropped.

Just then an anti-aircraft shell hit the forward part of the bomb bay area and exploded causing a great fire that engulfed the entire back half of the aircraft.

B24 Liberator Extra Joker R Leonard in flames.jpg

This photo is not B24 Liberator 44-41114. It is of a B24 named Extra Joker with similar anti-aircraft damage described by witnesses of SSgt. Donald Murray’s aircraft. This photo is from the same unit as his, the 725th Bomber Squadron. This photo was taken on August 23, 1944. None of the crew of the Extra Joker survived.   (USAF Photo/Colorized by Royston Leonard)

Incredibly, the Navigator and Bombardier were blown away from the aircraft when it exploded.

 

The navigator reported later that he remembers the explosion from the anti-aircraft. He called to the rear gunner on his intercom but did not receive a reply; then, seconds later the entire aircraft exploded. He only remembers waking on the ground, injured but alive.....”

 

SSgt Donald Murray was listed as missing in action, December 11, 1944.  He was later listed as killed in action.

 

At the time of Donald’s death, the third Murray son was in a hospital in England recovering from a training injury. The fourth son was part of General Patton’s Third Army fighting in France.

 

A 1948 news article, stated the remains of 1st Lt. Murray were interred at Arlington National Cemetery, Section 12 Site 2939.

 

In 1949, another news article stated the remains of SSgt. Donald Murray, then buried in a cemetery in St. Avold/Metz, France were returned to the United States. He was also interred at Arlington National Cemetery Section 12 Site 3169.

 

Brothers William and Donald are buried three rows from each other.

 

Fortunately, the other two sons James and Bruce, Jr. survived the war.

William Smeck
Vice Commander
Springfield American Legion Post 227
Springfield, Delaware County, Pennsylvania 19064

bottom of page