Korean War Veteran

Capt. Raymond Murphy

Marine Corps Capt. Raymond Murphy, a Medal of Honor recipient who honorably served his fellow Marines during war, then spent the rest of his life serving them, as well.

Murphy was born Jan. 14, 1930, in Pueblo, Colorado. He had three brothers and a sister and said he loved to play sports growing up. He was finishing his bachelor’s degree in 1950 when the Korean War broke out.

A Marine wearing a dress uniform and a Medal of Honor around his neck looks at the camera.

Toward the end of his senior year, the draft was becoming more of a concern, so Murphy got advice from two of his older brothers — both of whom had already served. He decided he would try to become an officer, so he joined the Marine Corps after graduation and earned his commission.

Murphy was placed in Company A, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division. It wasn’t long before he was sent to Korea, where he earned the Silver Star while commanding an infantry platoon in Seoul in late 1952.

On Feb. 3, 1953, Murphy earned the Medal of Honor by taking charge when several of his superiors went down. On that day, Murphy’s company was positioned near the Imjin River, and their mission was to keep Chinese communist troops from getting a foothold on the hill. Murphy, a second lieutenant at the time, was commanding a reserve platoon that was positioned to help wounded men from the two forward-fighting platoons.

Quickly, Murphy realized something was wrong when there were no wounded men coming back to them. He decided to move his platoon up to see what was going on. As they got closer to the front line, he realized that all of the forward platoons’ officers and noncommissioned officers were dead or seriously wounded. The lack of leadership caused mass confusion among the remaining ranks.

Several Marines wade through thigh-high water carrying weapons on their backs, walking toward a hill in the distance.
Murphy immediately took command, ordering his platoon to find their comrades and evacuate the area despite the heavy machine-gun fire raging around them. Murphy himself was seriously wounded by fragments from a mortar shell, but he refused help and continued to lead his men up the hill to find more pinned-down Marines. Murphy made several trips up and down the hill as it was blanketed by enemy fire, directing evacuation teams to the wounded and carrying several injured men to safety.

Murphy ordered part of his unit to help the attack platoons when they needed reinforcements. He took out two enemy combatants with his own pistol.

When all the wounded were evacuated, the assault platoons started to move down the hill. Although injured, Murphy stayed behind to cover their backs, fending off enemies who reappeared in the trenches with a carbine and an automatic rifle.

Military vehicles follow zig-zagged muddy roads up a hill.

Once Murphy got to the hill’s base, he organized a search party and went back up one more time to make sure no one had been left behind. During that search, they found the bodies of a machine-gun crew, which they carried down.

But they weren’t in the clear. Enemy guns, artillery and mortar fire continued to cascade on them from above, and Murphy was wounded a second time while trying to get the company to the main line of departure. He refused to get help for himself until everyone else made it through to safety.

Years later, Murphy explained his thinking.

“That’s one of the big things you’re trained for in the Marine Corps. You get casualties, and even men you didn’t know, whether they were alive or not — you get them out of the front line and get them back to where the medical people could look at them,” he said in a Veterans History Project interview. “This is the purpose of the war — to save your men and take care of the enemy.”

Murphy returned to the states shortly after that battle and was promoted to captain. He later left the service and enrolled in graduate school, where he was when he learned that his actions in war had earned him the Medal of Honor. He received the medal from President Dwight D. Eisenhower in a While House ceremony on Oct. 27, 1953. It went well with the Silver Star, Purple Heart, Korean Service Medal with two bronze stars, and the United Nations Service Medal he also earned during his short military career.

An older gentleman wearing a Medal of Honor looks into a camera.

Murphy went on to marry and have four children, and he spent most of his civilian career in service to other veterans after settling in New Mexico. He served as the director of veteran services at what is now the Department of Veterans Affairs center in Albuquerque from 1974 to 1997. When he retired, he continued to serve the center as a volunteer, pushing veterans in wheelchairs to their medical appointments.

Murphy died on April 6, 2007, at the age of 77. He was buried in Santa Fe National Cemetery wearing his VA hospital volunteer smock.

Murphy’s love for his fellow veterans was so well-known that, in 2008, the VA hospital where he worked was renamed the Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center.

Former New Mexico Rep. Stevan Pearce praised Murphy during the renaming process. “Many of us too often believe that heroism can only be exhibited in those extreme circumstances. But I would say that it takes more courage to live a life of service that he chose to live after his heroic exploits. He wasn’t faced with multimillion-dollar book-signing deals, no movie contracts — just a quiet life serving other veterans who are often overlooked.”

A life that is well worth honoring.

BY KATIE LANGE, DOD NEWS
https://www.defense.gov/Exp…

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THE EXTROM FAMILY AT HOME DURING AND AFTER THE KOREAN WAR

Submitted by Janice Extrom Sheridan

We (his four children) were not born yet while he was in Korea. In fact, he met our mother after his service ended in 1952. We didn’t know much of his story until later in life … we knew he was a U.S. Marine, but didn’t know about his time in the war because he didn’t talk about it much. We are very proud of his service, and in time we learned so much about his time spent in Korea. However, it’s really hard to imagine the horrific things he saw and endured. He keeps his memories private except for a few details.

How it affected us … in retrospect we didn’t know he was a war hero. We knew he’d been a combat vet. We knew how proud he was to be a U.S. Marine. But, we had no clue what he’d endured because he was so reticent to talk about it.

We also didn’t know that his obsession with perfection was unusual. HA! From the time we were little, his conversations were peppered with military jargon — “Spit-shine those shoes,” “Use some elbow grease,” “Quit crying. You got nothing to cry about,” and things like, “When you’re in the military, you learn to obey orders.”

He loved a good parade and from his admiration and respect for other veterans, we learned to respect and honor veterans from every war. Heroes return home from war as ordinary citizens with a laudable secret past that lives inside their memory. We knew he relived the war in his mind while trying to be an ordinary model citizen — which he was — but we also knew he had his secrets, and we needed to respect those. Our brother also proudly served as a U.S. Marine.

Dad told us once many, many years ago that he didn’t talk about his Korean War experiences because he didn’t want to glorify war.

As for Dad’s family of origin … his mother posted three flags in her front window to show support for three of her five sons. Two in WWII and one in the Korean War. She was proud of her boys. She would clip articles from the newspapers and save them for each son. She wrote to each one regularly and prayed for their safety as well as the others who served. One served with the 82nd Airborne (508th) paratroopers. He was shot in the jaw and received shrapnel in his leg. We’re sure she was devastated, yet thankful. No doubt, she worried that any day she might hear the knock on the door. By God’s grace, all three sons returned home. (Dad’s mother and father and nine siblings are all gone now.)

The following is a short biographical sketch written for an awards ceremony in our father’s hometown when he was awarded the Heroic Hearts of Gold Award.


HEROIC HEART OF GOLD

As a child of the Depression, Robert Extrom never realized his family’s poverty would give him the perseverance, courage, and loyalty he would need in the service of his country.

At 18, when tensions were escalating between North and South Korea, Bob enlisted in the Marine Corps. After completing boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina, he was trained in radio/communications at Camp Pendleton in California. The Marines’ motto, Semper Fidelis—“Always Faithful”—took root in Bob’s heart when the 1st Marine Division received orders to ship off to Korea for war.

On September 15, 1950, Marine forces landed at the strategic port of Inchon and pushed inland to recapture Seoul. Trudging through rice paddies, Bob detected erratic bubbles in the water and his captain urged him to fall back—the radio equipment on his back was drawing North Korean sniper fire. By November, the 1st Marines were fighting for survival in the Chosin Reservoir, where temperatures dipped to -45° F. The Chinese outnumbered the Marines 8-1, completely surrounding them. During fierce engagement, Bob was blown off his feet by mortar shells, sustaining a concussion and a back injury. Large chunks of shrapnel embedded in his spare battery thus saving his life.

Bob became one of the courageous “Frozen Chosin,” or “The Chosin Few,” who made it out of the Chosin Reservoir alive. For heroically putting himself in harm’s way and persevering to keep lines of communication open, Bob received two combat “V” awards and was later promoted to Staff Sergeant. OOHRAH!!

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Robert Extrom

Excerpt from Robert Extrom’s Biography as a radio operator, 1st Marines, 3rd Battalion, H Company to be published on the Korean War Educator Website. 

Submitted by Janice Extrom Sheridan

“There are so many tanks going through the mountains in North Korea and so many dead bodies on the side of the road that they didn’t stop and pick them up to clear the roadway. They checked for IDs and filed a report, but kept moving. If you wanted to get shot, you stopped … so if we were following some tanks, when the tanks moved, we moved. We didn’t have time to put two and two together.

We were following a tank when we came to an area that was kind of an intersection near Hagaru-ri. I remember that there was a dead body in the middle of the gravel roadway. I was shocked. He was a North Korean or Chinese enemy that had been flattened on the road, having been run over and over by tanks and other vehicles. He was only about six inches thick at this point and looked to be about eight feet tall. He was just like almost make-believe and something that I never expected. Flat. He had been run over so many times by tanks that his body was like a pancake, and there we were walking right over on top of him.

It was the first time I had been that close to a body that had been run over by a tank. I knew he was dead, but still it affected me. He was probably a father and had kids at home. You don’t get over that very easily. I had to just close my eyes, push it out of my mind, and keep going. You can’t imagine how that is when you haven’t been exposed to something like that. I still can’t get that image out of my mind.

I remember thinking that anybody who thinks war is good has something wrong in the head — I don’t care what outfit he’s with. All that could be done with the dead bodies was to get them out of the way by pushing them off the side of the road and down in the gullies. I also thought, ‘That’s going to stink in the springtime when their bodies start thawing out.’”


ROBERT EXTROM’S LETTER TO HIS PARENTS, SEPTEMBER 28, 1950

Dear Mom and Dad,

Received your letter of the 16th yesterday. We are now 3/4 of Seoul secured. Our Regiment/1st Marine had the privilege and hard task of going through the heart of the city and it was hard with resistance heavy. Our casualties were not too bad though. Yesterday and last night our Battalion was given a rest, much needed. As ROK forces came into Seoul to relieve us for a spell.

Sept. 25th almost spelled doom for this company I’m with. We made a big push the 24th and our flank companies were pinned down by the enemy. Only our H Company could advance. We lost communication with everyone and got lost behind enemy lines and Emplacements. For 16 hours straight we were seeing heavy fire from every side.

Believe me we prayed a lot and someone else must have been praying hard too. For with God’s will did we finally gained communication and fought our way out of the trap back to our lines. But it’s over with now and with yesterday’s rest we’re ready to take the rest of the city. It’s much harder in a city than out in the hills and mountains.

We receive very little, if any, news at all pertaining to the armies down south. But we do believe it won’t be long before this is over. I believe I’ve lost close to 25 lbs so far. But some good meats (not rations) and some sleep would

put that back on. Hope you write often. You don’t know how good it is to receive mail over here especially after the past two weeks. I wish I had time to write to everyone individually but that’s impossible.

Hope they write though. The days are warm and the nights very cold. Sure hope we don’t have to fight during the winter months. In another week or so we should be taken off the line and return to a rest camp known as de lousing camp. It sure will be good and get new clothes. If you’d like to send a box, I could use some heavy socks and a muffler. You could add some goodies.

Thinking of you mother and dad and everyone. God bless you all.

All my love, Bob

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The Langone Family

Submitted by Cathy Langone Burgholzer

My uncle Sergeant Anthony L. Langone (pictured left) was a member of Company L, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. He enlisted in the United States Army at the tender age of 18 on June 21, 1949, leaving the family farm to become a sergeant. Uncle Tony wrote home quite often. In a letter from my uncle written on September 2, 1950 and received on September 12, 1950 by my grandparents, he stated that he had been in battle for 14 days and 14 nights, sleeping in foxholes and advancing against the disadvantages of the monsoon swept country. He was about 12 miles south of Taegu and anticipated an order to move up in the big offensive.

Sadly, he was killed in action on September 15, 1950 at Sobuk-Sun in South Korea at the age of 19. For his leadership and valor, he was posthumously awarded the Silver Star and
Purple Heart.

My grandparents and their seven other children went to Woburn, Massachusetts City Hall where the Silver Star would be presented in a somber ceremony to my grandfather. I often wonder what would have become of my uncle had he survived, and I wish I had had the chance to know him. I come from a very proud patriotic military family. My grandfather Louis Langone enlisted in the U. S. Army during World War I. Four of my uncles fought in World War II, my dad in Korea as well as cousins who served in the Navy and a nephew who served in Afghanistan.

My father, Private Jeremiah J. Langone (pictured left), was a Korean War veteran too. After receiving the news of my uncle’s death, my father wanted to enlist in the Army. Both he and my uncle were very close, being only one year apart in age.

The news of Tony’s death was devastating to him. My grandfather insisted he finish high school first and if the war was still on, he could enlist. In 1953, my father enlisted in the U. S. Army. He was ready to go to Korea.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like to lose a son and then have another want to go in his place. I think my grandmother may have breathed a rather large sigh of relief when they found out my father was not going to Korea. The Army would not send him to Korea due to the loss of his brother.

Instead, my dad was sent to Germany for the remainder of the war. My father always wanted to do something to honor his brother. In 2002, the “Sergeant Anthony L. Langone Square” was dedicated at the corner of East Nichols and Main Street in Woburn, Massachusetts in honor of his memory and service to his nation. He worked on this project for many years before it would come to fruition.

Some years later, my father was asked to be on the committee of the Friends of Woburn Veterans. The “Friends of Woburn Veterans” is a group of volunteers established in October 2011 to support various veteran’s projects throughout the city of Woburn. He was fortunate to work on several projects with the group. The first was the All Wars Woburn Honor Roll Wall located on the Woburn Common honoring those who served and sacrificed their lives from the city. He also had a roll in the Military Flag Memorial which was dedicated on November 2, 2019 in North Woburn in memory of S/Sgt. John M. Ferullo.

Sadly, my father did not get to see the completion of the Military Flag Memorial project. We lost him several days later to cancer.

One thing my father taught me was to always respect the flag. He loved this country and always showed his respect for the flag. As a young girl, I always marveled at how he would take his hat off and hold it over his heart at parades when the American flag went by. So, when the flag goes by no matter where I am, I stand with my hand over my heart. I don’t think there are any other colors as beautiful as red, white, and blue.

Freedom is not free. Members of my family fought and one in particular gave his life freely for our freedom. These men are true American heroes in my mind. I thank them and all the men and women who have fought, continue to fight, and those who gave their lives and their service to our country so we can live freely.

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