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The Return Of A Marooned Marine

He has been buried at his home more than seven decades after his death!
Sergeant Richard Murphy Jr was one of more than 72,000 US soldiers listed as “missing in action” in WWII. He was killed in the Pacific off the coast of Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands in June 1944 at the age of 26. Although the US Army recovered a part of his remains – which washed ashore – long ago, the part remained unidentified.
Initially, Sergeant Murphy Jr’s remains were buried in an American cemetery in the Philippines. The Department of Defence recently exhumed them and confirmed his identity. A senior Defence Department official said that the US government had decided earlier in 2018 to exhume the remains of unidentified soldiers who had sacrificed their lives in WWII. The official also said that Sergeant Murphy Jr managed to return to his country (posthumously) with the help of modern science, a determined military historian and a family, whose members are dedicated to keeping his memory alive!

Richard Murphy Jr

Finally, the US Marine returned to Maryland, his home state, and was buried at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Silver Spring, where his mother was also buried. “It has been an odyssey,” said Gerry Murphy, Murphy’s 68-year-old nephew. The nephew also said: “We took it for gospel that Uncle Richard was MIA and he’d forever live in our hearts, but now… It’s amazing, it’s mind-boggling and it’s beautiful.
Sergeant Murphy Jr was born to Mollie and Richard Murphy, an automobile dealer, on June 7, 1918 in Columbia. After graduating from Georgetown University, the youngest of the Irish couple’s four children joined the Evening Star daily as a journalist. The experience proved beneficial for him, as he joined the US Marine as a war correspondent. He was blind in one eye, but the US forces sent Murphy Jr to the front lines to chronicle the war.

The US-Saipan route

Next year, Murphy Jr left for the Japanese stronghold of Saipan. He and other US Marines were onboard a vessel that could navigate land and sea. When his fleet reached the Northern Mariana Islands on June 15, 1944, the Japanese forces started firing mortars. As the vessel got stuck on a coral reef, Murphy Jr’s fellow Marines escaped the vessel by jumping overboard. However, Murphy Jr decided not to leave the vessel and help an injured soldier instead. “A shell came down and blew the craft out of the water. Neither of them was ever seen alive again,” stressed Gerry Murphy.

A Marine presents a folded American flag to Jeanne Minahan Robinson, Richard J Murphy Jr’s niece, on December 1.

Three months later, Murphy Jr’s family received a telegram in which it was stated: “Deeply regret to inform you that your son … is missing in action … I realise your great anxiety, but details not now available.” In 1945, the family received another telegram that confirmed his presumed death. The US Marine also sent Murphy’s trunk – containing 22 books, four notebooks and two tobacco pouches – to his parents. However, the family did not receive his body. For the rest of their lives, Murphy Jr’s parents displayed a framed picture of him and the Purple Heart medal, a US military decoration awarded in the name of the president to those wounded or killed while serving. Murphy Jr received the medal posthumously.
Gerry Murphy – who had inherited the framed picture – received a phone call in 2014 from Kuentai-USA, a non-profit organisation dedicated to bringing home the remains of WWII service members lost in the Pacific. At first, he thought it might be some kind of scam. A Kuentai official told Gerry Murphy that he would have to receive Uncle Richard’s remains, if they found it. Gerry Murphy and Sergeant Murphy Jr’s niece Jeanne Minahan Robinson received his remains in the last week of November. Robinson’s DNA was used to help identify her uncle’s remains.
Finally, members of Murphy family joined together in a true sense!

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