Dwight Murray, Esq. Third InterviewDavid McCarthy2022-04-26T15:45:57-04:00
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ORAL HISTORY OF DWIGHT D. MURRAY
February 8, 2018
This is the third interview of the Oral History of Dwight D. Murray as part of the Oral
History Project of the Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewer is
Gene Granof. The interview took place at Mr. Murray’s office in Washington, D.C., on
Thursday, February 8, 2018.
Mr. Granof: Last time, when we ended you mentioned three very significant things. You got
married, you went into the Marines, and you were accepted into Georgetown Law
School, but you deferred. And so, refresh my recollection about what year this
Mr. Murray: I got married on June 8, 1968.
Mr. Granof: 1968. So, let’s start with your getting married. When did you meet your wife, how
did you court her?
Mr. Murray: I met my wife in college. I bought a book from her, and she was very beautiful, I
thought, but I had absolutely no money to date, because I was on a shoestring
budget working my way through college. It wasn’t until I got an additional
stipend on a History scholarship. History was my major, and the chairman of the
department gave out a scholarship to the outstanding History students every year.
I was lucky enough to get that scholarship, so I was able to have extra money to
have a small social life. The first chance I got, I asked her for a date. And that was
it. That was it. Fell in love. Took a while to fall in love, but I fell in love, and I
proposed to her in my senior year, my last year in college. We got married.
Mr. Granof: So how long did you date?
Mr. Murray: Dated about three-and-a-half years.
Mr. Granof: So, she was a New Orleans girl?
Mr. Murray: She was in New Orleans. Very smart. Came from a very good family. I would say
I married above my station in life. Her father was a college professor, and she
graduated either number 1 or number 2 in high school, and number 2 in college.
Very, very smart. National Merit scholar, honors graduate, you name it, she had
it. And she was very independent thinking.
Mr. Granof: And did she go to college at Xavier?
Mr. Murray: Yes, we both met at Xavier University in New Orleans. That’s where her father
taught. That’s where her mother went. Both of her parents were college graduates,
both of them had advanced degrees.
Mr. Granof: What did her father teach?
Mr. Murray: Art History. And he had his advanced degrees from the University of Indiana. The
first date is an interesting story because her father was a very intimidating man,
and I don’t intimidate. I knocked on the door, he answered it, he invited me in, sat
me down, and I knew it was coming. The third degree. I said to myself I’m going
to cut this third degree short. And frustrate him a little bit. I did things like that.
You know, it’s not that I was being difficult; I just got tired of going through the
third degree every time I decided to go take a young lady out and meet her
parents. He was puffing on his pipe, and he looked at me and he said, “Tell me,
young man, what are you interested in?” And I just said one word,
“Communism.” And all of a sudden, his face changed. He said, well I’ll go see if
she’s ready, and my mission was accomplished. I cut the conversation short, he
knew I wasn’t interested in communism, but I told him that just to back him off a
little bit. But we had a great relationship. He respected me and I respected him,
but I wanted to draw the line in the very beginning that I don’t push around easily.
We enjoyed each other the first date, and then eventually we got married.
Mr. Granof: And you proposed to her in your senior year.
Mr. Murray: I proposed to her in my senior year, I didn’t have a job, I had maybe a couple
hundred dollars in the bank, I had orders to go to the Marine Corps in October of
’68, and we got married in June of ’68. The question was getting a job between
graduation and the time we would leave to move to Washington.
Mr. Granof: And she was okay with your decision to go in the Marines.
Mr. Murray: Well, I told her that before, you know, I proposed, and I would understand if she
said “No, I don’t want to wait for somebody who may or may not come back.”
This was during the height of the Vietnam War, ’67; there was the Tet offensive
’68; there was pretty intensive fighting; and the Marines were always on the front
lines. I didn’t know where I would be sent, I didn’t know what would happen to
me, and I laid all that out. But, you know, she was understanding, and she said
yes, and we just kept our fingers crossed. But my story isn’t different from a lot of
stories. World War II, Korean War, World War I, you know, a lot of guys were in
my position where they had someone they loved, the war broke out, they felt the
need to serve their country, and their wives, their future wives understood; they
did their duty, some of them came back, some of them didn’t. My story wasn’t
any different than any of those. I didn’t think I was special or an exception to the
many men in uniform during times of war who went before me.
Mr. Granof: I think you’re right about that. There were a lot of people who said let’s get
Mr. Murray: Yes, because remember while I was in college, I tried to get in the PLC law
program, but I ran into problems with the recruiter, and so it didn’t really happen
until my last year in college, when the recruiters were changed — the guy
accepting me – and I couldn’t get a deferment from the draft board. This was all
planned, but I wanted to go in as a lawyer, but it just didn’t work out that way. I
was going to go in, but I didn’t go in the way I wanted to go in.
Mr. Granof: Because of prejudice?
Mr. Murray: Well, yes, that’s right. That was the primary reason. But you don’t let that stop
you if you want to accomplish something, and that’s one of the goals I set in my
life, I wanted to be part of the Marine Corps, see if I liked it, see if I could meet
the challenge, because it’s a very challenging organization, and you wanted to test
yourself. So that’s one of the things I wanted to do. And that happened. We
moved to Washington after we got married. Well, before we moved to
Washington, I worked at a business school teaching inner city kids, and I told you
about that brief experience, and I was very successful. Students liked me. I had
absolutely no problem with discipline in my class. The students were very
responsive to the instructions. They learned something and I learned from them.
The students gave me a big plaque to remember them when I left.
Mr. Granof: And this was in?
Mr. Murray: In New Orleans. And then my wife and I, in late August, I packed everything I
owned in the trunk of my car, which wasn’t much, and we moved up to D.C.
Mr. Granof: What made you decide to move to D.C.? I mean the Marines could have sent you
Mr. Murray: Well, because I was going through training at Quantico, which is right down the
road, and my wife had a job at the Veterans Administration. She got selected for
the management training program. I mean she was heavily recruited by the
government, she wanted to work for the government. She was recruited by Social
Security, the VA, and a couple other agencies. They put her in the management
training program, and she worked for the VA Hospital in New Orleans while we
were waiting to get transferred up here. So, we moved up to D.C., we got an
apartment in Northeast on Second Street, right at the intersection of Hawaii
Avenue right behind Catholic University. And I commuted to Quantico when I
was in Basics School, just about every day, except when I had night tactical
exercises — that’s what they call it.
Mr. Granof: How did you manage to commute? That’s a long way.
Mr. Murray: Well, the first 10 weeks, when I was in OCS, I stayed primarily on base because
that was like boot camp.
Mr. Granof. In other words, you went in, but you hadn’t been to OCS before.
Mr. Murray: No. I hadn’t been in OCS. October 14, 1968 is when I took the bus from the
Greyhound Bus Station right at New York Avenue to Quantico, and I checked in,
reported in, and then waited to get assigned. The first day it was hectic. It was a
madhouse because it was a shock value, and the drill instructors did that on
purpose. They were masters at it. They take you from a civilian, a sloppy civilian,
and they’re trying to turn you into a disciplined Marine, and so they start the
breakdown process on the very first day, so it’s a lot of yelling and screaming,
you’re running everywhere, you’re carrying your foot locker with you, you’re
going into the barber shop, you get all your hair shaved off, you get your uniform,
you go to your barracks, you get your rack, your bed, you got a little foot locker,
you got three utilities, two pairs of boots, three pairs of underwear, three socks,
everything’s in three’s. You’re supposed to keep it clean and spit-polished the
entire time. Well, the first five weeks, the first six weeks, I stayed on base because
they didn’t allow any leave or liberty. After the first six weeks, they let you go
home on the weekends. So, I would come home on the weekend, and then Sunday
night take the bus back to Quantico, until I graduated. I graduated in December,
and in January I reported to the Basics School at Camp Barrett.
Mr. Granof: Tell me more about 10 weeks of basic training. It’s physical, isn’t it?
Mr. Murray: It was physical and mental. Physical. The first three or four weeks were very
rough. We started out with 50 guys in our platoon. We graduated, in my platoon,
maybe 27, 30, so there was a high dropout rate. Lot of people just dropped on
request, DOR, drop on request, because the training was too tough.
Mr. Granof: And what was tough about it? Like marching?
Mr. Murray: Marching was easy. It was the tough physical stuff. The DI’s would like to give
you a big lunch, big greasy lunch, before a big hike, because your stomach would
be heavy with spaghetti, meatballs, whatever they served you that day, but it was
always a day, and then we had to hike two miles to the “Hill Trail” with a full
backpack, rifle, canteen, and everything. The “Hill Trail” was a series of hills that
you had to hike once a week.
Mr. Granof: Like 80 pounds, 70 pounds?
Mr. Murray: The backpack wasn’t that heavy, but it was heavy, maybe 50 pounds, to the Hill
Trail. Now the Hill Trail, every Marine officer who went through OCS at
Quantico will tell you about the Hill Trail, because it was a punishing hike. It was
a series of hills, up and down, and our training was in the wintertime, so the
leaves had already fallen, our boots were not like the boots they wear now, where
there are grips at the bottom. Our boots were leather bottom, like the old World
War II boots, and you would be slipping as you go up, the DI’s did that on
purpose just to frustrate you, so you had to understand the mind games, because
they wanted you to get frustrated, they wanted you to quit because if you quit
under those circumstances you would quit under any circumstances when the
going got tough, and they only wanted people who could hang in there and never
give up. That was their goal, to weed out those people.
Mr. Granof: There were other physical requirements, weren’t there?
Mr. Murray: Oh, we had PFT test, physical fitness test, you had to do a minimum of 12
pull-ups, 40-50 pushups, you had to do a broad jump, you had to run three miles
in a certain amount of time, my best time was about 18 minutes.
Mr. Granof: Pretty good.
Mr. Murray: That was good. I couldn’t do that again to save my soul. I could barely walk now
with my back. But that was a good time to run the 3 miles in boots.
Mr. Granof: So, you must have been in reasonably good shape because I don’t hear you
saying, “Oh this was really tough on me, you know, it was rough.”
Mr. Murray: The physical part wasn’t tough. The obstacle course, I was always very agile, I
had good upper body strength, I had good endurance, so the physical stuff wasn’t
that tough. The hill trails were tough, but the other training was not that tough to
me, and the Marine Corps was relentless in putting you in shape. Just to tell you
what kind of shape I was in, I came home right before I went to Vietnam, and one
of my friends and I decided to go to the Lakefront, Lake Pontchartrain, to go
swimming, and this was in the summertime, during the heat of the day. I said
well, before I go in the lake, I want to go for a run, because I was trying to
acclimate myself. I had my orders to go to Vietnam, so I was trying to stay in
shape, and I went for about a three-mile run, and it wore him out, and this guy
was in pretty good shape, and then I took my running clothes off, jumped in the
lake, and swam way out and back, and I never thought about it. He said he tried to
keep up with me and almost died. I said, “Well, you know, we’re active every
single day. We’re doing something every single day. I don’t expect you to be able
to keep up with me, so don’t feel bad about it. I’m in the best shape I’ve been in
my life, and I want to stay that way when I go over there.” I never thought about it
until then because there was a comparison between me, who was in really good
shape, and my friend, who thought he was in good shape but really wasn’t.
Mr. Granof: No, he wasn’t doing the kind of physical activity you were doing day-in and dayout.
Mr. Murray: Day-in and day-out you go on hikes, with full backpacks, you go night patrolling,
you go, you push yourself to the limits, and it’s constant. You spend a lot of time
Mr. Granof: I was going to ask you about whether you spent time in class.
Mr. Murray: Yes, in the classroom. In the Basics School, it was a combination of classroom
work, physical training, learning about weapons and tactics. The first thing they
teach you is weapons. You learn about all the weapons.
Mr. Granof: And this was after the 10 weeks?
Mr. Murray: In the 10 weeks, you stay in class, but not as much. It’s more a physical challenge.
Mr. Granof: And how many hours in class? I’m just curious.
Mr. Murray: About once or twice a week, maybe a couple of hours a class. You would have a
class maybe on map reading, you’d have a class on weapons, on your rifle, on a
machine gun. They wanted you to learn the ins and outs of all the weapons used
by Marine infantry units.
Mr. Granof: And did they test you?
Mr. Murray: We had tests on that in the 10 weeks, the OCS part of it, but I can’t remember too
much of the tests that I took in OCS. I do remember a lot of the tests we took at
the Basics School – they called it TBS — because we were tested all the time.
TBS was right on the other side Interstate 95 where I first went for training.
Mr. Granof: The reason I’m curious about it is I was trying to compare Marine training with
my experience at Navy OCS.
Mr. Murray: Completely different. In Marine training you can’t drink any soft drinks, you
don’t make any phone calls, you don’t have access to anything in OCS. You live
in a 50-person barracks. By the time you graduate, that’s been cut in half. More
physical, to weed out the weaker limb. And the weak of mind. I was tired. I
always had a good night’s sleep at the end of the day. You went to bed early. For
me it was early. For me, 10:00 o’clock was early. Lights out 10:00 o’clock or
Mr. Granof: You previously told me you were a night owl.
Mr. Murray: Yes, I was a night owl, and the lights came on at 0530, and you were constantly
running. You had 3, 5 minutes to make up your rack, get dressed and fall outside.
There was someone yelling at you all the time, all the time, they’re yelling at you.
At six weeks, it became a little bit more temperate because they accomplished
their purpose. The DI’s saw that the group was coming together as a unit. By that
time, the six weeks, we’re in decent physical shape, so the DI’s were not as strong
or not as abusive.
Mr. Granof: Did it seem like a long six weeks?
Mr. Murray: Looking back, no. But looking forward, when you’re living day to day, yes, it was
tough, you never thought it would end.
Mr. Granof: So, you got out and that must have been a proud moment.
Mr. Murray: It was, it really was.
Mr. Granof: Is that when you get your commission?
Mr. Murray: You get promoted in the Marine Corps the day you graduate from OCS, you
become a second lieutenant. It’s not liked the Army or some other services where
you go through boot camp and then you go to another school, and then after you
graduate from that school, you become an officer. No, in the Marine Corps, after
you finish OCS, you’re promoted to second lieutenant, and then you go to The
Basics School where you learn weapons and tactics.
Mr. Granof: And in Basics School, you could commute to Quantico?
Mr. Murray: That’s when I commuted just about every day, except when I had night problems
like night patrol, night ambushes and night tactical problems. As long as I could
make 5:30 formation, which meant I had to leave my house in Northeast
Washington by 4:00 a.m. and be on the base by that time. That’s when the route I
took was called Shirley Highway instead of what is now known as I-395.
Mr. Granof: The traffic was lighter then.
Mr. Murray: Traffic was a lot lighter then, and I put the pedal to the metal. I really moved out.
I used to break my record, going from Northeast D.C. to Quantico was 55
minutes, and that’s pretty good. You lost most of your time going through the
city, but once I hit Shirley Highway at that time, I really stepped up.
Mr. Granof: And so, Basics School was mostly classes?
Mr. Murray: It was classes, but it was also training because we went on a lot of hikes; we went
on patrolling; we learned tactics about a platoon accompanying an attack, a
platoon accompanying a defense, how to set up a defensive perimeter. You
learned how to set up your weapons, you learned land navigation, but the most
fun I had was patrolling. I liked being out in the woods, I liked exploring new
trails, I liked setting up defensive positions. I enjoyed that part of it, but that kept
you out at night, so I had a room. Married guys had a room. There were about
three of us in this room that we shared. When we had night problems and we
stayed out too late, I couldn’t drive home all the way to D.C. and back to make an
early morning formation, and so I stayed on base.
Mr. Granof: And who were the teachers? Other Marine officers?
Mr. Murray: Senior Marine officers, all combat Vietnam vets, every single one of them.
Mr. Granof: And did they talk about their experience in Vietnam?
Mr. Murray: No so much. It wasn’t about war stories. It was about teaching what they learned
from their tour in Vietnam.
Mr. Granof: In terms of “this will serve you well, you better learn this because . . .”
Mr. Murray: Yes. Well, what would happen, officers, commanders in Vietnam would send
letters, or at the time it was letters – it wasn’t e-mail because we didn’t have
e-mail – they would send letters back to the Basics School saying “This is what
the enemy is doing now.” For example, at the battle of Hue, during the Tet
offensive, the Marines did not have training on house-to-house fighting. After
Hue, they built a village which simulated some of the buildings that Marines had
to attack in Hue, and what they taught you was how to attack a building, how to
clean out a building, which they didn’t do back in ‘66 or ’67 before the battle of
Hue. So, they kept up to date with the tactics based on the conditions on the
battlefield. And if the conditions changed, they sent word back to the Basics
School, and they changed their curriculum to fit what the enemy was doing on the
battlefield. It was a constant state of change. They kept up to date. They were very
good at that.
We learned how to do that, but everything culminated at the Basics School
in what they call a three-day war. That’s when you’re out in the field for three
days moving like a unit, like a company. The first night, when we were in class to
get our orders and get the plans of what’s going to happen for the next three days,
there was a huge thunder burst; I mean rain came down in buckets, and I’m saying
to myself maybe they’ll cancel the three-day war. No way. We went out in that
rain, and I tell you it was pouring. But then you say to yourself, people don’t stop
fighting because of the weather conditions, so this is a good experience, that we
Mr. Granof: That’s positive spin on it for sure.
Mr. Murray: Well, yes, you had to look at it, say okay you’ll get wet, and you’re soaking wet. I
didn’t sleep that night. We went on a patrol and then we went on a night ambush,
and then the next day, with no sleep, the company commander made me the
company messenger. Now the company messenger is a guy that when one platoon
commander has a message he wants to give to another platoon commander, you
run from person to person, full pack, rifle, everything. I was running up and down
the line, you know, with no sleep, up and down, up and down. And then they
changed company messengers, and I was huffing and puffing. And then they
made me part of the mortar group, which meant you had to carry an M-60 mortar
with a 60-pound base plate and ammunition. That’s two nights I didn’t get any
sleep. And the third day we went out on ambushes again. For three days I didn’t
have any sleep. When we got back to base after the three-day war, I came to the
room, I was going to take a shower, but I wanted to check to see if the shower was
empty. Someone was already in the shower, so I had my helmet on, my pack, and
my rifle, and I sat down on my rack, bed, and I fell asleep just like that. Didn’t
wake up until the next morning with my helmet, my pack and my rifle over my
shoulder in a sitting position. That tells you how tired I was.
Mr. Granof: And never got the shower?
Mr. Murray: Never got the shower. But we had the day off that day, so I drove home. And then
that was the big event, that was the culminating event of the Basics School where
you put all your training into focus.
Mr. Granof: And were there no people who failed out in Basics or did most of the people get
Mr. Murray: Yes, they winnowed people out. There were guys who went on a night navigation
course. One guy got lost. He was out all night. He knocked himself out. Ran into a
tree. He was gone. And a couple of guys, the exhaustion got to them. One guy had
an epileptic seizure on the three-day war, and he was a fine physical specimen,
but you know, just the strain of not knowing how to pace yourself, it got to him,
and he got a medical discharge. One of the things, if you ever stepped out of line,
if you ever got a DUI, DWI, you were out. If you ever missed or came back late
from leave, you were out, because it was very disciplined.
Mr. Granof: Did they just discharge you?
Mr. Murray: They put you in a reserve unit. They wouldn’t send you into a combat unit, but
they found a way to keep you away from the fighting Marines because if you
were irresponsible with yourself, you would be irresponsible with others. The
Marine Corps had a very, very strict code in that regard. They respected their
troops, and they wanted people that they respected leading their troops. They
looked at your conduct very closely. And throughout the whole OCS and Basics
School experience, you were also subject to peer evaluations. Your peers were
evaluating you not only on your physical abilities, but also on your leadership
abilities, your knowledge and everything. And that was one way they kept in
touch because, in other words, you were always being watched — not like a spy —
but the question is do you want to go into combat with this guy. And if the answer
was no, the leaders found out about it because that came up on your peer
Mr. Granof: I never knew that.
Mr. Murray: The Marine Corps has what they call the truth teller when you do evaluations of
your officers. Let’s say you are a company commander. You have four lieutenants
commanding your platoons in your company. They are all great officers. They are
all outstanding. They all have excellent fitness reports. So the truth teller forces
the company commander to rank those lieutenants from top to bottom, and when
you rank at the top, and continually rank at the top, those are the ones that become
your generals because most of the Marine generals, you’ve seen them, they’re all
squared away, they’re all exceptional individuals. These are the guys who rank 1
and 2 consistently throughout their military careers in the truth teller.
Mr. Granof: It’s a very merit-based organization.
Mr. Murray: Yes, very merit based, very subjective. Now once in a while you get two guys
who are equal, just about, throughout their career. Same experience, same
background, same kind of fitness reports, but the truth teller will separate
number 1 and number 2.
Mr. Granof: That’s interesting.
Mr. Murray: It’s an interesting organization, the Marine Corps.
Mr. Granof: So, you got through all that?
Mr. Murray: Got through all of that.
Mr. Granof: And you got orders?
Mr. Murray: Got orders to Vietnam.
Mr. Granof: And when did that happen?
Mr. Murray: That was in July of 1969. I went over to Vietnam in July of ’69.
Mr. Granof: But at what point in your basic training did you get your orders?
Mr. Murray: The last month of basic training. The very first day of OCS in October of 1968,
the drill sergeant said everybody’s going to Vietnam.
Mr. Granof: You weren’t surprised by that?
Mr. Murray: No, no. That was no surprise. Everybody did not go to Vietnam, but most of the
guys I went through training with, they had to go to Vietnam. When you went in
the Marine Corps back in the late 1960’s, you know where you were going.
Mr. Granof: So, your orders say report to where?
Mr. Murray: Westpac. Western Pacific FMF, which meant I had to go to Okinawa, so I flew
from New Orleans to San Francisco.
Mr. Granof: So, you had some leave, right?
Mr. Murray: Yes, 30 days leave. So, I spent 30 days with my wife, she was expecting, she was
going to deliver in January. I left July 19th
, I believe. Flew from New Orleans to
San Francisco, San Francisco to Hawaii, Hawaii to Wake Island, Wake Island to
Guam, Guam to Okinawa. Everybody on the plane was a Marine. No civilians. It
was the longest, it was my first time on a plane, too. Never been on a plane
Mr. Granof: So that must have been a bit traumatic, I mean leaving your wife and she was
Mr. Murray: Well, there’s a saying, you get your orders, you pack your bags, you kiss your
wife goodbye, and that’s it. I had my orders, I packed my bags, and I kissed my
wife goodbye. That was in the days when you could actually, your family, could
walk to the gate where your plane was departing.
Mr. Granof: I remember those days. Before all the security.
Mr. Murray: Before all the security. They didn’t even have any hijacking going on at the time.
My wife was there, my parents were there, and my brother had already been in
Vietnam, my brother just came back, he was at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. I was
on my way and he came back.
Mr. Granof: He was Army?
Mr. Murray: He was Army. He was a LRRP, long reconnaissance patrol. Let’s see, I got to
Okinawa and I spent 3, 4, 5 days there, I forget, and one of the most revealing
things of this whole experience, one of them, I was waiting for orders to go into
Vietnam, because you go from Okinawa to Vietnam. I was in the Officers’ Club, I
had lunch, and I went to the bulletin board, because when you are in transition
Mr. Granof: Officers’ Club in where?
Mr. Murray: I think it was Camp Hanson in Okinawa. And on the bulletin board was this news
clipping, and it was about this Marine helicopter pilot who was a veteran of 800
combat missions in Vietnam, 800 combat missions, got killed in a motorcycle
accident in Okinawa. And I said to myself, you know, you go when it’s your time,
so no matter what happens, you can’t be afraid of what goes on. If it’s your time,
you might die before you get to Vietnam. If it’s your time, you might die on your
way to Vietnam. If it’s your time, you’ll die in Vietnam. Therefore, you tell
yourself don’t worry about it because there’s nothing you can change about that.
Just do your job. That was my mindset. The concern about being killed left my
body at that time. I’ll just do the best I can with what I have, and that’s it. And it
was a pretty good experience, good in the sense that you learn a lot about
yourself. I had some good troops under my command.
Mr. Granof: So, you go from Okinawa, and you’re told to report where?
Mr. Murray: Well, there was an attachment with the first FSR –
Mr. Granof: FSR?
Mr. Murray: I forget what that meant. Logistic command. And I picked up a platoon that did
security for that base. That base got hit a couple of times.
Mr. Granof: This was when you were in Vietnam?
Mr. Murray: Yes.
Mr. Granof: But from Okinawa your orders say report to a particular place?
Mr. Murray: A particular place in Vietnam. I forget. I think it was the first FSR. And I went to
the headquarters there, division command, and then they assigned me to this
combat operation that was attached to this unit.
Mr. Granof: So, you’re assigned to a particular platoon?
Mr. Murray: Yes. And I picked up a platoon that didn’t have a platoon commander.
Mr. Granof: And you are now the platoon commander?
Mr. Murray: I am now the platoon commander.
Mr. Granof: This is your first experience with command?
Mr. Murray: Right.
Mr. Granof: So, what’s it like? I mean you’re responsible for what? 40 guys?
Mr. Murray: Well, it was about 25 or 30. It was a reduced platoon. It was interesting because
these guys, they need a lot of training. Some of them were in-country, some of
them had been in Vietnam for a long time, some of them were new, a lot of them
were in between. But they weren’t well trained. The first thing, I started training
them, I started training them in patrol techniques, I started getting them in shape,
went out on patrols with them, taught them about security, taught them about
ambush sites. Because they haven’t had a platoon commander in such a while,
they were kind of haphazard, and their patrol techniques, they were haphazard in
how they set up their weapons.
Mr. Granof: But they were part of a company?
Mr. Murray: They were part of a company.
Mr. Granof: And you reported to the company commander?
Mr. Murray: Right.
Mr. Granof: The captain?
Mr. Murray: Right. My captain. That lasted, I don’t know, three, four months.
Mr. Granof: While you were there, you said you went on patrols. Did you engage the enemy
Mr. Murray: Yes. Called in gunships, artillery strikes.
Mr. Granof: But you guys were getting shot at?
Mr. Murray: We were getting shot at. And that lasted for about, I don’t know, about three, four
Mr. Granof: Did you lose people?
Mr. Murray: Lost one guy, but we lost him after I got transferred. I lost one guy.
Mr. Granof: But I mean during that period.
Mr. Murray: During that period, I didn’t lose anybody. When they were part of my platoon, I
didn’t lose anybody.
Mr. Granof: You were on patrols and safeguarding the space?
Mr. Murray: Yes.
Mr. Granof: But close enough so you were in contact?
Mr. Murray: We would get hit and we would go out, and after I called in the gun ships, this
was at night, I would get a platoon organized, we’d go out and patrol and all we
could find were blood trails. We knew we killed a lot of people that night because
the helicopter pilot would tell us he would see bodies flying up in the air. If you
ever saw a gun ship, you see them in the movies, where there’s a constant stream
of 7.62 rounds. It goes [gun sound imitation]. That’s the sound they make. You
don’t hear tch tch tch tch, you don’t hear that, it’s a constant stream, a thousand
rounds a minute, more than that. I forget, so many rounds a second, I mean it
comes out in a constant stream, a red line from the gun ship straight down to the
target, and when you consider that every fifth round is a tracer, so every fifth
round is red, and you see one straight line of red so you know there’s a lot of
bullets going out; yes, we hit somebody, we saw him fly up in the air, so you’d be
on the radio with them, and you try to stay in contact; meanwhile I was getting
my platoon ready so at the crack of dawn we would be out searching to see what
we could find, and all we found were blood trails, all we found were blood trails.
Mr. Granof: Never found bodies?
Mr. Murray: Never found bodies, which was not unusual, because they probably had tunnels
close by where they could take the bodies. If some of the enemy were alive, they
wouldn’t leave bodies for you to count. They would take the bodies with them
back in the tunnels. However, if you killed everybody and there wouldn’t be
anybody to clean the battlefield, then you can do your body count, which I
thought was a waste of time anyway. That lasted a couple of months, several
months, and then this ammo storage area got hit, got attacked.
Mr. Granof: Where was this? Do you recall?
Mr. Murray: This was about maybe five miles from my base, and my commanding officer told
me that he wanted me to take over security of this ammo dump, where they kept
all the rounds, all the artillery rounds, you know they stored them in these berms,
and it was a prime target.
Mr. Granof: So, you were sitting literally on a powder keg?
Mr. Murray: Yes, and it was right by the infiltration route on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, so it was
part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. I set up security there, we beefed up the security,
we used barbed wire.
Mr. Granof: Was this the same platoon you had?
Mr. Murray: Whole different outfit because I moved, not my platoon. They wanted me to move
to and take over security of this place, so that’s what I did.
Mr. Granof: And you were still a second lieutenant?
Mr. Murray: I was still a second lieutenant. Right.
Mr. Granof: And so, they basically assigned you a platoon, or more than a platoon?
Mr. Murray: Well, I had maybe 30 guys, or 35 guys under me. I had a gunnery sergeant, I had
two sergeants, and the rest were either lance corporals or PFCs, but the gunny did
most of the work. The gunny was pretty sharp. He was a former scout sniper, and
we picked up some enemy VC right in our camp, because the gunny spotted this
guy pacing off for an artillery strike. He said, “Lieutenant, watch this guy.” I’m
learning, I’m still learning. And a guy who is like in his third tour, he said, “He’s
pacing us off. We’re going to’ get hit, but before we get hit, we’re going to’ grab
him.” So, we went down there, and we grabbed him, we arrested him, we turned
him over to CID, you know the Intelligence Unit, and sure enough he was a VC,
working in our base. That was common. In my other unit, one night we got
attacked, and one of the guys that was killed was the guy that cut hair on base. He
was a friendly employee during the day, and a VC enemy at night. So that’s the
kind of war that was. That was the kind of war that was.
Mr. Granof: A little unnerving.
Mr. Murray: Yes.
Mr. Granof: To have the barber, the guy who’s cutting your hair and sometimes maybe has a
razor in his hand.
Mr. Murray: He’s there to gather intelligence. What better way to get intelligence than sitting
in a barber chair listening to these guys mouth off about things, because men have
a habit of telling jokes, telling stories, spilling their guts, if you will, when they’re
sitting in a barber chair, or sitting waiting to go into a barber chair. It was a
perfect place to pick up information.
Mr. Granof: He must have known English.
Mr. Murray: Oh, yes. Just about everybody on that base who worked for base people knew
English. Just about everyone. Not all the Vietnamese knew English. That was my
first experience trying to communicate with somebody where I didn’t know their
Mr. Granof: I’m interested in what you might call the psychology of command, or at least that
of a young person, a brand new officer, faced with the task of commanding 30, 35
people, wanting them to respect you, also probably aware that you had control
over their lives, you wanted them to be safe to the extent you could in a war zone.
Mr. Murray: Well, one thing, you wanted to gain their confidence, and you had to earn it. You
automatically had their respect because of the rank on your shoulders. They will
salute you and whatnot, and they’ll pay the proper respect because you’re an
officer. But you wanted that loyalty where they follow you anywhere, and that
you have to earn.
Mr. Granof: And you were aware of that?
Mr. Murray: Oh, yes, you earn that over a period of time, you earn that by watching out for
them, you earn that by protecting them, you earn that by taking care of them, you
earn that by teaching them, you earn that by disciplining them, you earn that by
drawing them in as a unit, and this unit when I first took it over was sloppy. First
thing I did, they didn’t like it, but I got them into shape. And one of the things you
were taught in OCS is pain can be a unifying factor, so if everybody’s suffering,
you have something to identify with. And if their suffering is caused by one
person, namely me, then you have something to bring them together, and then
sooner or later, you loosen up, you teach them why you’re doing the things you’re
doing, and they begin to understand, and then you take them out on patrol, you
teach them the right way to patrol, the wrong way to patrol, how this can cost
your life and how this can save your life. Then you begin to earn their respect,
which is the main thing you want to do.
Mr. Granof: Sounds like you were comfortable in that role.
Mr. Murray: Oh, yes, I had no problems with leadership, I had no problems with leadership at
all. I didn’t shy away from it. I was a leader in the Boy Scouts.
Mr. Granof: This is the same kind of self-confidence that would make you a good trial lawyer?
Mr. Murray: I didn’t know about that at the time.
Mr. Granof: Looking back?
Mr. Murray: I guess so, but the main thing I wanted to do is teach these guys, keep them safe,
and protect them, because at a certain point, thank God, never had to ask any of
them to die for me, or die to carry out an order, you know, because we were
fortunate. We were very, very fortunate. You know I got off the phone a couple
weeks ago, because I am the chair of my reunion committee, we have our 50th
reunion coming up with my Basics School class. One of my favorite buddies, his
name is McGrath, and I called him up, and tried to talk him into coming to the
reunion, and he said, “Well, I got problems, I got post-traumatic stress disorder.”
He got shot three times in Vietnam, three times; he was a company commander.
He said, “I don’t know if I’d like to come there, might bring back memories.” I
told him, “Look, these guys, all they want to do is have a good time, that’s all
they want to do. You don’t have to sit down and talk about what you did in
Vietnam. You can talk about what you did in OCS, talk about what you did in the
Basics School, you can talk about what you’re doing now, but you don’t have to
talk about the war.” So, I’m very close to having him come, very close. In fact,
I’m going to call this weekend, and check with him.
It’s that kind of thing, you know, you form that bond, that brotherhood
that they talked about, which is true. It’s a very true statement, and you carry that
on, and I wanted to protect these guys who were my responsibility. I think it
would be hard to live with myself if somebody got killed because of a mistake
that I made.
Mr. Granof: But you did have to go out and patrol with these guys, and presumably you were
patrolling because there were Vietcong around?
Mr. Murray: Vietcong. We captured some, captured, I don’t know, four or five Vietcong.
Mr. Granof: Did you have fire fights?
Mr. Murray: No, we caught them by surprise. Caught them when they weren’t armed, when
they were working in the village, and we grabbed them, we ran them through, got
on the radio.
Mr. Granof: How did you know they were Vietcong?
Mr. Murray: Well, they were supposed to carry IDs, and we checked their ID with the CID
leader, the Criminal Investigation Division, people that were responsible for
interrogating enemy prisoners, and they had a list, and sure enough, these
Vietnamese had fake IDs. We turned him over, and those guys turned out to be a
VC. We did that several times. Well, after the ammo story, then they had a brig
riot. The Marine Corps had a brig, and the interesting thing was that when the brig
got attacked by the NVA and the VC, they thought the prisoners who were
incarcerated would revolt. They didn’t revolt, they fought. They underestimated
Marines. Even Marines who were being disciplined by being incarcerated fought
with their Marine buddies. After the ammo storage areas got secured, they sent
me over to the 3-MAF brig to work.
Mr. Granof: What’s it called, the 3-MAF?
Mr. Murray: The Marine Amphibious Force, 3 for the Third Marine Division, Marine
Amphibious Force. I went over there, and I was the only officer there working in
the brig, but I had professional staff, guys whose military billet, their MOS, was
Mr. Granof: And these were Marines?
Mr. Murray: These were Marines. Some Marines and one, one was a Navy guy, I still
remember his name, PN1 Walters, that was a mouthful for me. You had to call
him that. I said can I call you “1” and he said “No, PN1 Walters.” I said “Okay
PN1 Walters.” So, I was in charge of that, and I had a platoon for that operation as
well. Most of the members of my platoon were guards in the brig. That was
interesting. I had a very good First Sergeant named Top Baker, and I more or less
turned everything over to him, quite frankly, because these guys were a tight knit
group and they were professionals. When I was introduced to the platoon of
guards, I gave the shortest speech I ever gave to a new platoon I was taking over.
I pointed to the sergeant, and I said “That’s my sergeant, he is your sergeant, I
support him 100 percent.” Then I turned to the sergeant and said, “Dismiss the
platoon.” That was it. And I wanted the sergeant to know that because he was
very experienced. I wanted him to know that I had his back, and I wasn’t going
interfere unless it was absolutely necessary because he was very experienced, a
very capable NCO. And I didn’t have any problems. I stayed there for the rest of
Mr. Granof: And how many people were in the brig? How big a brig was it?
Mr. Murray: It was several hundred. We had all kinds of guys, we had murderers, we had guys
who were arrested for black market activities, but by far the most dangerous of
the prisoners were the guys who disrespected authorities. We had guys in there
who were accused of killing innocent Vietnamese and they got caught in the
crossfire when there was such a political uproar, I mean good Marines that were
just in a bad place at the wrong time. I felt sorry for them because here they had
this murder rap hanging over their head, and they were just victims of
circumstances. But things worked out for them. We had guys who were very
smart. Had this one guy in the brig, his name was Green, black guy from Detroit,
a high school dropout, 158 IQ, because I looked at his record, very smart, but his
only ambition was to get involved in a life of crime. And I made it my mission to
try and work with him. Couldn’t reach him. Could not reach him. Could not reach
him at all. I always wondered what happened to him. We had other guys that you
could reach, but this guy Green, I mean the guy was brilliant, just never had the
Mr. Granof: Now these guys must have been awaiting trial?
Mr. Murray: Some of these guys were sentenced. Some of these guys were awaiting trial. They
had to separate them from the unit.
Mr. Granof: But anybody who was sentenced to a long-term sentence would be sent back to
Mr. Murray: Eventually, yes, they would be sent back to the States. Some of these guys, quite
frankly, I don’t know how they got in the Marine Corps. We had one guy, my job
was to put them into certain classifications, minimum security, medium security,
maximum security. There was one guy they brought in, I walked in the interview
room, he was sitting on a table, sitting on a table. I talked to him for maybe three
seconds to see who he was, identify yourself, and I told my First Sergeant,
maximum security. Just like that. I would normally put them in Medium, and if
you can’t get along with people in Medium Security, then you send them to
Maximum. This guy, Maximum, right away. And he wound up, same guy, second
day to the Maximum Security cell block, he wound up attacking one of my
guards. Evidently, he made some kind of sharp instrument and slashed my guy’s
face while he was being fed. After chewing out my guy, my guard, for being so
lackadaisical in the way he treated this guy, you know, I went after the prisoner,
and we disciplined him. And the way you discipline him, you handcuff him and
immobilize him, so he cannot cause people any more trouble, because he was
kind of dangerous, he was mentally off, he was unbalanced, and I don’t know
how he got in the Marine Corps; after being recruited, I don’t know he survived
basic training. That was a mystery to me because this guy obviously had mental
problems. Several of the guys who were in that brig should never have made it in
the Marine Corps. The only explanation I can come up with, because I used to
have this conversation with my senior staff NCOs, is that perhaps they survived
because they were so closely supervised, because in Basic you don’t have a
moment to yourself, someone’s always watching you. And the minute they had a
little bit of freedom, that’s when the bad angel came out that people had to deal
with. But that was an interesting experience. We had one brig riot while I was
there, and the CO sent me in to calm the riot down. That was interesting because
all the guards were out. When the prisoners started rioting, they brought the
guards out until things calmed down, then we’d go back in. I said, “Well let me
go in and see if I can get the situation under control.” I went in, no guards, the
doors were locked behind me, it’s a big open area, and guys were coming out of
their huts, the minimum, the medium security people. I said let’s go in your hut
and talk because I knew it was going to be a gripe session. We don’t like the food
here, sir; we don’t like this; we don’t like that; we’re not getting enough meals.
Then it’s just a question of sitting down, listening to the gripes, letting them get it
out of their system, figure out who the leaders are, and then split them up. That
was my goal. I came there, sat down, listened to the gripes, figured out who the
leaders were, and I said “Okay, let me see what I can do about it.” Then the next
day I split the leaders up, put them in different locations; no more trouble.
Mr. Granof: I may have asked this before, but how big a population did you have in the brig?
Mr. Murray: Oh, we had a couple hundred.
Mr. Granof: That’s a pretty good size.
Mr. Murray: We had close to 200. Close to 200. Given minimum, medium, and maximum
security. And that’s where I stayed until I got promoted to first lieutenant there,
and that’s where I stayed until it was time for me to come back home. The year
sort of went by. It went by I can’t say “fast” because that’s when I’m looking
back, but looking forward I was probably one of the shortest lieutenants, and
when I say “shortest lieutenant” I’m talking about a short timer. By the time I got
to that, I had maybe a hundred days left, but I didn’t tell anybody. And then I
went on R&R to Hawaii, met my wife, and this was in May, and I had already
been in the country for 10 months. Most people go on R&R at the halfway point.
But I waited until 10 months. I said it would be psychologically debilitating to
leave R&R and go back to Vietnam and say you’re only halfway through. So, I
wanted to wait.
Mr. Granof: In other words, the practice was if you had been in combat for six months, and
then you got 30 days leave?
Mr. Murray: Then you want to get back to your unit. And I wanted to get back to my unit. But
it was so nice when I kissed my wife goodbye in Honolulu and said I’ll see you in
Mr. Granof: And by then you had a child?
Mr. Murray: By then, yes, but my daughter didn’t come on R&R.
Mr. Granof: It was a daughter, and what was her name?
Mr. Murray: Michele. She was my first born. As I said earlier, I didn’t see Michele until she
was six months old, when I came back, because my wife was staying with her
parents and working with the Veterans Administration in New Orleans. That was
a good thing the VA did for her. You know, while I was in Vietnam, they sent her
back to New Orleans so she could have the baby, have my daughter, live with her
parents so she could have some support, someone to watch the baby while she
was at work. So that was a good setup, and when I came back from Vietnam, I
didn’t tell anybody I was coming back. I just landed at the airport in New Orleans
and took a cab to my in-laws’ house where my wife and daughter were staying.
One of the first thing I noticed that was different was that the cabs were now
integrated. Around the time I left to go to Vietnam, there were black cab
companies for black people and there were white cab companies for white people.
This time the cab driver happened to be white, and I gave him the address.
Mr. Granof: Were you in your uniform?
Mr. Murray: I was in uniform, yes. I didn’t have much clothing. I probably had a pair of
civilian pants, a couple civilian shirts, and that was it. Most of the time you wore
your uniform, or you wore your jungle utilities. In Vietnam it was always jungle
utilities, but when you are sent back to the States, they return your uniform that
you had stored while you’re in-country, so I had on my Charlie’s, my summer
Charlie, which, at that time, was a khaki shirt, khaki pants, and a khaki cover.
There’s another name for it but I can’t say it on the tape, and I had my ribbons
and whatnot. The cab driver drove up to the door on Willow Street, which was
uptown New Orleans, I knocked on the door, my father-in-law answered the door
and welcomed me in. Everybody was glad to see me, my wife was in the
bathroom at the time taking a shower or something, and I saw my daughter sitting
in one of these little swings, for the first time picked her up, didn’t put her down
for the rest of the day.
Mr. Granof: That must have been wonderful.
Mr. Murray: It was, it really was.
Mr. Granof: So how would you characterize your experience in Vietnam if you had to
Mr. Murray: Well, in several ways. It was an eye opener. You have such great people in this
country, serving their country. The Marine Corps is such a fantastic organization.
It has its pluses and minuses. The war itself, I came to the personal conclusion
that it wasn’t being fought correctly. Being a second lieutenant, if you can make
Mr. Granof: But being a second lieutenant on the ground in Vietnam, you certainly can make
Mr. Murray: You don’t give up territory that you fought and shed blood to get, you don’t give
that territory up. But the biggest revelation, the people didn’t care, the South
Vietnamese people just didn’t care. The South Vietnamese were not as motivated
as the VC and the North Vietnamese. Not all of them were like that, some of them
were hellfire fighters. I worked with a group they call PRU, Provisional
Reconnaissance Units. These guys were killers. Every single one of them in that
unit had somebody who was killed, murdered, or tortured by the VC. There was
hatred in their blood, and you could look in their eyes and see hatred. You know
they went out to kill, to kill the enemy. You had strong soldiers like that, but you
had other soldiers who just didn’t care. You saw brand new Army trucks filled
with soldiers and their wives and their girlfriends going out on picnics.
This is a combat zone. Marines had beat-up trucks, the South Vietnamese
soldiers had brand new stuff, brand new equipment, brand new trucks, brand new
jeeps, brand new everything, brand new guns, and some of them were in the fight
but a lot of them weren’t, and this was their country. You saw that the will to win
the war by defeating the enemy was not there, it just wasn’t there. It wasn’t there
in the fighters, and it wasn’t there in the people who they were fighting for. They
were there to get as much as they could get out of the Americans, and that’s it.
Mr. Granof: When you left Vietnam, did you feel the war was unwinnable?
Mr. Murray: I didn’t feel the war was unwinnable; I thought we didn’t have the will to win,
which is a big difference. When you enter a war for the purpose of getting a
reasonable settlement, then you’re not in the war to win, and if you’re not in the
war to win, you’re wasting a lot of lives, and I thought the bombing should have
been relentless. It wasn’t. A B52 strike would take the starch right out of your
collar, and you don’t even have to be there. All you got to do is just be in the area
and hear the ground tremble. I don’t know what the politicians were thinking back
home, but if you get into a war, you get into it to win. The purpose of war is to
achieve a political goal. If the political goal is to defeat communism, then the
political goal should have been to defeat North Vietnam, and you do that through
relentless war fighting, and that wasn’t the case here. You bomb here, but you
can’t bomb there. And we never invaded the North. How do you conquer the
enemy if you don’t invade their territory? I mean there were reasons for that that
I’m not privy to, that was way above my pay grade, but if you did any reading
about World War II and you saw that the goal was unconditional surrender, that
leads to a whole different method of fighting. That’s relentless fighting, and that’s
not what we did in Vietnam. So, when you come back — and one of the sad days
was April 30, 1975, when you saw the fall of Saigon, and you saw people being
chased out of their own country — and you say why did we do that? Why did we
go over there and fight for South Vietnam for it to end like this? And then when
you start reading about it, and read all the political intrigue, mistakes, and the
broken promises that we as a country made — you know Ho Chi Minh fought with
us during World War II, on the promise that he would get his country back. We
broke that promise. There was supposed to be an election, but because we thought
that Ho Chi Minh would win, we supported Diem and the country was divided,
and it stayed divided. You know from a political standpoint that wasn’t right.
From a moral standpoint that wasn’t right. From a military standpoint it wasn’t
right if you weren’t going to back it up with all of America’s might. You don’t
fight a war with one hand tied behind your back.
Mr. Granof: So, you’re either all in, or you shouldn’t be in?
Mr. Murray: You’re all in or you shouldn’t be in. Precisely. Because it’s waste. The way the
first Iraq war was fought, that’s the way it should have been. Overwhelming
force. This country can exhibit overwhelming force; we didn’t do it in Vietnam.
It’s sad. Every time you go to that wall, you see all those names on there, and you
ask yourself, what did we accomplish? Nothing. Right now, it’s one country, and
it’s Vietnam and its now under communist rule. How does one explain to the
families of those whose names are on The Wall?
Mr. Granof: And we’re friends with them.
Mr. Murray: Yes. But we became friends with the Germans and the Japanese after World
War II. That’s not a problem. The war in Vietnam was a waste. When you come
right down to it, we were fighting for a cause that was destined to fail. A lot of
people were killed or maimed for a lost cause. Nevertheless, some of my Marine
buddies want to go back to visit. I never want to go back there. It’s beautiful, an
absolutely beautiful, beautiful country. I mean the beaches are to die for. Plus, I
stood on top of a mountain one time when I was on a patrol. On one side of the
mountain I saw emerald green rice paddies, and on the other side emerald green
South China Sea. It was a beautiful sight. But I wouldn’t go back there.
Mr. Granof: And why?
Mr. Murray: Because I thought it was a waste, I thought the South Vietnamese people did not
fight hard enough for their own country. The desire wasn’t there. And I personally
resented that when they had so many young Americans dying the South
Vietnamese were not as motivated as those in the North. Young Americans who
went over there were people who believed in our country, who answered the bell,
who fought for the freedom of others in a far-off land. These young Americans
were the guys right out of high school, out of the factories, out of the auto
mechanic shops, guys who pump gas. You know these guys didn’t have a lot to
go back to when the war was over with. They were lucky to get their jobs back,
most of them. I mean these young American soldiers and sailors, these young
Marines were able to operate millions of dollars’ worth of equipment, and they
were dealing with life and death situations all the time. Yet they had a hard time
getting jobs when they came back. It wasn’t right, at least that’s the way I felt.
You know, I was lucky, I had a college degree and I had ambitions of going to
law school, but I always thought about, you know, guys like Savage, he was a
corporal in my outfit. Bridges, a factory worker from the Midwest. What did they
have to go back to? And these guys, they saw a lot, before they came to my unit
they were up in the DMZ, they saw a lot of action. I mean their eyes looked old
before their time. You could see it in their eyes. They saw a lot of stuff they
shouldn’t have seen at that young age. And what did they have to go back to, and
for what? When you look at the end result, what we accomplished by being over
there almost 10 years, you don’t have anything to show for it, but a lot of lost
Mr. Granof: It’s a tragedy.
Mr. Murray: Yes, it is and was a tragedy.
Mr. Granof: When you got back to New Orleans, did you still have time to do in the Marine
Mr. Murray: Yes. I got orders to go to Quantico and so we moved back. We drove from New
Orleans back to D.C. On the drive back to D.C., driving through the South, I still
had a time finding a hotel that would accept me and my family. Segregation was
still alive and well in the South in the mid-1970’s. When I reported to Quantico,
my wife and I had to find a place to live. This time we decided to live in Virginia.
We got a place around Landmark shopping center because it would be easy for
my wife to commute into D.C. Also, it wasn’t a bad commute for me to Quantico.
So when I went there, the first day I reported to Headquarters, they said,
“Lieutenant, we’ll give you three choices, you can go to OCS as platoon
commander, you can go to Basics School as a platoon commander, or you can
command an SDT platoon.” SDT is Student Demonstration Troops. The Student
Demonstration Troops are the bad guys who train the officers. So, in other words,
they pretend to be the enemy on tactical exercises. I thought about it and I said if I
went to OCS as a First Lieutenant, I wouldn’t be doing anything because the
sergeants did all the work. I said the Basics School, I would be watching a bunch
of second lieutenants and that was not too exciting either. Then I said give me the
SDT platoon. I took the SDT platoon, and that was exciting, because these guys
as you brought them out, you did the operations, you did tactical problems and
you brought them back and whatnot, and I was enjoying it. I had my own parking
spot right outside the barracks, I got along well with my CO, got along well with
the battalion commander. The battalion commander was a squared away
lieutenant colonel. I remember when he conducted an inspection of my barracks.
He said, “Lieutenant, are your barracks are ready for inspection?” I said,
“Colonel, my barracks are spic and span, my barracks are ready.” And he
immediately went to the shower. He looked around, you couldn’t see any dirt, the
shower was spotless, and he bent down and picked up the drain cover on the
shower floor, you know where all the water goes, and took a pencil and scooped
up soap scum, and he said, “What do you have to say about this?” Now I would
have passed a white glove inspection if he had done anything else. I said, “Well,
that’s something the lieutenant is going to have to take care of, Colonel.” He
knew he had me. He just wanted to take the starch out of my young hide. That
was pretty good. I thought that was good. I said I got to remember that one. The
colonel probably had someone do it to him many years ago and was passing the
lesson along. I guess it was part of tradition.
I got a call after about two or three months there, I got a call from
Headquarters, Marine Corps, and they wanted me to transfer to Headquarters,
Marine Corps, to the branch there, in the G1 division. And I thought about it,
because I liked my platoon, I liked that I had my own parking spot, I liked being
on base, and I got along well with the other platoon commanders. I thought, “But
I’m not exercising my mind, and I know I’d be going to law school the following
year.” I said okay, and I got transferred to Headquarters, Marine Corps. I got a
little desk in a cubby hole, I didn’t have a parking spot except way, way out, and
this was at the Navy Annex. I don’t know if you remember where the Navy
Mr. Granof: Yes.
Mr. Murray: It’s no longer there, they tore it down. It was on Columbia Pike. I worked for the
G-1 Division writing policy for the Marine Corps. I was in charge of all off-base
and on-base housing. I was the lieutenant in charge of all base housing for the
entire Marine Corps, so I did some traveling with the Pentagon off-base housing
inspectors. I was the low-ranking officer there. Everybody else was either a
colonel, a major, or a general. I was the lieutenant. I got a chance to write some
policies. I got a chance to visit some Air Force bases, some Naval bases, didn’t
include the Army, but that was it. And then I waited. That was when my colonel
at G1 was a Vietnam vet, a company commander, and a battalion commander in
Vietnam, a Naval Academy graduate, spit and polish. I came into my cubicle one
day, eating my breakfast, and he said “Lieutenant, get in here.” I came up, and his
cubicle was right next to mine, so he heard me eating my breakfast. He said,
“When you come to work, you come to work to work, you don’t come to work to
eat breakfast, you understand what I’m saying?” I said, “Yes, sir.” That was the
last time I ate breakfast in the office. Even now I don’t eat breakfast in the office.
I appreciated that. In my exit interview, he said “I was pretty hard on you.” I said,
“No, sir, every time you were hard on me, I deserved it, and I became better for
it.” And he thought that was the right attitude. And I was serious about it too. He
was a good leader and set a good example. To this very day, when I come to work
in the morning, I sit at my desk and begin to work. But he was a good leader, and
a strong leader, and I appreciated it. After my exit interview, I left Headquarters
Marine Corps,got on my motorcycle, and drove to Quantico for my final physical
Mr. Granof: You were driving a motorcycle then?
Mr. Murray: I had a motorcycle at the time. I drove a motorcycle to Quantico. Had my exit
physical. Got the clearance from the corpsman and the doctor. Got on my
motorcycle, drove home, changed my clothes, took my uniform off, put on
civilian clothes, drove to Georgetown’s main campus and went to orientation for
Mr. Granof: And what year was this?
Mr. Murray: This was 1971.
Mr. Granof: This may be a good place to stop.