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Lt. Col. Russell E. Murray

By Terry D. Janes

 

 

Some of Lt. Col. Murray's battalion officers at Ft. Dix in June of '44.  One was killed at the Moselle, another severely wounded.  Another man was killed mistakenly by the FFI.  Another had to be relieved due to mental trauma.  Lt. Col. Murray is seated in the center.  Lt. Col. Murray had written later about the action in which "Curly" Burnette was killed on a bridge over the Nied River.  The man on Murray's right was killed, as was the man standing directly behind him.  The officer to his left was badly wounded.

 

Anyone familiar with the 317th Infantry Regiment's 2nd Battalion should be familiar with Lt. Col. Russell E. Murray.  Lt. Col. Murray was relieved of command during one of General McBride's many fits of rage.  Murray wasn't the only one to suffer such abuse, or to be blamed for matters, which were McBride's fault.  McBride's action put a black mark on this man's military career unjustly.  With the help of Lt. Col. Murray's family, I want to help set the record straight.  Lt. Col. Murray was a fine officer, who cared about the welfare of his men, and despite being put into an impossible situation, he led them well.  As well as any officer could anyway, under the circumstances.

 

Lt. Col. Russell E. Murray, was the Commander of the 2d Battalion, 317th Regiment, 80th Division through about Sept. 25, 1944.  After being relieved of command by General McBride (as was Col. Cameron) he became commander of the HQ Battalion of XII Corps, which put him in frequent contact with Gen. Eddy and a few times with Patton.  Lt. Col. Murray commanded the 2nd Battalion through the Moselle crossing and bridgehead.  He never took it as a personal affront re: his leadership of his battalion, that he got fired by McBride.  He said they had had several run-ins over several matters, he despised McBride, and said he was surprised he'd not been relieved before that for some of the things he'd said to him (i.e. "You can go to hell!").  Not long after he went to work at XII Corps, McBride had a call made to see if they'd send him back to command the battalion again, but he declined considering he'd be under McBride again, and XII Corps said they couldn't have him back, "should have kept him there to begin with".  Col. Murray sat with Cannine during the phone call and it tickled him very much to hear the end of the conversation.

 

His main complaint was that the General made too many decisions based on looking at a map instead of first-hand observation of the ground.  They had argued about where he had placed his outposts on one occasion, Col Murray not placing them where the General demanded; for that would have left the men totally exposed.  By simply moving them back some; to a tree line, he'd still been able to have them observe the same terrain and approaches, but do so from a concealed position.   These were the kinds of things that the General did that ate at him.  They got into a big row over who should control the mortars assigned to the battalion; artillery or the infantry.  Col. Murray confided that the only time he ever removed his wedding ring was the morning they crossed the Moselle, for after the first attempts he expected to get killed.  He said that McBride had gotten word he would be canned if he didn't get over the river the day they finally got a bridgehead.  Col. Murray suspected that from the subdued manner McBride had the night he asked for ideas from the regimental and battalion c.o.'s and said ' he'd listen to any ideas at all ' - a complete turnabout in his normal manner.   Later when Col. Murray was at XII Corps as HQ commandant this was confirmed by a friend working there during the incident.  He said the fact that McBride had listened to Murray's idea for getting over the river was a shock, being as it came from Murray.

 

Later when Murray got canned by McBride, he was at the regimental C.P., Sept. 25, and Col. Cameron had summoned him there to tell him he was going to rotate the Battalion commanders to the rear for a couple of days' rest.  McBride came in, demanded to know what Murray was doing there instead of with his battalion, and when Cameron explained, McBride said Murray had no business being at the C.P. or getting a rest and relieved him on the spot.  To say he was dumbfounded doesn't do the situation justice.  That was that, except for the later attempt to bring him back to the battalion.  Many of the things he spoke of about the war, he only told of in detail very late in life.  He never got over how poorly the regiment got dealt with when they first attempted to make the crossing of the river - that it was just one hell of a mess and got a lot of men killed needlessly due to the haste and lack of preparation and faulty intelligence about what they faced.  His good friends (and his wife had been good friends with their wives) that he mentioned a number of times were Col. Paul Roberts, Col. Sterling "Curly" Burnette, Karl Neussner, and a Col. Koob (Bill?).

 

If anyone should have any information about the men in the photo above, or about Lt. Col. Murray, his family and I would like to hear from you.  Lt. Col. Murray was a fine officer and even though he is now deceased, his side of the story deserved to be told.  May he rest in peace!

 

 

 

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