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The Cherryville Eagle

Cherryville WWII veteran a living witness to surrender of Japan

Nov 08, 2019 08:22AM

Cherryville resident Calvin Murdock, 95, and a U.S. Navy WWII veteran, with a framed photo of himself shortly after his being drafted. He also holds a photo of the last ship he was on, the U.S.S. Charles Ausburne (DD-570). (photo by MEP/The Eagle)

by MICHAEL E. POWELL

Editor

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World War II Navy veteran Calvin J. Murdock was a lad of 17 when he was drafted. World War II had started two years earlier and the sons (his brother Max also served) of Ola Jones and William Murdock would soon be in the thick of things, far from the bluegrass they loved. 

It was May 1943, and the Calloway County, Kentucky boy who called the little community of Lynn Grove home was sent to Great Lakes Naval Training Station in Illinois for his basic seaman’s classes and training, leaving behind his mom and dad, and sister Maydelle.

After Great Lakes Calvin said he was sent to San Diego, California, to the Naval base there, then on to the Marshall Islands, where he was assigned to the U.S.S. Hull, a destroyer which would later be lost to a typhoon, taking many of her men and officers down into the depths with her in 1944. Calvin said he knew God had other plans for him because he had, before then, been transferred to another ship, the U.S.S. Charles Ausburne (DD-570), a Fletcher-class DD, or “tin can”.

“I was a radioman and a gunner in combat,” said Murdock, now 95, and a Cherryville resident since moving here in 1961.

Calvin was born Jan. 18, 1924 and married his wife Sue, nee Howard, a Denver, N.C., native, and they had two daughters: Melissa and Leslie. His beloved wife passed away, he said, in 2002.

“She was working in Charlotte for a cotton company, and I was transferred to Charlotte from Memphis, Tennessee, where I worked for Sinclair Oil Refining Company,” he said. That was after he was discharged from the Navy on Dec. 22, 1945.

“I went to Chicago to get discharged,” said Calvin.

The destroyer he was on was the flagship of Destroyer Squadron 23, skippered by then-Captain Arleigh A. “31-Knot” Burke. 

Burke, much-loved by his men, was later an Admiral, and became Chief of Naval Operations for the U.S. Navy. Adm. Burke has a class of ships named in his honor and memory that are still in service today.

Calvin said he was present at many well-known naval battles pitting the Empire of Japan against the might of the United States Navy, Marines, and Army.

His ship took part in the Battle of Saipan, and he was at the Marianas “Turkey Shoot”, in which scores of Japanese fighter planes kept attacking U.S. carrier-based forces all day, and lost a great many fliers and bombers to the true aim of the American fighter pilots and Navy gunners.

“On Hirohito’s birthday,” said Calvin, “the Japanese sent large groups of fighter planes to attack us. We were doing patrol duty with some of our aircraft carriers. They attacked us early and just kept coming at all day long!”

He continued, “I remember we had soup for lunch; the cook brought it to us because we couldn’t leave our (gun) positions. There were over 175 planes, I believe, that were destroyed by our carrier planes.”

Murdock said he was the one who spotted the first Japanese fighter that morning. 

Murdock said Destroyer Squadron 23 had 10 ships in the squadron left at the end of the war.

Calvin doesn’t say much about DD-350, also known as the U.S.S. Hull, which went down in a typhoon, along with three other American ships; the Monaghan, and the Spence.

“I was at the Battle of Guam, and at Tinian. I was at Pearl Harbor and was scheduled to return to the Hull in a week when I heard she was sunk,” he said, looking away, remembering perhaps some old friends he knew while onboard the ill-fated ship.

Perhaps Calvin’s biggest brush with history came, he said, when the ship was in Okinawa.

“We got there four days after VJ-Day, with nine ships in our squadron,” said Calvin. “The Japanese emissaries came in with three, white planes and taxied in on the water between us and the Missouri, which was anchored offshore. They were taken aboard the Missouri and signed the peace treaty there. We were told to be sitting by our (5-inch and AA) guns in case of a kamikaze attack.”

Murdock said the destroyer and its company later went through the Panama Canal on its way back to Washington, D.C., in order to be there for Veteran’s Day.

“We were then in the Brooklyn Naval Yard until December, and I was sent to Chicago to get discharged,” he said. 

As for college, Calvin said he entered Murray State University, in Murray, KY, in January 1946, then graduated from Murray State University in 1954 with a BS degree in Industrial Arts and Physics. He noted he played football for the Racers in the position of guard but said he remembers enjoying sports.

“I worked on my Masters but I didn’t get finished with it. I lacked a thesis and one semester, I believe,” he said.

Calvin said he worked in the oil business for 25 years and only went back to Kentucky to see his parents and what kin he had still living there. Once his parents passed away, he said he never saw the need to get back up there.

“I chose to make my home here with Sue and our kids, in Cherryville, and this is where I’ll stay, I guess,” he said.

Murdock calls his cottage at the Carolina Care Retirement Cottages home, and he said he loves it there.

He added, “I love all my neighbors here and what (Cottage Coordinator) Becky (Walls) does for all of us who live here.”