Al Murphy, 80, can be found most morning at the American Legion in Marathon, and after a few beers and some conversation, he heads over to the D.A.V.
On Wednesday, Nov. 11, Murphy will have about eight of his Korean War platoon buddies from across the country in tow on his morning round.
Several years ago, the men started the not-so-annual meeting in St. Louis, Mo., and this year, it’s Al’s turn to host the men.
“We got very close living together over there,” Al remembered of his one year, 11 months and 29 days in the service, the majority of those spent in frigid mountains of Korea as a combat engineer with the U.S. Army.
Drafted at 21 in his home state of New Jersey, Al was shipped off to Korea to help clear mine fields along the front lines of battle. He remembers that the Korean explosives were often fashioned out of wood so they would be hard to detect with American sensors. The lack of real food and fatty flavoring were also prominent memories of which he was willing to speak.
“I didn’t see a woman for six months didn’t get any good food and didn’t have butter for a year,” he said.
The beer, on the other hand, was quite plentiful.
“We used to put the beer on a little pot belly stove, and it would turn in to slush,” he laughed. “We always had plenty of beer.”
Al said besides the 35 mm camera he kept with him to snap photos of the Korean landscape for his father; he always carried a tiny Bible that survived total submersion under water and nearly two years of combat. Among his other mementos from the war, Al still carries his Geneva Convention card he always kept tucked safely in his gear in case he was ever taken prisoner.
Group of guys
Al Murphy remembers “eating mess” with men from his unit on the ground in the midst of the Korean War.
Upside down tank
As Al and his platoon members were unloading a tank from a lo-boy, their large tank was overturned and he laughed, likely caused him to never receive a promotion. “We were supposed to put down a ramp, but we were too lazy,” he said. “I got in a lot of trouble for that.”
Al Murphy, in his early 20s, in the heart of the Korean War.
This one among one of the many photos, depicting a mountainside trench, Al snapped with his 35 mm camera for his father back home in New Jersey.