As an armorer charged with fixing the weapons on the iconic B-29 Bombers, Jim Murphy was stationed on Iwo Jima after the allies took the island. He describes dealing with the remaining Japanese forces on the island as well as arming the fighters and bombers for their attack runs into the Japanese main islands.
Interviewee: Jim Murphy
Interviewers: Simon Belcher, Nicole Curtin, Emily Holt, Joseph Swit
Date of interview: 6/22/2016
I would take the guns out of the plane after they were dirty, like you took your guns home. You’d clean them, put them back in, load them up for the next mission. And they would use the guns to fire at tow targets – you ever see the tow targets down [at] the shore with ads behind the airplane going along, “Joe’s Dining Room” and all that business? They were towing those behind the plane, and then the pilots would shoot at them and fly around. And this was unique, the material was wire like screen but it had been somehow imbued with little felt stuff. And the shells, the bullets that came out of the guns had been dipped into wax. Yours were dipped in red wax, green wax, blue wax, whatever. And if you hit the target, of course you went right through, but it left little colors where the hole was. And they could count them and they would know who was hitting and who wasn’t hitting.
The bombing practice … The P-51’s had two bomb racks, one in each wing. And they were using smoke bombs for practice. They would drop it and smoke would come up. There was no explosions. And then, of course, they had three machine guns in each wing, and then they had the two ones. And that’s what I took care of. Every day, you’d be down cleaning guns while these guys would be firing them and putting them back in and so forth.
Christmas Card from Iwo Jima
One other thing I wanted to show you … I told you I sent my mother letters and everything. Here were cards at Christmastime. And there’s a card that some industrious guy out on Iwo made, and I bought some and sent a Merry Christmas. And there’s the actual sands of Iwo Jima. So you put your finger on there, and you can say you touched sand from Iwo Jima. Now don’t rub it off. But that’s why this page is here.
Boat to Iwo Jima
Well, we didn’t know where we were going except we were going into the Pacific, and we figured that they would be going into combat. They gave us a job. My job was to be sea watch. They were passenger ships but they had pits for guns to go in — gun here, gun here and screws here in the front and the bow. My job was to bring ammunition if we ever got into problems, run down to get the ammunition to bring up to the pit. It never happened but that’s where I was stationed. When we had our off-time, they sent us up there to do that kind of work.
The Original Streaker
There was a fella from Baltimore, and he had saved a mattress cover that he had gotten. In the army, we didn’t have mattresses like we have but everybody had a mattress cover. So that when you went to the station, you got a mattress and you’d just slip it in. He kept that to be his sheets. He’d get undressed in the nude and would sleep inside the mattress cover. Ya got that picture, now? That’s how he was. So, on the cot inside this tent on Iwo, Art Forney was sleeping in there in the nude. That’s how he did. In this particular time, there was a beer ration, and every now and then, a ship would come in, and you would get some supplies. And Arthur drank maybe a little too much beer, I don’t know. But, the alarm went off, “blah blah blah,” take to the foxhole. So we all went out and got in the foxholes. “Where’s Arthur?” Arthur wasn’t there. I said, “I’ll go get him.” Stupid me, I’ll go and get him. So, I got out of the foxhole and went back in to the tent.
“Arthur, Arthur, Arthur….”
“There’s an air raid, Arthur. Ya gotta get out.”
Well, he didn’t hear anything, now it was all quiet. “I don’t hear nothing.”
He wouldn’t get up. So, I went back to the foxhole. Everyone asked, “Where’s Arthur?” I said, “He won’t get up.”
“What do you mean he won’t get up?”
“He won’t get up. To hell with him.”
Well, next thing you know, anti-aircraft alarm went off next to it. “Bum, bum, bum, bum.” Here comes Arthur. Not a stitch of clothes on. Dragging his white mattress cover, screaming “MOVE OVER!” He had no helmet, no nothing. I always said that he was the original streaker.