Fred Howell McMurray, Jr. was born on November 16, 1943 and joined the Armed Forces while in Charleston, South Carolina.
He served as an aviator in the United States Army, Troop B, 1 Squadron, 9th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division, Battalion 1, Regiment 9, and attained the rank of Captain.
Fred Howell McMurray, Jr. is listed as Missing in Action. There is an “In Memory Of” stone in his name in Arlington National Cemetery.
Fred Howell McMurray, Jr, was born November 16, 1943. His home town was Charleston, South Carolina.
McMurray piloted a bubble-topped Bell OH13 Sioux, nick-named “Possum,” which was a standard Light Observation Helicopter (LOH) that saw extended service during the Korean War. By 1968, the US Army was in the process of phasing out this two-man aircraft because the Army had long since found it to be too old and too difficult to maintain under the conditions that existed in Southeast Asia.
On 7 April 1968, then First Lieutenant Fred H. McMurray, Jr., pilot, and Sergeant James J. Powers, observer/door gunner, comprised the crew of an OH13S, tail #63-9084. The helicopter departed Landing Zone Stud, the 1st Cavalry Division's base camp, in a flight of two aircraft. The second helicopter on this armed reconnaissance mission was an AH1G Cobra gunship, and they were flying in support of a ground operation in the dense jungle-covered mountains approximately 6 miles northwest of Thon Khe Xeng, 25 miles due west of Quang Tri, 17 miles west of the
Vietnamese/Lao border and 19 miles south of the DMZ, Thua Thien Province, South Vietnam.
At 1600 hours, Lieuenant McMurray was flying low-level when he reported seeing several recently repaired enemy automatic weapons positions along with freshly used trails. Fred McMurray marked the enemy location with a smoke grenade to allow the AH1G to identify and fire rockets on the target, and at the same time he reported
sighting NVA soldiers, whom he then engaged. The escort gunship continued to place suppressive fire in the area, and transmitted a request for a rifle platoon to be airlifted to the location of engagement to conduct a search and destroy sweep of the area. The rifle platoon arrived in about 15 minutes and landed a short distance away.
While attacking an entrenched NVA position, Lieutenant McMurray's aircraft received enemy automatic weapons fire, began burning in flight, and crashed to the jungle floor. Sergeant Powers, who was badly burned in the fire, was rescued shortly afterward. When queried about the aircraft's pilot, he informed his rescuers that he believed Lieutenant McMurray was still in the aircraft. Extensive searches in and around the crash site over the next few days were unsuccessful in locating any trace of Fred McMurray. However, one American boot-print was seen, along with McMurray's chest protector and helmet. Because there was no trace of him in the helicopter, his family believes there is every reason to believe he was captured. Since there was a possibility he escaped the crash only to be taken prisoner by the NVA, Fred McMurray was listed Missing in Action.
OH13S, tail number 63-9084, is the only “Possum” shot down during the Vietnam War whose pilot remains unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.
Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard