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April 23, 2014

Heroism honored seven decades later

By Linda Shepard
C & G Staff Writer

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Col. Philip Sheridan, Commander of the 127th Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, awarded Alfred Murphy, of Rochester Hills, the Distinguished Flying Cross.

ROCHESTER HILLS — For his acts of heroism in Germany in 1945, during World War II, Alfred Murphy was recently awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

“Over 70 years ago, my brother and I went to war together,” Murphy, 91, said during an April 21 award ceremony at his home. “The B-17 had nine men armed with machine guns and dangerous bombs. We flew five miles high to fight for our country above enemy grounds.”

The award followed an official review of Murphy’s records. According to military officials, the Distinguished Flying Cross award is a military decoration awarded to a person “who distinguishes himself by heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight.”

During Murphy’s service, he and his crew completed 35 flight missions, including a mission over Murseberg, Germany, in which half of their squadron’s B-17s were lost to enemy fire.

Murphy currently spends his time writing and reciting poetry from memory, and speaking to local school children about his experiences as a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber crewman. Among a crowd of Murphy’s family and friends, great-granddaughter Mara Gravlin, 8, attended the award ceremony. The young girl said she has enjoyed many conversations with her great-grandfather about his experiences during the war.

“He says how it was and how it was hard,” Gravlin said. “About when it happened and what plane he was in.”

Murphy is also an active traveler.

“He still keeps in touch with his copilot and visited him last year in California,” Murphy’s daughter Alison Gravlin said. “He will visit his sister, who is 97, next month in Florida and will attend the Honor Flight in June, visiting the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C.”

“I want to thank my children and family for their love and support and aid in getting this award,” Murphy said. He also thanked staffers at American House Senior Living Community, where he lives, for completing the paperwork required for submission to the military. “A task that took over two years to complete,” he said.

Presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross to Murphy, Col. Philip Sheridan, commander of the 127th Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, said, “In our group of people who defend our country, we have differences of politics and religion. But when young men and women are willing to get in a ship or a tank or a plane, and they are willing to defend our Constitution, they are just Americans.

“Just 1 percent of our people are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice,” Sheridan said. “People like Alfred. This is a chance to pay him a little bit of homage.”

“This is 70 years in the making,” Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett said. “It is an absolute privilege that Mr. Murphy calls Rochester Hills home. We celebrate his heroism, courage, timelessness and service.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Linda Shepard at lshepard@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1065.