A Soldier’s Story: Remembering Lt. William Murphy ’63
November 04, 2010
Within six months of graduating, William C. Murphy had joined the Army at a time when it was not the popular thing to do. Independent and always his own man, he wanted to do something for his country.
A member of the Class of 1963, Murphy did his basic training at Fort Dix (New Jersey) and then went on to Fort Benning (Georgia) where he attended Officer Candidate School.
Commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant, he was soon plunged into the middle of a burgeoning conflict in Southeast Asia, serving in Vietnam just as the U.S. was stepping up its involvement there.
A Platoon Leader in Company C, Second Battalion of the First Infantry Division (18th Infantry), Murphy served his country with distinction while in Vietnam. However, on October 5, 1965, while on a mission, he was killed when his unit was ambushed.
"Our records reflect that he is the only alumnus to have been killed in combat during the Vietnam War and his classmates have remained remarkably loyal to him and to his legacy over the years," says Anne Sant '88, director of Alumni Affairs.
Just shy of his 24th birthday at the time of his death, Murphy made a lasting impression on everyone he knew, from his friends and family to his fellow alumni and his brothers in arms.
Among the awards and commendations that the Taunton native received are: the Purple Heart, two Bronze Stars, the National Defense Medal, the Vietnam Defense Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Combat Infantry Badge, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, the Republic of Vietnam National Order 5th Class Medal, and the Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry.
His classmate Richard Anderson, who went on to become a Marine Corp Captain, remembers Murphy as "a bon vivant, fun-loving young man, dedicated to learning and with the ability to be a friend to everyone he met. He became a citizen-soldier who placed his learning and faith at the service of his country."
Four days after Lt. Murphy's death, then Alumni Association President Daniel O'Connor '57 wrote in a letter to Murphy's parents "we shall always remember that he laid down his life to preserve an ideal which it is our duty as young Americans to keep alive..."
More recently, during this year's Alumni Weekend in October, classmates, friends and members of the Murphy family gathered in the Chapel of Mary for a special Mass in memory of Murphy and of the sacrifice he made for his country. (Visit here to view a photo gallery of the recent memorial Mass and tribute to Lt. Murphy)
The College's ROTC provided military honors during the Mass. To see photos from that event, visit our Lt. Murphy Snapshot.
At Stonehill, Murphy was an honors student, majoring in English. He served as an assistant editor of CAIRN, the College's literary magazine and was also was a member of the drama club and played intramural basketball.
Soon after he died in combat, the Veterans' Club of Stonehill held a dance in honor of Murphy with proceeds going towards a Memorial Fund.
On the occasion of their 25th class reunion in 1988, the Class of 1963 established the Lt. William C. Murphy Memorial Scholarship in honor of their classmate. The Scholarship, which benefitted three students last year, is awarded annually to academically qualified students with demonstrated financial need.
According to classmate Anderson, who has been involved in keeping Murphy's memory alive, "we refuse to let Billy become a footnote in history because to Stonehill veterans like me and others, he is an icon and we want others to know of his sacrifice."
In addition to the scholarship, a memorial was created in his honor by his classmates and veteran comrades. The memorial is displayed near the ROTC department headquarters and includes the telegram that his family received informing them of his death. It also includes letters from President Lyndon B. Johnson and General William Westmoreland, who commanded American forces in Vietnam, as well as Murphy's Purple Heart.
In 1994, Stonehill's Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps established the annual Lieutenant William C. Murphy Memorial Award, which salutes a graduating Stonehill ROTC cadet who best exemplifies the traits of patriotism, duty and dedication to the College and the country.
For more information, contact Communications and Media Relations at 508-565-1321.