Charles Maly Murphy

1931 - 2006

Korean WarVietnam War

Their Story

Charles Maly Murphy was one of nine children born to John and Estelle (Over) Murphy. He was born on June 14, 1931, in Davenport, Iowa. His dad was a laborer with the railroad. He had six brothers and two sisters. His sister, Lorraine, died at around 18 months of age, before he was born. He also had a half-brother, William, and a half-sister, Karen, from his mother’s later marriage to Leo Peterson.  In 1940, the Murphy’s lived on Brady Street, Davenport, IA.[1] He graduated from St. Ambrose Academy where he had been a football star.[2] He played left guard for the Knights. From 1946 to 1948, Charles worked as a truck loader for Merchants Transfer and Storage in Davenport.[3]

All of the Murphy boys served in the military.  Brothers Thomas and Robert, who were twins, served in the Navy during WWII. Brother John was a Captain in the Army in Korea and is buried at the Rock Island National Cemetery. Brother Leo was a WWII Marine veteran. Brother Terrance was a sergeant with the Marines in Vietnam and is also buried at the Rock Island National Cemetery. Brother Kenneth served in the Marine Corps during Korea.[4] And half-brother William also served and is buried at the Rock Island National Cemetery. In late August 1953, John and Charles were both serving in Korea and had not seen each other for four years. John found out where Charles was located and took a jeep ride over the hills to visit him.[5]

Charles enlisted in the Army July 12, 1949.[6] As told to John O’Donnell, a popular sports columnist for the Davenport Democrat, Chuck Murphy had a chance to accept a football scholarship at a few schools, including the University of Iowa. He joined the Army instead and became a paratrooper.[7] He went from Ottumwa, Iowa, to Fort Riley, Kansas, to begin his 3-year enlistment.[8] He received infantry and airborne training at Fort Benning, Georgia. He deployed to Korea in March 1951 with the 3rd Ranger Infantry Company (Airborne).  Airborne was a Ranger light infantry company of the United States Army active during the Korean War. As a small special forces unit, it specialized in irregular warfare. WWII Ranger battalions had been disbanded in 1945 but they were resurrected during the Korean War as airborne companies for attachment to conventional U.S. Army infantry divisions.[9]

Charles was assigned to the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division for four months. The company was used for reconnaissance and scouting, investigating North Korean People’s Volunteer Army positions. The company is known for its “Battle of Bloody Nose Ridge”: where on April 11, 1951, on its first mission, it was able to push back the opposing force. The American soldiers called the piece of terrain they had taken “Bloody Ridge”, as UN casualties were 2,700 and the communists suffered 15,000. Very few prisoners were taken by either side. The company was deactivated August 1, 1951, and merged with the U.S. 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team alongside all other Ranger units.[10] Murphy served in Company H.

Charles getting an award

During that first enlistment, Charles served one year and seven months in Korea and Japan. The 187th had been moved to Kyushu, Japan’s southern island to take on a (then Top Secret) mission to save the UN negotiators at Kaesong, North Korea. While in Japan, Charles had training on the Monorail of the C-119 type aircraft at Camp Kashii,[11] attended the Army Forces, Far East and Eight Army football coaches’ clinic in Yokohama, and was promoted to sergeant December 20, 1951. He earned the Combat Infantry Badge, the Army Occupation Medal (Japan), and the Korean Service Medal with four bronze stars. The United States Department of Defense declared thirteen official campaigns of the Korean War, all of which are annotated by service stars on the Korean Service Medal. The Korean Service Medal is authorized a 3/16″ bronze service star for each campaign participated in.[12]

In October 1952, Charles was discharged from the Army. That same month and back at home, he was a pallbearer for a fellow service member, Leroy Frick.[13] Sergeant Frick was a member of Company I, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division and was Killed in Action August 20 while fighting the enemy in Korea.[14]

Charles reenlisted January 15, 1953, for three more years, serving with Co. M, 7th Cavalry Regiment as a heavy weapons infantryman. Two- and one-half years of that service was spent in Korea. He was promoted to Sergeant First Class December 21, 1954. During this enlistment he was awarded the United Nations Service Medal, The National Defense Service Medal, and the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation,[15] which was awarded to all who served in the 7th Infantry Division while that division was deployed to the Korean Peninsula from any time frame between 1953 and 1971.[16] He was discharged from the Army January 6, 1956. After Korea, Charles worked at Ralston-Purina in Davenport, Iowa, for five years.

His civilian employment didn’t last long. According to his sister, Karen, he “didn’t like it much”. He reenlisted September 22, 1961, this time in the Regular Army Infantry. During that conversation with John O’Donnell, Charles told him that he had had 66 parachute jumps, and he felt that was enough. He served with Hq Co 1st Bn, 36th Infantry, USAREUR. He was promoted to Specialist 5 August 17, 1963.

Charles was an accomplished football coach and while serving a tour in Germany, he helped lead the Army teams to many victories. He received the Scroll of Appreciation from the 3rd Armored Division for outstanding coaching and leadership while a member of the 1963 Spearhead Football Team in Frankfurt, November 25, 1963.[17] He completed an additional football coaches’ clinic in 1964. He was discharged again September 22, 1964. He reenlisted 5 days later for six more years. [18] He entered this service in Friedberg, Germany.

Charles with his football teammates

Charles served with the 1st Cavalry Division, 4th Infantry Division, in Vietnam, where he did three tours of duty.[19] He was promoted to SFC in April 1967. He received four Purple Hearts during a 9-month period. All four Purple Hearts (one Purple Heart and three Oak Leaf Clusters) were received for wounds received in action in the Republic of Vietnam. Dates of injury were June 22, July 10, and December 18, 1968; and March 6, 1969. As told to John O’Donnell, he was hit once in the head, once in the arm, once in the leg, and once multiple times. He spent two months in a hospital in Vietnam. Charles also received two Bronze Star Medals (Bronze Star and one Oak Leaf Cluster) for meritorious achievement in ground operations against hostile forces in the Republic of Vietnam during periods April to July 1968, and November 1968 to November 1969.[20]

Charles Maly Murphy Gravesite

In addition to the purple hearts and bronze stars, Charles earned the following during this enlistment: Good Conduct Medal, Combat Infantry Badge, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Air Medal, Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star, Good Conduct Medal (2nd), Armed Forces Honor Medal 2nd Class, and the VCGW. He was discharged August 30, 1970, but reenlisted the next day.

His primary specialty was armor crewman but had a second specialty of recreation supervisor. He was promoted to First Sergeant February 18, 1975. He had nearly two years of foreign service this enlistment. During this time, Charles earned the National Defense Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Vietnam Service Medal, Armed Forces Honor Medal 2nd Class, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (Korea), Good Conduct Medal (3rd), Army of Occupation Medal (Japan), Air Medal, Korean Service Medal, Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm (3rd Award), United Nations Service Medal, Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation, Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star, Combat Infantry Badge (2nd Award), and Parachutists Badge. Charles retired August 31, 1975, after serving 20 years, 2 months, and 8 days. Nearly six years of that was spent overseas.

After retiring from the military, Charles moved in with his parents in Davenport. He enjoyed retirement, choosing not to be employed again. He was 44. Charles loved to golf and enjoyed fishing with his friends in Wisconsin. He was never married and did not have children. Later in his life, he had some health issues, including heart disease, COPD, and diabetes, with sister Karen being his caregiver. He died March 8, 2006, at Genesis Medical Center in Davenport, Iowa.


[1] 1940 United States Federal Census –

[2] Personal interview with sister, Karen Bloom, and her husband, Les Bloom, on 5/25/2022

[3] DD214 dated October 18, 1952

[4] Murphy, Kenneth Lee in U.S. Veterans’ Gravesites, ca.1775-2019 – Fold3

[5] From newspaper article in Charles Murphy’s scrapbook, Sept. 8, 1953

[6] U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010 –

[7] News article from Charles Murphy’s scrapbook

[8] 11 Jul 1949, 2 – Quad-City Times at

[9] Rebirth of The Rangers: The Ranger Infantry Companies in Korea (

[10] 3rd Ranger Infantry Company (United States) – Wikipedia

[11] 7th A.R.C.T. Monorail School Certificate from Charles Murphy’s scrapbook

[12] Korean Service Medal – Wikipedia

[13] 22 Oct 1952, 37 – The Daily Times at

[14] Leroy Arnold Frick | American Battle Monuments Commission (

[15] DD214 dated January 6, 1956

[16] Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation | Military Wiki | Fandom

[17] Scroll of Appreciation dated November 25, 1963, signed by Major General John R. Pugh

[18] DD215 dated August 30, 1970

[19] Charles Maly Murphy (1931-2006) – Find a Grave Memorial

[20] Bronze Star Medal certificates and citation