Major Alva Murphy
By Merle Olmsted
Alva Murphy was not an original member of the group, and it is not known when he joined the 357th. However, since he scored his first tow victories on the 27th of November, 1944 (and added two more on 2 Dec), he had probably arrived in early fall. He was a Captain at that time, and possibly came from a staff assignment or had been an instructor.
Assigned first to the 362nd Squadron, he was transferred in January, 1945 to the 364th, as Operations Officer.
The 2nd of March, 1945, was a very bad day for the 357th, as five pilots failed to return from a long mission to Ruhland. Captain Donald McGee led the mission that day with take-off at 0806 hours, and "Down" time of 1320 - well over five hours. the group pilots claimed 13 enemy aircraft shot down and another 25 destroyed on the ground. Two of the air victories were Me 109s shot down by Murphy. Bank, Crawford, Lepore, and Murphy were shot down by ground fire, and Patrick Mallione was probably the victim of an enemy fighter. Ray Bank and Rocco Lepore became POWs and the other three were KIA.
Murphy was leading the 364th Red flight with Howard Wesling on his wing. In a recent letter to the author, Wesling says he recalls the incident well: "We were strafing an airfield with quite a number of planes on it. Murphy was hit in the coolant. We pulled up to about 3,000 feet and after a few minutes his engine quit., He rolled over and bailed out. His chute did open, but I did not follow him down."
Weslings statement in Murphy's Missing Aircrew Report (MACR), confirms his two 109s shot down and relates his bailout, as above, but adds that he saw him land in a field.
The picture clouds up at this point as the records I received from the army do not tell us what happened to him except that he was KIA. This is in sharp contrast to the extensive investigation in the Browning/Simpson cases and also with William Mooney.
The group records for March tell us that there would be no more airfield strafing unless ordered. "At this late stage, results do not justify the cost."
Many MACRs contain translations of Luftwaffe records pertaining to that particular case. One of these German documents, "Report of Captured Aircraft", under "Fate of Crew" says: "1 dead officer, Murphy, Alva C. 0-441009, name ascertained by 1st lt. Oertel, Airbase Hq, Koethen, buried in Grosbzig cemetery." The document also says "probably shot down by an FW 190", which would appear to be in error.
Murphy was listed as MIA until September of 1945, when enough evidence had been gathered to change his status to KIA.
His father, Joseph Murphy, of Knoxville, TN, apparently made the decision for his son's body to remain permanently in Europe, and he is in the American Military cemetery in Luxembourge.
The question of what happened to Major Alva Murphy must remain open since we know that he bailed out successfully and apparently landed unhurt. What happened after that is still unknown.
Alva with his Mustang "Bite Me" 44-63765, C5-Unknown.