Senior Master Sergeant
Recently, I had the pleasure to speak with Senior Master Sergeant Joseph Murphy. He is a very humble man who served this country for 27 years. The Air Force was in his blood, with military principles guiding him through life as a world traveler, dedicated husband, and caring father.
From a young age he was very patriotic. He wanted to serve his country and he could not wait to get into the military. He first enlisted in 1953, went to basic training at Sampson Air Base in New York, then attended tech school at Laurie Air Force base in Denver, CO in February 1954. By mid 1954 he was stationed at K13 Suwon, Korea and then in 1955 transferred to K6 Poiang Tec, a Marine base replacing the 3rd Marine air division. From there he was assigned to the newly constructed Air Force base in Plattsburg, NY, living at Lake Champlain College until the base was completed. In October 1957 he left the service, but returned to service in December of 1957 to Plattsburgh, NY. He then went to Morocco in July 1959 in support of the B-47 Stratojet, a long range strategic bomber.
In the years 1954-1955, Murphy became a Korean War Veteran. He received a Korean Defense Medal after retirement, for service in support of The Cold War in Morocco 1960, and the Cuban Missile Crisis in Spain 1960-1963 at Argos Air Base where he loaded nuclear weapons on B-47s. This is where he also met his wife, got married, and had their first child.
In September 1963 at an Air Force base in Blytheville, AR he was a weapons loading chief. In 1965 he went to Korat, Thailand building bombs and then delivering them as aircraft ordinance, 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. In 1965-1966 in Toro, Spain he was a weapons loading chief. There he was responsible for loading nukes and conventional bombs onto F-100 Super Sabre fighter aircraft. In 1966-1969 his home base was Spain, but he would TDY to Libya and Turkey, rotating every three months between Spain, Libya, and Turkey. In 1969 he was stationed at McCoy Air Force base near Orlando, FL in charge of quality control on weapons systems for F-4 Phantom fighter aircraft until 1970. In 1971 he went to Ubon, Thailand in a quality control and evaluations position, 12 hours a day, 6 days a week for the F-4, B-57G, and AC-130 aircraft, along with the management of storage facilities and anything that had to do with weapons. In 1972 he was at McDill Air Force base in Tampa then off to Thailand where he was a lead gunner on an AC-130E Gunship and H models, patrolling the Ho Chi Minh trail. Their missions were mainly conducted at night, except for supply boat escort in the daytime, during which they were dangerously exposed out in the open. It was a prize if the enemy was to bring them down.
His expertise served him well in combat missions for three years in Thailand 1965 -1966, 1971 & 1973 on the Ho Chi Minh trail. Every mission was a combat mission, they would spend 4-5 hours, 100 miles or more deep into enemy territory. In 1965 he spent the first year building up bombs in the storage area. In 1966 he worked on quality control for bombs on B-52s Stratofortress bombers. On April 1, 1973 while supporting Cambodian ground troops, the aircraft was hit. On this particular mission they were tasked to illuminate enemy territory with flares to see where the enemy was. It wasn’t until after they landed that they realized they had been hit by a Strella, heat-seeking shoulder-launched surface to air missile. Fuel was spilling out as they found a huge hole in the wing between number 1 and 2 engines on the left wing.
After that, in 1974-1977 in Italy with the Italian Air Force, he worked as a senior load monitor at Ghedi Air base. On to Myrtle Beach in March 1977 where, as a superintendent, he was one of the first people assigned to a weapons load crew for the A-10 Warthog, low altitude close air support aircraft. Senior Master Sergeant Murphy developed unit & mobility codes for the A-10s. He was unable to fly his last combat mission due to a hydraulic leak, shortly before leaving the military on September 30, 1980.
From 1953-1980, Senior Master Sergeant Murphy received many ribbons and medals and is on the Wall of Honor, at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, VA. He received one of the highest declarations, the Distinguished Flying Cross, after one very memorable night mission. The ‘ghost riders in the sky’ were able to destroy numerous boats carrying arms to enemy forces off of the coast of Laos. He shares the award with the likes of Jimmy Doolittle, Amelia Earhart, and Jimmy Stewart. He received two Meritorious Service Medals in Italy. He is a Lifetime Member of Spectre Association for gunners, and received 6 Air medals in all.
Tallahassee, FL is where he eventually settled, becoming a Social Studies teacher at FSU.
Thank you Senior Master Sergeant Murphy for your service.