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Miles City's Muris - answering call of duty

Jim Muri, a World War II pilot from Cartersville, Montana (in rural Rosebud County), earned fame for bravery in the Battle of Midway.

On June 4, 1942, Muri piloted the trailing plane in a four-bomber diamond formation sent to attack a Japanese naval armada steaming towards the Midway atoll. Minutes after takeoff, Muri and his compatriots suddenly confronted Japanese Zero fighters, planes that were generally superior to what the U.S. could answer with early in the war.

Outnumbered and forced to evade fire from the air and from the sea, Muri improvised a defensive maneuver that’s become the stuff of legend. Approaching the Japanese carrier Akagi, he tried to release the torpedo mounted on the belly of his Martin Marauder B-26, but the torpedo didn’t launch. So, in a last-ditch move, Muri buzzed the deck of the Akagi. He flew mere feet above the deck, positioning his plane where it was temporarily shielded from antiaircraft weapons pointed outward and machine gun and cannon fire from the Zeros above him.

Then, with half of his six-man crew wounded by enemy flack, Muri managed to bring his plane, riddled with more than 500 bullet holes, safely back to Midway
for a crash landing.

Muri and his crew were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross,  the second highest military honor, for their actions.

Much later,  in 1976, Billings, Montana, radio personality Lonnie Bell began to air a song (“Midway”) that he composed about what Muri and his crew did more than three decades earlier. While Bell, a  World War II veteran himself, often sang “Midway,” it was almost 25 years before he learned that the central character in his piece was fellow Montanan Muri, who by then was living in Billings.

More recognition followed in the new century,  when Muri was invited twice to Washington D. C. First, he received the Jimmy Doolittle Award in 2003 and then he was a guest of honor at  the World War II Memorial unveiling ceremony in 2004.

I’m writing a book centered on Muri’s remarkable flight on that fateful day when the tide of war in the Pacific began to turn in favor of the United States. I’ll also tell about Jim’s upbringing as the second oldest child in an Eastern Montana family of nine children.  It’s worth noting that six siblings joined him in enlisting for military service in World War II or the years following the conclusion of hostilities in 1945.

Keep watching this site for more details as the book progresses.

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Jamie Larson