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William J. Murphy Oral History

Identifier: OHP 016

Scope and Contents

William Murphy served aboard Intrepid as a musician third class and was a member of the Navy band (both the “square” and “swing” bands) during World War II, from 1943 to 1945. Murphy began his interview by stating that he remembered living in South Omaha, Nebraska, and then relocating to a small town near Chicago at the age of 4 or 5. Murphy explained that his mother and sister were musicians, and that he had experimented with music, playing all through high school, a theme that would reoccur during his time in the Navy. He then continued, explaining that he preferred to join the Navy while in high school rather than wait for the draft. Murphy then discussed becoming a member of both the “square” band (named for the bland style of music) and the swing band, and that during his two years of service on Intrepid, he created new arrangements for “California Here We Come” and “San Francisco (Open Your Golden Gates)” as part of “square” band. Murphy next recalled Intrepid’s shakedown cruise in the North Atlantic, which involved dropping depth charges because of possible German submarines in the vicinity. He then discussed Intrepid’s transit to California, which featured an “unforgettable” trip through the Panama Canal. The ship ran aground and needed to have its bow repaired. Shortly after, in 1944, while docked in Hunters Point, a U.S.O. show performed and the band assisted. Murphy discussed meeting Mickey Rooney, and recalled his many talents, including drumming. He also recalled spotting F.D.R. in his limo convertible with a motorcade passing by the ship. Murphy then explained that Intrepid was used to transport injured servicemen, munitions, aircraft, and supplies when traveling between Hawaii and Hunters Point. He also discussed the invasion of Truk, Intrepid’s first combat experience, where the ship was struck by a torpedo. Murphy recalled the moment when some of the crew, whom had just come back from general quarters, were awakened by the noise and motion of the hit. He also pointed out that the ship became “a sitting duck” because its rudder had been severely damaged, resulting in the ship losing its maneuvering abilities. Fortunately, with the help of a sail that was constructed by the crew, and two destroyers, Intrepid made it back to California for repairs. Murphy also remembered an attack that occurred towards the end of the war near Okinawa. The band was playing during the afternoon of a particularly quiet day when kamikazes attacked. Murphy dropped his instrument and headed for his general quarters station, which he recalled was the auxiliary bridge located in the “bowels of the ship,” surrounded by munitions, torpedoes, and fuel. He said that other sailors joked about this location because they would be safe from injury. Murphy also stated that the band would play during memorial services for the deceased following attacks. The final actions that Murphy recalled were more indirect, airstrikes being conducted against Okinawa in the spring of 1945. Murphy then discussed his post Navy life. He stated that he was discharged in the winter of 1946, and pursued music, however he eventually switched his major to speech at Northwestern University, moved to California, and attended Cal Berkley to finish his speech major. He continued his musical pursuits in various bands for a year, and in 1950, moved back to Chicago where he landed a job with Traveler’s Insurance. Shortly after, Murphy explained that he began his career in broadcasting, first in Gary, Indiana, then Hammond, before eventually purchasing his own AM station in Salida, Colorado. He then purchased an FM channel in 1971. Murphy ended his interview stating that he purchased another radio station and was in broadcasting for 41 years. He then retired and recommitted to music, traveling with the Miller band for many years, and at the age of 88, playing in a band that is connected with a Community College in Colorado.


  • August 18, 2013



18 Sheets

4 Files

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For full transcript, please contact


David Dzendzel
November 4, 2015
Language of description
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Code for undetermined script

Revision Statements

  • June 27, 2014: Originally cataloged by Thomas E. Delfi in the Oral History Form.
  • February 3, 2017: Biography and summary added. Completed by Christopher Mitchell, edited by David Dzendzel.

Repository Details

Part of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum Online Archives Repository

One Intrepid Square
W. 46th Street and 12th Avenue
New York NY 10036-4103 United States