Charles Augustus Murphy was born in Mitchell County on 5 April 1924. His parents were Joseph Ellis Murphy (1888-1964) and Hester Pendley (1887-1984).
Charles graduated from Harris High School in Spruce Pine in 1941 and registered for the draft in 1942, when he was 18. He was employed by the Seven Up Company of Asheville according to his draft card. David G. Blevins remembered Charles as a “hard worker with a bright future” he never got the chance to live.
In September 1942, Murphy and a buddy with whom he’d graduated high school, Morrison “Mutt” Gunter, went to Parris Island, SC, for 7 weeks of basic training. Murphy also trained at Pendleton Beach, CA. A photo of him with jeeps at New River, NC, is labeled “Chuck,” so that may have been a nickname. Some of the correspondence between Murphy and his buddy Mutt was preserved by Gunter’s family; the letters have news about military life, descriptions of furloughs home or liberty weekends, and meeting girls, along with advice about taking care.
Murphy reached the rank of Sergeant in Company G., the 25thMarine Regiment, 4thMarine Division. Before participating in the campaign to take Iwo Jima, Murphy was involved in taking 3 other islands in the “island hopping” strategy by which the Allied forces fought their way towards the Japanese home islands in the last months of the war.
Much has been written about the Battle for Iwo Jima, when, observer Navy Lt. Jack Sparks said in an article appearing in the Tri-County News, “Tough leathernecks went through hell that the objective might be taken.” The Imperial Japanese Army had strongly fortified the island, and some of the “fiercest and bloodiest fighting of the war in the Pacific” occurred in the 5 weeks it took for the US Marines to capture Iwo Jima. Casualties were horribly high, over 26,000, with 6800 of those being deaths.
Charles Murphy was killed in action on 27 February 1945. A telegram informed his parents that his death occurred “at Iwo Jima Volcanic Island in the performance of his duties and in service of his country.” As far as has been determined, Charles Murphy is the only Marine from Mitchell County to die in battle.
At the time of Murphy’s death, 4 of his siblings were also working in the War effort, his brothers Ernest, Howard, and Lambert plus his sister, Frances Louise Murphy.
Initially buried in the 4thMarine Division Cemetery on Iwo Jima, Murphy’s final resting place is in the Spruce Pine Memorial Cemetery. In 1948, his mother Hester Pendley Murphy applied for and was awarded a veteran’s cemetery marker.
The Associated Press photo of 6 US Marines raising the American flag on top of Mount Suribachi, 554 feet tall, became an “iconic image of the battle for Iwo Jima and the American war effort in the Pacific.” The photograph was the model for the Marine Memorial in Arlington, VA., which was dedicated in 1954 in memory of all Marines who have given their lives for this nation.