Just after Normandy’s D-Day operation in 1944, U.S. and Allied forces engaged in Operation Market Garden.
With the hope of ending the war before the end of the year, a plan was put into action: in one of the biggest air operations of WW2, paratroopers would secure a 64-mile area into German territory, seize nine bridges and force the German soldiers into retreat.
[“Market Garden was a British operation. It was headed by (Bernard) Montgomery, to do one, single major drive to bounce over the Rhine River in Holland. That would get them to the Northern German Plains,” Steven Cargile, Military Historian, American Military Historical Society. ]
One of those paratroopers was Grady C. Murray, a 21-year-old from Grover, South Carolina. While employed at Charleston Naval Yard, he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1943.
Following basic training, Murray volunteered for the airborne division. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion’s Headquarters Company, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, attached to the 82nd Airborne Division.
Murray’s regiment jumped on September 17, 1944, to a location just 53 miles behind enemy lines. Their directive was to defend the drop zones and secure the bridge Nijmegen.
At around 18:00 on September 17, 508 left trenches at Groesbeek in an advance to Nijmegen. By the time American forces arrived, German troops had gathered reinforcement, preventing the taking of the bridge.
Allied intelligence had not detected that two German Panzer Divisions were present. While U.S. and Allied forces continued the mission, the fight was brutal. An estimated 3,900 American soldiers were killed, wounded or missing, while Allied forces estimated 11,000 to 13,000 dead or wounded. At least 6,450 Allied soldiers were captured.
[“There are significant things on his uniform. The cord on his right sleeve is the French Croix de Guerre. It stands for ‘Cross of War.” The 508 and the 101 received that. Now, the one on his left sleeve is unique. Only the 508 for the 82nd Airborne is authorized to wear that. It’s the Royal Netherland Army.” Warren Chard, Military Historian, American Military Historical Society. ]
Germany’s 406th Infantry attacked the Groesbeek landing zones in the morning hours of September 18, necessitating most of the 508 regiment to pull back.
Market Garden continued for several days, until September 24, when allied troops withdrew from the operation.
Murray and his unit remained in combat until November of 1944 before taking a resting period in Sissone, France. On December 16, 1944, German forces launched the Ardennes Offensive, also known as the Battle of the Bulge, and the 508 engaged once again in Belgium on December 23.
There, the 508 established and held escape routes for U.S. units and advanced to the Siegfried Line before being called to break contact with the enemy and return to Sissone on February 16.
The 508 was then detached from the division and reassigned to liberate prisoner-of-war camps as needed.
Following the end of the war, Murray remained in Germany, serving on the honor guard at President Dwight Eisenhower’s Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF).
Murray was eventually transferred to the 504 Regiment and discharged to the United States in 1946, having served 18 months overseas.
After his return home, Murray resumed his employment at the Charleston Naval Shipyard, marrying Emma Thompson. Together, they raised three sons. Murray retired from the Shipyard after 39 years.
The 508 was an indomitable force in WW2 operations. Their efforts and accomplishments: securing bridges, securing and defending Berg en Dal, blocking highway K to limit maneuvering of enemy reinforcements, and assisting in the withdrawal of an estimated 20,000 troops from St. Vit during the Battle of the Bulge earned an award of the French Croix de Guerre.
For all that knew him, Murray was also an indomitable force. Despite his early war experiences, he was known as a kind, generous and gregarious man. Nicknamed the ‘Mayor of Grover’, he continued to be active in his community.
In honor of Murray’s life, the Edisto River Bridge on the Colleton-Dorchester County line in South Carolina was renamed the Grady C. Murray Bridge in 2000.
“His service is a stellar example of the volunteer spirit of the Greatest Generation.”- Stephen Cargile, Military Historian, American Military Historical Society.
*Special thank you to the Lions Club in Yulee, Florida for hosting, the American Military Historical Society for their knowledge and the Murray family.