Maxwell Murray was born at West Point, New York, June 19, 1885. His father was our Army’s first Chief of Coast Artillery, General Arthur Murray, Class of 1874. His mother was Sarah Wetmore DeRussy, daughter of General R. E. DeRussy, Class of 1812, and Superintendent of West Point, 1833-1838. With such a family background, it was inevitable that Max should go into the Army. Although he entered West Point when seventeen, he did not attend any school until he was eleven. His father taught him prior to that time. He graduated No. 15 in his class in June 1907, so obviously his schooling was sound and his intelligence of a high order.
Max’s first Army job was both Interesting and difficult—typical of all the service. He took an Army mine planter from the Atlantic seaboard half way around the world to the Philippines. His experience in sailing boats as a youngster and his flair for handling mechanical devices of all kinds enabled him to reach Manila on schedule and with his mine planter in excellent condition. This first tour of duty in the Philippines 1908-1910 was of great help to Max twenty-two years later when he served as Assistant and Aide to the then Governor General Dwight F. Davis.
Upon graduation from West Point, Max was assigned to the Coast Artillery and was an Honor Graduate of the Coast Artillery School, 1912. He transferred to the Field Artillery in January 1917, and served with distinction in World War I as Commander of the 5th Field Artillery, 1st Division. He received the Distinguished Service Medal for, “The brilliant manner in which he handled his regiment in the assault and capture of Cantigny and during the Alsne-Marne offensive in the assault southeast of Soissons”. Upon his return to the United States in 1918, he commanded an artillery training center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. During 1919-20 he took a special course at the Massachusetts School of Technology, upon completion of which he served four years in the office of the Chief of Field Artillery, where he played a major role in the development of artillery equipment and transportation. In the opinion of many Field Artillery officers, Max Murray knew more about Field Artillery motor transportation than any officer in our army between World Wars I and II. His views and recommendations were of great value to the Field Artillery in developing new weapons from 1932 to 1936 while he was a member of the Field Artillery Board at Fort Bragg, N. C. From 1936 to 1938. Max commanded his old regiment, the 5th Field Artillery and the Post of Madison Barracks, New York. His next assignment was as Assistant Commandant of the Field Artillery School at Fort Sill. Between these details, he graduated from the Advanced Course, Field Artillery School, 1925; the Command and General Staff School, 1926; and the Army War College. 1929. Between attendances at the latter two schools, he commanded the 1st Battalion, 16th Field Artillery, Fort Myer, Virginia, 1926-1928. Promoted through the grades to Brigadier General, December 1, 1938, he was advanced to Major General, July 10, 1941.
His first assignment as a general officer was commanding the District of Washington, 1938-1939. From there he went to the Hawaiian Islands, where he commanded in turn the 11th Field Artillery Brigade and the 25th Division. Returning to the United States, he commanded the 35th Infantry Division at Camp San Luis Obispo, California, and the Southern California Sector, with headquarters at Pasadena. On duty in the South Pacific from 1943 to 1945, he successively commanded the Guadalcanal Island Forward Area, the II Island Command, which included the Fiji Islands, and the South Pacific Area in New Caledonia. He returned to the United States in November 1945 and was assigned to headquarters of the Army Ground Forces in Washington. He was retired for physical disability as a Major General, September 30, 1946.
Max’s abilities were not confined to technical matters, great as were his talents along those lines. Give him a saw and hammer and he would turn out a handsome chest or a sail boat in no time. With a pair of scissors, he would make an excellent silhouette of any object or person in view. A pencil was all he needed to sketch a picture that would do credit to a professional artist. Big, good looking, and jovial, it was his human qualities rather than his outstanding talents that appealed to most people. In the village of Slasconset, Nantucket Island, where he had a summer cottage, every man, woman and child in the village knew and loved him. His cheerful, democratic manner made friends for him wherever he went—in fact it is doubtful if any one in the Class of 1907 knew more people or had more sincere and devoted friends. Max had a serious heart condition for a long time before he died but no one would ever have suspected it from his manner or way of life. He lived a full and interesting life to the very end.
A few days after his death at Siasconset of a heart attack on August 4, 1948 a villager who had known Max for years was heard to remark— “General Murray was the most truly democratic man I ever met. He was kind and considerate to everyone regardless of their age or station in life”. No finer tribute could be paid to any man and no one more deserved it.
As the result of his long and distinguished service, Max held the following decorations—The Distinguished Service Medal, Army Legion of Merit, Navy Legion of Merit, U.S. Treasury Life Saving Medal, Croix de Guerre (French), Honorary Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. He also held the Mexican Border Medal and the Victory Medal, with three Clasps, (World War I).
Besides his wife, Phyllis Muriel Howard, whom he married November 18, 1911, he is survived by a son, Arthur M. Murray, stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, and a daughter, Ann, the wife of Lt. Colonel Robert W. Van de Velde, Assistant Military Attaché at Athens, Greece.
—J. L. C.
- COL Arthur M. Murray USA, Retired