James Muri, Bomber Pilot Honored for Valor in Battle of Midway, Is Dead at 94
James Muri survived the first half of June 4, 1942, on the strength of his Army Air Forces pilot training. That was the day of his first combat mission, and the first day of the Battle of Midway. He piloted an unwieldy B-26 twin-engine bomber through heavy antiaircraft fire, maneuvered it close to a Japanese aircraft carrier, dropped a torpedo and pulled away into a sky filled with enemy shells just as his bomb detonated.
... [He] first had to evade the hail of antiaircraft fire still coming from the carrier he had just attacked. His inspiration, which saved the lives of his crew as well as his own, was to swing around, go in low and fly straight over the carrier’s deck to avoid its guns.
“The guns were all pointing out. That was the safest place to be,” he said, explaining his reasoning in a 2002 interview with The Billings Gazette. “I always said we could have touched down if we had lowered the gear.”
Mr. Muri’s return to his base on Midway Island was dogged by Zero fighter planes. After his two gunners were wounded, he sent his co-pilot to man the plane’s antiaircraft cannons during the long flight back.
He and his crewmen, all of whom survived, were among 42 members of the Army Air Forces awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for valor in the Battle of Midway, which was considered the decisive contest for control of the Pacific in World War II. Fourteen of the members killed in the battle received the medal posthumously.Comment: Image sources and additional information: The Midway Marauders, Japanese aircraft carrier Akagi, Obituary, Wiki.