Defenders of the Philippines

picture of captivity and picture of release form captivity

Sylvan Murray 
January 31, 1917-April 2, 2000

Sylvan and his wife Ruth Murray

 

Sylvan Murray was born in Pennsylvania and went to John Harris High School, Harrisburg, PA.  He joined the Army at New Cumberland, PA.  He was a corporal with the 454th Ordnance Company stationed at Clark Field in the Philippines when Bataan fell April 9, 1942. Prior to the fall he fought as an infantry man and said the fighting was rough.  He believed that he was saved on the Bataan
Death March because a Japanese officer taught him enough Japanese to get him by if he needed food desperately. However, when the Japanese called for a march break, his exhaustion brought him to the ground and he missed the chance for food.

After the death march Sylvan stayed in Cabanatuan prison camp for nine months, and went on work at Nichols Field on a work detail.  He said that if a person was working near a guard and one of their buddies stopped for a rest further away the nearest person took the beating because the guard would not walk to the soldier further away.

His trip on the Nissyo Maru with 951 others struck Murray as much worse than the Death March.  He stood up for three days and nights for he had no room to sit down. After landing in Kyushu, Japan he was assigned to the shipyards and the coal mines in Kyushu.  He felt the most hatred for the Americans from the Japanese in the Kyushu camp (Fukuoka POW Camp #1 or Pine Tree Camp).
Sylvan Murray POW Picture circa April 1945

Unbelievably, he was rescued from prison camp by the same man that inducted him into the army in New Cumberland, PA.  The man's name was Walter Sloan.  After his rescue he passed through Nagasaki and described it as looking as though it had been hit by a tidal wave.

His daughter Jan remembers that after the service he moved to Scranton to work for the Anthracite News Paper, but Heinz Foods enticed him to do sales for them.  He met Ruthie (Ruth Romayne Pavlovich) when she was waitressing at the "Purple Cow" restaurant.  They married on Valentine's Day 1947 and had two daughters, Judy Ann and Janet Arlene.  He moved back to Harrisburg after Judy was born and started in sales for the Carnation Company.  He also worked part time in Grandpa Murray's barber shop in Penbrook.  He retired from the Carnation Company when he was 57.

Karli Kittine, Judy's daughter, remembers her grandfather, "I recall him working at Carnation and that they always had these tiny carnation paper cups in the house and we would go for walks (Sylvan and I) and I would collect acorns in them ."

His daughter Judy said Sylvan did not speak of his experiences much, but mentioned the air corps and she felt his experiences in the war had a huge impact on his life.  Sylvan Murray passed away April 2, 2000 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.