Dekalb Co. Brothers Served Together, Died Together on Dec. 7th, 1941
December 11, 2015 Share

Dekalb Co. Brothers Served Together, Died Together on Dec. 7th, 1941

By Tyler Pruett

tyler@southerntorch.com

Monday marked the 74th Anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Dec. 7th, 1941 marked the beginning of America’s involvement in WWII, which would affect virtually all families and communities across the country over the next four years, but for one family in Dekalb County, this infamous day would be especially tragic.

Only about 15 minutes after the attack started, several bombs dropped by the Japanese struck the USS Arizona, igniting it’s ammunition magazine and sinking the battleship within 9 minutes, taking 1,177 members of her crew to the bottom. Among them were two brothers, Charles Luther Murdock and Melvin Elijah Murdock, who were assigned to the boiler room of the Arizona on that fateful morning. The massive explosion likely killed them instantly considering the boiler’s close proximity to the powder magazines that ignited. The few crew members that survived the attack were towards the rear portion of the ship; furthest away from the explosion. Many were killed by the concussion alone. Fortunately for Thomas Murdock, he was not on duty aboard the Arizona at 0800. Unlike his brothers, the oldest Murdock brother was married, and lived in an apartment onshore. In a twist of fate, Charles Luther had even dined with his brother and wife in their apartment the previous night. Despite his older brother inviting him to stay the night, Charles decided he would rather return to his ship.

The Murdock brothers grew up in Dekalb County along Route 3 in Henagar as part of a seven sibling family. Thomas, the oldest brother, decided to join the U.S. Navy. Years later, his brothers would follow in his footsteps. Like many young men growing up in the Great Depression, the navy offered stable employment as well as the opportunity to travel, which likely motivated the brothers to enlist. As an added incentive to enlist, many family members were given the opportunity to serve together. Because of this, 37 sets of brothers were serving on the USS Arizona on that December morning. Out of those 37 sets, 23 were killed in the attack, according to the National Park Service, who oversees the memorial. As part of the salvage and recovery efforts, Navy divers searched the wreck for remains, but none were found of the Murdock brothers. Thomas refused to give up, and donned a dive suit himself to search the wreck. He was at least successful in finding several personal items belonging to his younger brothers.

Over 2,400 soldiers, sailors, and marines would lose their lives during the attack on Pearl Harbor along with many ships of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet being sunk or damaged. Many remains were never recovered or are permanently entombed in the ships in which they served, but none experienced the greatest loss of life as the Arizona. While many of the sunken ships were recovered, the Arizona remains in the bottom of the shallow harbor, with a memorial erected over the rusty hulk to commemorate those who gave their lives. The names of Charles and Melvin Murdock are etched in the stone among the names of all the deceased crew. Although thousands more Americans would be killed in the coming years of war, these two brothers from Dekalb County were some of the very first casualties of WWII; dying in the first fifteen minutes of the war, not even knowing America was at war yet.

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