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August 5, 2011     West Seattle Herald
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West Seattle Herald Friday, August 5, 2011 9 Pilot shares honor with Museum of Flight Henry Sanford "Sandy" tomers. He test-piloted the B-29, I ended up in the 305th Bomb Group McMurray, 90, flew B-17's over France, Germany, tested 747's for Boeing By Steve Shay Over 30 attendees witnessed West Seattle WWII pilot and Boeing test pilot, Henry Sanford "Sandy" McMurray, 90, receiving a presti- gious award July 22. He was officially presented with the "Chevalie Lrgion d'Honneur". Dan Hagedorn, Senior Curator of the Museum of Flight, made open- ing remarks. Then Jack A. Cowan, Seattle's Consul Honoraire de France, pinned McMurray with the badge and a cultural kiss on each cheek. His sister, three children, grandchildren and great-grandson also attended. Said Cowan at the podium, "(We honor) the courage, faith and dedi- cation shown by Mr McMurray contributed more than 60 years ago in defending and preserving the independence of France and save our common values of freedom, tol- erance and democracy (...) Cour- age and bravery are precisely the qualities that Napoleon wished to reward by the creation of the Lrgion d'Honneur in 1802. Your courage and bravery are the reasons the President of the French Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy, decided to award you the highest honor of the French government." "I would like to thank the French government and the French people for this great honor," said McMur- ray during his speech; who appeared to be filled with pride. "Although I am the recipient of this prestigious medal, I am accepting it on behalf of the entire Eighth Air Force air and ground crew (...) I am donating this medal to the Museum of Flight to display that all future generations can appreciate the importance of the long standing relationship between the French and American people. "The B-17 is an incredible air- plane we are standing beside, and designed and built here in Seattle," he added. "Many of the Eighth Air Force crew would not be here today if it were not for this magnificent airplane. I know that I have been blessed to have celebrated so many The Renaissance, an Art History Lecture Series Each Thursday in August at 1:3o p.m. Presented by Artist, Vaho Muskheli. Summertime Patio Party Sunday, August 7th, 3:3 p.m. Come to our open house party to see all the benefits of independent living in our Parkview neighborhood. Cruisin' - Daystar Style Thursday, August x8th, 4:OO to 7:OO p.m. See how living at Daystar is like living on a cruise ship when you join in the fun at our annual BBQ! 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These guys lived through the Depression and they were able to do things almost inhumanely possible. I've known my dad for 59 years and I'm still learning stories." "It's an honor for the museum," Hagedorn told the West Seattle Her- ald following the ceremony. "Every day we get new stories about those personalities, truly American stories that really make history come alive2 We're losing them in incredible numbers:'I was so pleased to see so many children here today. It's really important for them to have what they saw today imprinted upon them thai this country was built on the shoulder of these heroes." On July 14 McMurray turned 90. July 14 also happens to be Bas- tille Day, quite fitting consider- ing the French honor he received. McMurray's life in Seattle solidi- fied following his WWII hero- ism, when he became a pilot for United Airlines where he met his wife, Marjorie, now a Park West resident, then a flight attendant. He became a Boeing production test pilot, and did "shakedowns" before the planes were delivered to cus- Steve Shay Alki resident Henry Sanford "Sandy" McMurray, 90, received the prestigious "Che- valier L@ion d'Honneur" award and donated it to the Museum of Flight July 22. He flew 25 missions in B-17's dur- ing WWII and tested Boeing prop planes and jets. He invested in West Seattle real estate and owned the building where the Yen Wor Restaurant and Admiral Pub are located. He owned a build- ing in the Alaska Junction rented to a SCUBA business and the Corner Inn building in the Morgan Junc- tion that is now Zeek's Pizza and the Feedback Lounge. He gave that building to his kids, who still own it. "Last summer, the Museum of Flight had an event to recognize their restored B-17,' said McMurray's daughter, Patti Pierson, who, with brothers Scott and Mike, a volunteer EMT firefighter, grew up in Burien, then to North Admiral and graduat- ed West Seattle High School. "Scott invited his friend Christophe Chau- vel-Gobin, an Air France pilot, to attend. Christophe was very moved at the event when the B-17 flight crews, including Tuskegee airmen, Rosie the Riveters, women who flew the airplanes from Seattle to Eng- land and ground crews stood in rec- GOT REAL E STATE? Now more than ever you need someone with experience you can trust. Rich Bianchi 45+ years experience 206-786-5972 '"-" WILLIAMS Formerly ERA Bionchi.Zaah Realty 206.937.6122 ;W Barton St., Seattle, WA 98126 Ever wonder what life on a cruise ship is.like? We welcome you aboard the USS Daystar to see how you can chart your course into a retirement lifestyle offering you the best in gracious living and exceptional services! Feel like you're on vacation everyday when you choose to live at Daystar! Join us for an event in August to see how you can sail into this exciting lifestyle! Get your FREE copy of the book: The Savvy Senior! Scan the code below with your smart phone to find out how! Steve Shay Henry Sanford is sharp- minded but his memories are bittersweet. ognition of their service. "The next day, Christophe came to our house. We pulled a map of France and my dad discussed his missions with the B-17 over France. As Christophe left the house he said, 'It has sometimes been said that the French didn't express enough gratitude for the sacrifices made by your crews.' He said, 'The French are very grateful. My chil- dren would probably be speaking German if it weren't for you.' "Christophe returned to France and wrote letters to the French gov- ernment requesting this recogni- tion." Christophe attended the cer- emony at Boeing. "I am accepting this award on behalf of the entire Eighth Army Air Force from World War II, espe- cially my 'Can Do' bomb group, the 305th," said mcMurray in an interview the day before the cer- emony. His life-long motto could easily be coined "I can do anything" as it seems like he almost did. McMurray started driving at age 12, in San Leandro, near Oakland, Ca., where he was raised. He said the small town police chief was a friend of his mother and looked the other way. At 15 he bought his first car with paper route money. He attended San Jose State College for two years and enrolled in their Civil Pilot Training program and learned to fly at 19. He grew up just three miles from the Oakland Airport where a lot of activity took place that helped spark his interest in fight, he recalled. "I decided at 14 it would be a pretty good idea to learn to fly," said McMurray with a wry smile. "My mother thought it would be nice if I was a mechanic and stay on the ground where it was safe. No way was I going to stay on the ground and work on someone else's airplane. I was going to fly my own. down in Muroc Field, now Edwards Air Force Base. The B-17 pilots trained there. Curtis LeMay was in charge down there. He was going to bomb everyone to oblivion. That was his mindset, anyway. "The 305th ended up going over to England in Oct., '42 in B-17's and started operationally that Decem- ber," he said. "We flew through the early summer of '43. Our first tar- gets were over occupied France. Later we bombed Germany. Most French targets were naval yards, strategic places, to minimize killing French civilians. Submarines were raising havoc in the convoys, so we went after the sub pens where they refurbished subs when they came in. Some of our targets were on the Atlantic side of the French coast, like Saint Nazaire, then Bremen and Wilhelmshaven, Germany, where U-boats were built and refurbished. Loss rates were horrendous, but as a pilot (on the B-17) I never had a man injured or killed on my new crew. We completed 25 missions." McMurray then arrived in Seattle to ferry the new B-17's built here by Boeing over to Denver and Chey- enne for modifications and contin- ued to bases for flight crews to pick them up. Then it was on to the South Pacific. He flew injured, between 20 and 30 stretchers, in Douglas C-54's to Guam, then America. His father, Welborn O. McMurray, a World War I vet, was an Army Lt. Col., a Com- missioned Financial Officer in World War II, also in the South Pacific. Sandy said that flying in the Pacific gave him the opportunity to search for his father, missing in action. "The last letter my mother got from my father was for Valentines Day, 1942," said Sandy. "In Manila I went to headquarters, got some sergeant on the phone, and he says, 'Captain, I am sorry, but your dad died in a prisoner of war camp. He died of malaria on June 14, 19427" Sandy teared up recalling this tragic phone call. "He was a POW at Camp Cabanatuan, the prison camp at the end of the Bataan Death March," Sandy said. "My dad was 56. I seriously doubt he could have handled the Death March. I believe he was on Corregidor (Island) when Gen. Wainwright surrendered and they were all trucked up to Caba- natuan." Sandy reads the last letter from his father to his mother, "The forest tree was really very kind to drop the heart-shaped leaf at my feet just when I was wishing for a Valentine card to send you. Hope it reaches you (by Easter, anyway)..." The family still has the large, dried, heart-shaped leaf. Steve Shay can be reached at steves @robinsonnews.com.