Remembering their service
When Al Weyand was just a boy, he was given a special ring. It was made from the metal of one of the gun turrets on the U.S.S. Arizona, one of the ships in Pearl Harbor at the time of the infamous bombing by the Japanese.
Weyand's uncle, Walter O. Murphy, was serving on the ship at the time of the attacks and had the ring made for Weyand.
"He came to California and the first thing he gave me was this ring," Weyand recalled.
Although the ring later caused Weyand to lose his finger (the gun metal was so tough it would only bend, but not break when pinched, he explained), it represents some precious memories.
"I cherish it," Weyand said of the ring.
He even carried it with him when he visited Honolulu to see where his uncle had served, he said, and having that memento made the experience that much more meaningful.
Weyand, who now lives in Nininger Township, keeps a number of other artifacts that help tell the story of Murphy's life and service during the war, including a collection of insignias Murphy collected, photos, newspaper clippings and a few notes kept in an old black notebook.
Murphy was one of three children and the older brother to Weyand's father. Their parents lived in St. Paul, but when their mother died in childbirth, their father moved to Nebraska with the older two children. Weyand's father, however, was left in St. Paul to be raised by the Weyand family. He was 4 years old, and Murphy was about 6.
Murphy was raised in Boys Town, in Omaha, Neb. In 1930, at the age of 17, he lived with his sister's husband in Nebraska, but joined the military about a year later. By 1935, Weyand said, his uncle was a private in the Army, stationed in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Murphy would spend most of his military career in Hawaii, serving in both the Army and the Navy there.
"I think he was fascinated with airplanes," Weyand said.
Weyand received one of Murphy's military trunks, and in it were several pictures of planes, including the one he flew in as a waist gunner. Weyand also recalled a number of stories Murphy would tell, including one of a plane crash he survived. The crash wasn't so bad, he had said; but when the earphones in his helmet got caught, they nearly took off his head. The helmet has since fallen apart, but Weyand still has the headphones — torn ends included.
In 1941, at the time of the bombing, Murphy was likely awaiting reassignment, although Weyand said it was tough to be sure. He was on the U.S.S. Arizona when the bombs hit, and while he survived the attack, he was wounded by some shrapnel.
Murphy's wounds got him sent for duty in Alaska to recuperate. He served in the Navy in the Aleutian Islands, where he served as a waist gunner on a PBY, or amphibious airplane. In 1944, Murphy mustered out of the Navy, ending his service.
After the war, Weyand said he and his family moved to California for a few years. It was there that he remembers going out to Long Beach with his uncle, where they shot bows and arrows at straw figures of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler that were set up there.
"He must have been home on leave," he said.
Weyand and his family moved back to Minnesota in 1948, and he said he saw his uncle a few times since then.
"He came to our house a couple times in St. Paul," Weyand said.
Murphy, however, moved back to Nebraska after the war. He never married and never had children. He died of natural causes in 1983.
Although Murphy didn't talk much about the specifics of his wartime experience, his military service in general was something he talked of in a positive light.
"He was pretty proud of being in the service," Weyand said.