Attack aftermath

“They didn’t use treatment; PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) wasn’t known then. I don’t have the whole story because people don’t tell their secrets. Of course, my parents had theirs,” Sylvia Sadaati said. After Midway, her father was sent to “an R&R in Hawaii,” where he joined another serviceman from another unit. “There was a widow living there who was very well-placed, who entertained military high entities on Hawaii. She opened her home to military who needed some R&R. My dad was lucky enough to be there,” she said.

Muri may have spent a couple weeks at the widow’s home, time spent walking on the beach and picking pineapples, he later told his family. Losing one of his best friends in the battle, Herbert C. Mayes, pilot of one of the two B-26s lost in the ocean before they could try to launch their torpedoes, had “a huge impact on him, of course,” Sadaati said. “They were huge buddies.”

Jim Muri and his wife, Alice, had become friends with Mayes and his wife when both pilots were training to fly the B-26 in California and on the East Coast. Mayes’ wife was a Stanford student, according to Jonathon Abbot’s 2006 account in the web publication, Ghost Wings. She was pregnant at the time, and their son was born when his father was stationed in the Pacific. Jim and Alice Muri later saw the youngster, who looked like his dad, but they lost track of Mayes’ widow and her son after she remarried.

“That was the most treatment he might have received for the aftermath of the horrible encounter. When he talks about Midway, he talks about not being given anything before they took off except the coordinates. They would know the target when they saw it. Obviously when you see the whole Japanese fleet sitting down there in the water, you know that one torpedo is meant to try to get one of the big boys. “

Her brother, Jim, provided a similar recollection to the Pacific Wrecks website.

“My father has told stories about how they were briefed on the battle before taking to their planes to mount their attack. To paraphrase, they were told “enemy shipping xxx miles, course yyy.” And that was it. Take off, fly this heading for this many miles and attack the Japanese. He always laughed about that. ‘Boy, did we get a surprise,’ he would say. As for his B-26, Dad said it was bulldozed onto a barge, taken out into the lagoon, and dumped. Presumably it’s still there. It ought to be an interesting dive for folks who like to dive on historical wrecks. To the best of my knowledge no one has done this yet, so it’s a ‘first’ waiting for the right person. Look for that tail number of 1391. Also, you should see a gap in the nose where the aircraft name “Susie-Q” (after my mother) was cut away as a souvenir after the battle. Somebody knows where that souvenir is, but they aren’t telling. And it ain’t any of us Muris.”

As Sadaati described the intensity of her father’s flight across the deck of the Akagi, she didn’t say so, but one is left wondering whether that experience and its effect on his psyche may have helped sideline him from combat for the remainder of World War II. (Officially, the Army decided to tap Muri’s proven aerial skills and shifted him to a training role in the mainland United States.)

She said her father, a smoker, stuck a cigarette (possibly a Chesterfield, which was often part of soldiers’ rations in World War II) in his mouth as his planes closed in on the carrier.

“He had a cigarette in his mouth, and when he crash-landed back at Midway, which was happenstance, he didn’t have the part that was stuck in his youth. He had bitten it off,” she said.

Muri never lit the cigarette, understandable “because you’re totally distracted by everything you’re doing,” Sadaati said.

Japanese planes were pursuing him, and the Susie-Q was carrying wounded crew members who Muri was trying to return to safety.

“None of them died. He was very fortunate that way and was lucky to get back. If he hadn’t seen the smoke … ” Her voice trailed off. “He was able to find it.”