Streetsboro -- When John Murvay first arrived in Europe as a U.S. Army soldier during World War II, the driver of a truck in front of his vehicle, as a way of showing the horrors of war, pulled back a cover revealing the dead bodies of numerous U.S. troops packed in the truck, waiting to be buried.
Murvay was speechless.
"I was hoping I'd never be one of them," he said.
Fortunately, Murvay's wish came true. Despite being a part of the infamous Battle of the Bulge, fought in the middle of winter, Murvay, 90, of Streetsboro, was never injured.
"I felt fortunate to survive," he said. "I was lucky I didn't get hurt."
Murvay, who graduated from Freedom High School in Freedom Township when he was 16, was drafted into the Army at age 17. During basic training at Camp McCain, Miss., he woke up one morning and found his bed in his barracks covered with snow -- the first snowfall in Mississippi in more than 20 years -- because the snowflakes had blown in through open cracks in the wall.
Murvay's future wife, Margaret, began writing to him after she saw his photo at her neighbor's house -- the home of his aunt -- although the two had never met. Margaret thought a soldier would like to receive mail and got his address from his aunt. They wrote letters back and forth for three years before finally meeting after the war. A short while later, they were married in 1946 -- more than 67 years ago.
After being shipped to western Europe in 1944, Murvay served as a truck driver for a radio operator. He was involved in the Battle of the Bulge, which took place in December 1944 and January 1945 in Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg. His ability to speak Hungarian was beneficial because he was able to interpret conversations.
As he talked recently, Murvay traced the route of the Allied Forces on a map from France east to Luxembourg and further east to the border of Czechoslovakia, which was made even more remarkable because the severe cold was the enemy as much as the Germans.
There were not enough clothes or boots for many of the soldiers, and there were no overshoes big enough to fit over Murvay's boots, which he somehow kept dry.
"It was cold," he said. "It was hard on everybody. We couldn't build a fire because if the Germans saw it, they'd throw some shells in there."
Murvay said soldiers survived by eating K-rations and C-rations, which were pre-cooked, packaged foods.
"We could fill up on crackers and water, and it would swell up in your stomach," he said.
Meanwhile, the fighting was always nearby.
"In the distance, I could hear our guns going off. I was thinking, 'I hope they're all outgoing shells, not incoming,'" he said. "If there was a counter-attack, we were told to retreat and destroy the cannons by throwing grenades in the barrels. But we never had to. We started heading into Germany, and the Germans were retreating pretty fast."
After the war in Europe ended in 1945, Murvay was nearly sent to fight the Japanese in the Pacific theater.
"I had four days left on my 30-day furlow when Harry dropped the atomic bombs, and the war ended," he said, referring to President Harry S. Truman. "I'm glad he did. If we had gone into Japan, there would have been 70 percent casualties."
After the war in Japan ended, the Murvays raised two daughters. Margaret Garmon is a former Record-Courier reporter who assists with public relations and marketing for the School of Communication Studies at Kent State University and lives in Kent with her husband Doug. Juliana Dennis lives near Boston and works in marketing for a company that makes high-quality baby strollers and gear. She is known for her performances in several community theater productions in the Boston area.
The Murvays owned and operated the Dew Drop Inn in Freedom Township in the 1950s and 1960s, then John built the Anchor Inn in Berlin Center, and they operated it from the 1960s until the 1980s.
Today, they live at the Gardens of the Western Reserve in Streetsboro.
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