BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) – World War II pilot James Muri, who saved his crippled B-26 bomber and crew by buzzing the flight deck of a Japanese aircraft carrier during the Battle of Midway, has died in Billings. He was 93.
Muri died Sunday of natural causes, according to Michelotti-Sawyers Mortuary.
On June 4, 1942, Muri piloted one of four B-26 bombers that took off from Midway Island to attack a Japanese fleet planning to invade the U.S. outpost about 1,100 miles northwest of Hawaii.
Japanese fighter planes shot the bombers with machine guns and cannons. Muri’s bomber was struck and three crewmen were wounded, but he launched a torpedo at the aircraft carrier Akagi and then flew the plane down its flight deck to avoid the ship’s guns, which were all pointed outward.
Muri flew lower than treetop level above the deck of the massive ship, reasoning that skimming the flight deck gave him the best chance to survive.
After the plane crash-landed on Midway Island, officials counted more than 500 bullet holes in the bomber, the Billings Gazette reported (
Muri and his crew were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. In 2003, Muri received the Jimmy Doolittle Award for outstanding service to the U.S. Army Air Corps in a ceremony in Washington, D.C.
Singer and radio host Lonnie Bell paid tribute to the feat in his song “Midway,” which he wrote in 1976.
Last June marked the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, which changed the course of the Pacific war. American forces sank four aircraft carriers despite being outnumbered in the three-day battle, diminishing Japan’s airstrike capabilities.
The U.S. lost one carrier, 145 planes and 307 men. Besides the four aircraft carriers, Japan lost a heavy cruiser, 291 planes and 4,800 men in the battle.
Muri left active duty in 1959 and returned to Montana in 1969. He and his wife, Alice, lived on Bridger Creek east of Big Timber for 30 years before moving to Billings in 1999. His wife died in 2001.
A memorial service for Muri is scheduled for Thursday at Michelotti-Sawyers Mortuary. He is to be buried Friday at the veterans’ cemetery in Miles City.
Information from: Billings Gazette,
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- Tech-related injuries your parents never experienced
- Workers comp: Signs your co-worker could be a fraud
- Who's the real founder of America's pastime?
- Epidemic rising? What you need to know about Alzheimer's in Arizona
- 5 unforgettable Wooden Award winners
- Family and hard work are keys to success of modern dairy farmers
- Genetic testing could hold answers for colon cancer survival
- Cold beers and baseball: A beer lover's guide to Spring Training
- Telecommuting: 5 tips to make it work for employers and employees
- See how top CFOs feel about economic growth in the Valley
- Migraine myths that keep patients from effective treatments
- Here’s why Gaydos went tankless with his water heater
- Bocce ball and basketball: How you can help Arizona's Special Olympics athletes
- Tips on building the best wine room in Arizona
- Avoid the nightmare: 6 tips to choose a great contractor
- Breast cancer: Improved testing and treatments means more survivors
- Failed back surgery: New hope for patients living in pain
- Ticking time bombs: Telltale signs your water heater is about to explode
- Reading glasses could be a thing of the past
- 6 cool ways teachers are using technology in the classroom
- Emerging tech jobs in Phoenix and how to get one in 2017
- 4 top treatments athletes use for pain
- Emergency! What to do when bathrooms flood
- Arizona kids in crisis: How you can help
- New treatment offers hope for migraine sufferers
- 11 stadiums to watch your favorite football team
- Shopping for a TV? Best models for 2016
- Avoid this holiday plumbing disaster in your home
- 7 tips to avoid holiday weight gain
- New treatments mean better prostate cancer survival rates