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Cloyd C. McMurry Second World War correspondence and other materials

 Collection — Box: WWII 22, Folder: 7
Identifier: 2017-441-w-r

Content Description

This collection contains five original letters sent by Sgt. Cloyd C. "Mac" McMurry, USMC to his mother, Minnie "Peggie" McMurry, and sister, Theda McMurry, during his internment in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp during World War II. Also included are photocopies of two Western Union telegrams, one partial letter, one certificate of death from the Marine Corps, two letters from an author and a fellow POW to McMurry's mother, five photocopied clippings and a few photocopied pages of a book.

The correspondence is short and tells his family that he is in good health and spirits, though according to one clipping, his mention of weight was a ruse to pass the Japanese censors while informing his mother that he was starving.

The telegrams contain news of his missing status at the end of the war, September 25, 1945, and the discovery of his death through prison camp records in October 1945, the latter "signed" by General Alexander Vandegrift, Commandant of the Marine Corps.

The partial letter was written by First Lieutenant Edwin C. Clerke, United States Marine Corps with information contained in the prison camp report regarding Sgt. McMurry's death.

The certificate of death comes with an award style certificate, as well as an informational sheet that looks more like a death certificate, furnished for Mrs. Minnie L. McMurry on August 18, 1948. The information includes medals awarded, such as the American Defense Service Medal with Base Clasp, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, and the WWII Victory Medal.

The Clippings describe his letters written home to his mother, with emphasis on his weight, and the book about POWs, "Laughter in Hell."

One letter sent to Sgt. McMurry's mother was from Stephen Marek, author of the book, on May 16, 1954.

One letter sent to Sgt. McMurry's mothers was from Lieutenant Ernest L. Guirey, United States Navy, who was a subject of the book and ex-POW that worked briefly with Sgt. McMurry.

Included from the book are copies of the cover, title page and the four pages that discuss Sgt. McMurry and the circumstances of his death and burial.

Also included is a "Find a Grave Memorial" sheet with photographs of his headstone, and one photocopied picture of a man that can be inferred to be Sgt. McMurry.


  • 1942 September 25 - 1954 May 16

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

There are no restrictions on the use of this material except where previously copyrighted material is concerned. It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain all permissions.

Biographical / Historical

Sergeant Cloyd Carter McMurry, United States Marine Corps (12/21/1916 - 11/24/1944) was born and raised in San Diego, California and entered the service on February 28, 1940 in San Diego. He was deployed overseas to Guam on August 13, 1941 and after engaging the enemy, he was captured by the Japanese less than four months into his tour of duty on December 8, 1941.

He was transferred to a Prisoner of War camp at Zentsuji in Nippon, Japan and later to the Osaka POW Camp in Nippon. He wrote home only five times, tricking the Japanese by sending home seemingly positive reports while actually informing his mother of his starvation and weight loss and asks for packages and photographs. The Japanese did withhold many letters from him, according to one of the clippings, however he mentions receiving dozens of letters and even photographs.

Sgt. McMurry was killed one day while walking along train tracks to do work for the Japanese when a passing train sucked him in and he hit his head on the train. He died instantly.

By all accounts, in the book and via a letter from one of the POWs that knew him and inspired the book, Sgt. McMurry was well liked by both the Americans and the Japanese and was elected to be a captian of a work group. Their captors even allowed a small and "adequate" service for him after his death. He was 25 years old.


0.02 Linear Feet (1 folder)

Language of Materials



This collection contains correspondence from Sgt. Cloyd C. McMurry, USMC to his mother and sister from a POW camp in Japan during the Second World War. Also included are photocopies of letters and telegrams relating to his death as a prisoner.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Susan V. Fry.
Finding Aid for the Cloyd C. McMurry Second World War correspondence and other materials
Andrew Harman
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Center for American War Letters Archives Repository

Leatherby Libraries
Chapman University
Orange CA 92866 United States