TERENCE M. MURPHY, LTJG, USN

From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

Terence Murphy '61

Date of birth: July 3, 1939

Date of death: April 9, 1965

Age: 25

Lucky Bag

From the 1961 Lucky Bag:


Loss

From Aviation Safety:

The outcome of VF-96’s (and the F-4B’s) first MiG engagement remains uncertain. Lt(jg) Terry Murphy and “rookie” Ens Ron Fegan were section leaders for a VF-96 BARCAP on April 9, 1965, replacing an F-4B (BuNo 151425) that had crashed shortly after being launched from USS Ranger

The rapidly rearranged Combat Air Patrol entered its orbit as two separated sections, each on different radio frequencies. Murphy and Fegan, in “Showtime 611” (BuNo 151403), took their section close enough to Communist Chinese Hainan Island for four Chinese navy Shenyang F-5s from the Nanhai Naval Air Group to be launched from Lingshui Naval Air Force Base.

Turning to investigate the contacts on their radar scopes, Murphy and Fegan became separated from their wingmen, Lt Howie Watkins and Lt(jg) Jack Mueller, who in turn were attacked by a MiG 17F. The latter disengaged its afterburner and turned back for a second run at the F-4. Moments later, Murphy apparently fired an AIM-7 AAM at a MiG during a vertical maneuver, but he was not contactable again, until an aircraft (possibly mistakenly identified as a MiG by Mueller) was seen falling away into the clouds in flames.

Meanwhile, all three of the remaining VF-96 F-4Bs became involved in individual dogfights, and at least four AIM-7 and three AIM-9 launches were attempted, although all missiles either failed to track or did not leave the aircraft. According to the pilot of the No 4 MiG-17F, Capt Li Dayun (interviewed in 1994 by a Joint Task Force investigator), “Showtime 611” was hit by one of these malfunctioning missiles and crashed just offshore, killing its crew.

He reported that the four MiG pilots never received permission to fire, and claimed that all returned to base, although Murphy’s crew was subsequently awarded a MiG kill. The engagement was then “buried” so as to avoid provoking an international incident, but some problems that would arise over and over again in future combats were revealed for the first time.

Poor communications, lack of flight formation integrity, unreliable missiles, and out-of-parameters missile launches were to be frequent themes for the next seven years, as was the determination of the Chinese to defend their airspace. There were also other cases where Phantom IIs were accidentally fired on by “friendly” missiles.

Remembrances

From Wall of Faces:

I was a plane captain in VF-96 from 1962 through 1965 and knew Mr Fegan and Mr Murphy as brave men that flew off into darkness, into a war that is still not understood to face untold dangers then return to a darkened ship in rough seas and they did it time and time again. I was honored to know them. God's speed. HUGHLYN KEITH, 9/7/03


Class of 1961

Terence is one of 23 members of the Class of 1961 in Memorial Hall.