1 of 2
Jim Muir, Jr. is part of five generations who graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point.
2 of 2
James Muir, Jr. in 1939.
In 1939, Palmetto Electric Cooperative member James (Jim) Muir, Jr. continued a family tradition that spanned five generations and more than 100 years. Just like his father, his grandfather, his great-grandfather, and later, his oldest son, Muir graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point.
“I did it because I wanted to,” says Muir. “I enjoyed the life with my father, and I enjoyed being in the military with him.”
The Muir men were—and are to this day—proud of their unique history. Others are, too. In fact, the National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning, Ga, has a “Muir Room” dedicated to the five men.
“All five of our cadet coats are in that room,” says Muir. “All of my grandfather’s medals are there. And I’m sure what few medals I have will go there, and my son’s, when the time comes.”
Before there were those “few” medals (he has two Bronze Star medals for bravery), and before Muir’s West Point graduation, there was another prize Muir would seek—his sweetheart, Lucille. The two met while Muir’s father was stationed in Hawaii.
“She and I were engaged to be married when she was 15 and I was 18.”
Four years later, and the day after Muir graduated from West Point, he and Lucille were married. They would eventually have two sons and a daughter, but first, there was the business of war.
Muir was in Panama when the U.S. entered World War II. From Panama, Muir convinced a friend to let him go to Burma where he joined the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), better known as Merrill’s Marauders. The unit, named for Brig. Gen. Frank Merrill, fought in some of the harshest jungle terrain on earth while trying to wreak havoc on Japanese supply and communications lines.
“I was in the front line with a sergeant trying to find out where the Japanese were when the man beside me was hit right in the square of the forehead—he never knew what hit him,” recalls Muir. “I couldn’t carry him out because he was a lot heavier than I was. But I ran back through, and while I was running back, I was fired at by a machine gun.”
It was during that gun battle that Muir was injured. As he tried to avoid landing in a foxhole, his right foot twisted under him and snapped one of the tendons that held his foot onto his leg. The four-and-a-half-foot steel plate in his leg is there to remind him of his near death experience. Despite his injury Muir continued fighting until the Marauders’ final battle in August 1944.
“We finally destroyed all the Japanese in Myitkyina,” says Muir. “We started out with 3,000 people and ended up with maybe 250.” Oddly, it was disease and hunger, not the Japanese, which claimed so many of the unit’s soldiers.
From Burma, Muir traveled to China. It was there that he learned of the war’s end.
“We were in the American compound in Kunming, and we left to go to the Chinese artillery compound because they had absolutely wonderful food,” says Muir. “And as we got to the gate, the guard stopped us and said ‘the war is over—the Japanese have sued for peace.’ And we went in and ordered everything on the menu.”
Muir’s military service continued after the war with stops in Italy, Vietnam and the Pentagon. He retired in 1969.
“I eventually became an interpreter,” says Muir. He could speak Vietnamese, Spanish, Italian and German.
Muir retired to the Seabrook community on Hilton Head. He first came to the island in 1964 after a friend told him he should check it out. It was a hurricane that convinced him to move there. Hurricane Cleo was bearing down on the island the night Muir arrived. But the next morning at his hotel, Muir noticed just a few branches on the ground and not a cloud in the sky.
“And I thought, if that’s what a hurricane does to Hilton Head, this is where I’m going to be,” says Muir. “So I went off and bought property that afternoon.
After spending so much of their lives together traveling the world, the Muirs spent their final years together on Hilton Head. In 2001, Alzheimer’s disease claimed Lucille. But Muir wasn’t alone for long.
“I met my current wife, Constance, while taking care of Lucille at Seabrook’s nursing home,” says Muir. Constance’s husband was in the same nursing home. “He died first, then my wife died later on and, finally, we got together and married.”
Muir had hoped to be able to travel on the April 11th Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.—a trip funded by Palmetto Electric Cooperative and the state’s other co-ops. The Honor Flight gives World War II veterans, like Muir, a chance to visit our nation’s capital to see the World War II Memorial, a monument that didn’t exist during Muir’s time at the Pentagon.
“I have never seen the memorial,” says Muir. “I have been to Arlington Cemetery. I will be buried at Arlington Cemetery. I already have my marker there. And I will be buried with my father, my grandfather and my wife in a place, on a hill, overlooking the Pentagon, and I’m going to laugh at the Pentagon all the rest of my second life.”
Muir died on August 6, 2012, after a brief illness. This article is a tribute to his life and legacy.