A. Murray Preston ’31

Preston '31

A. Murray Preston '31

(1913–1968)
Navy, Lieutenant Commander

From Phillips Academy, Andover in World War II, by Leonard F. James, page 220

MURRAY PRESTON, Lieutenant Commander, USNR, Navy Cross, Silver Star, of Chevy Chase, Maryland, enlisted as Apprentice Seaman on September 5, 1940. Commissioned Ensign in March 1941, he was assigned to duty with Motor Torpedo Boat Squadrons and saw action in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater for two years, commanding a Squadron from December 1943. For his extraordinary heroism against the enemy on September 19, 1944, Lieutenant Commander Preston was awarded the Navy Cross. An American Navy Pilot was shot down two hundred yards from a strongly defended Japanese dock in Wasile Bay. Two Japanese barges successively sent out to get him were sunk by hellcats, but rescue attempts by fliers were fought off. When the Admiral requested assistance from a PT Commander, Lieutenant Preston promptly took tactical command of two boats but was twice driven off by accurate and intense fire from numerous coast defense guns lining a strait at the entrance to the bay. A third attempt, through dangerous waters, proved successful.

“The boats were forced to lie to for ten minutes under fire 150 yards off the beach while the pilot was being brought aboard. As the boats retired from the area they sank a small enemy cargo vessel with gunfire. Before the outward passage of the strait could be completed, the air cover was forced to leave because of insufficient fuel. Thereafter for twenty minutes he led his boats, maneuvering at high speed, through the splashes of Japanese shells and across the minefields to safety. During the operation the boats were under fire for two and one-half hours, and large shells fell within ten yards of them.”

For intrepidity in action on November 9, 1944, Lieutenant Preston was awarded the Silver Star. In tactical Command of two PT boats, he made contact with three enemy Destroyers approaching at high speed in column formation.

“Lieutenant Preston directed a Torpedo attack on the third Destroyer in line, having closed to 1800 yards. Two minutes after both boats had fired their torpedoes, a large explosion completely enveloped the third Destroyer. The two remaining warships immediately caught the PT boats in their searchlights and took them under 4.7-inch salvo fire. With great skill and ingenuity in the use of smoke and evasive tactics, Lieutenant Preston made good the successful escape of both boats.”

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Filed under In Uniform, Pacific Front

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