Stories about Miles City B26 pilot Jim Muri
Posted by dgaub (+23) 4 years ago
Greetings from Belgrade,

I'm a former Miles City guy now retired in Belgrade after a 12-year run in sales support roles (proposal writer, proposal manager) for a couple software companies, RightNow Technologies and then Oracle after the latter acquired RightNow.

My real heart and soul, however, remains journalism. These days, I'm working on my second book, the life story of Jim Muri. I'm hopeful most know the basics of the military part of his story. If not, here 'tis in a nutshell. Jim was the pilot of one of four B-26 bombers, fitted with torpedoes, that attacked the oncoming Japanese fleet on June 4, 1942, the first day of the Battle of Midway. Jim and his crew, plus the pilot and crew of one other B-26, survived the gauntlet of antiaircraft fire and Zero fighters and were able to crash land back at Midway. Jim's impromptu tactic involved banking his plane, flying at near water level in hopes of launching the torpedo, upward and down the deck of the Japanese fleet flagship. That was the carrier Akagi.

Fortunately, many Zeroes were flying higher at that instant, and the antiaircraft guns were pointed outwards. Still, Muri's escape left his plane, the fabled Susie-Q, with 500-plus bullet holes and an unflyable wreck. Also, several crew members were wounded. All received the Distinguished Service Cross for their bravery. Their contribution to victory at Midway was largely psychological: sowing confusion in the minds of the Japanese navy's high command: strike again at Midway or send torpedo planes out to hit the U.S. carriers lurking somewhere in the Pacific that had escaped being sunk at Pearl Harbor.

I know the basics of the story. In fact, you can easily find them in greater or lesser detail in most reputable accounts of Midway. I am, however, going beyond that to develop a full story of Jim's life as someone who grew up in Depression-era Carterville, was a star athlete and a pretty fair student at Custer County High School, enlisted in the Army as a welder with hopes of flying, had his date with destiny and then life thereafter.

I've been in contact with many members of Jim's family, including Kathy (Muri) Boutelle; his three surviving brothers in Miles City, Al, Karl and Pete; his son and daughter, living out of state; and a grandson, also out of state, who has much of his grandfather's military memorabilia.

But I'm wondering if there are any Miles City "elders" with memories of Jim. Also, does anyone know the family of a onetime Miles City guy named Henry Swarts? He was Jim's best friend in high school, by an account I've read, and an inspiration to Jim because Henry took flying lessons at the Miles City airport while Jim watched. Presumably, Henry's parents were a little more well off. Henry supposedly enlisted in the military, Army Air Force I believe, but there the trail goes cold. I've done an Internet white pages search for the name but nothing obvious in Montana jumps out.

Thanks in advance. And in case you wondered, my byline appeared for a total of about 20 years during two reporting stints with the Billings Gazette.
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Posted by dgaub (+23) 4 years ago
Oops. Forgot to mention who I am. Dennis Gaub
Posted by Craig Swartz (+12) 4 years ago
My name is Craig Swartz and I live in Missoula. Henry G. Swartz and Nora were my grandparents, They had 8 kids and one of them was Henry George, he was KIA in WW2. I'm back in the family home after our mother passed away a few years ago. The house is a time capsule since my grandparents lived here prior to our family moving here around 1955,56. We moved in across the street from my grandparents. Depression era never, ever through anything out.
Old Miles City Star papers and the saddlery, where my dad worked.

I have a box that has letters to home and other personal items.
June 8th, 1941. "Jim Muri is now a Lieutenant he has been transferred to Langely Field, Virginia. That's a really good field. I am hoping I can get transferred there too. If not there maybe Salt Lake City".

I was in Miles City, August of 1970 with my mom for a visit to the homestead around Rock Springs and Hillside. "Hot" wasn't even close to describe our stay, but with the help of a family relative we found the place. Mom was one of the Johnson sisters. Alice, Della and Laura. Albert and Lydia who are interned with H.G. and Nora Swartz at the Miles City cemetery. I would like to see the old homestead area again.

Dennis, feel free to call (406) 543-4619 and leave your contact number.
Maybe we could meet in Butte and you can buy me a Pasty.
Craig Swartz
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Posted by dgaub (+23) 4 years ago
Hi Craig,

Sorry for the delay in responding. Yes, I'd love to chat with you, and a Butte pasty is on me.

Talk to you very soon.