James F. Murphy was born in Wisconsin and moved to Oklahoma City with his family in the 1930s. He enlisted in the Army in 1948, and was commissioned through Infantry OCS in 1951. During Korean combat in 1952, he led his platoon in a counterattack to repel an enemy attack. After hearing cries for help from a valley in front of his position, he led two volunteers down an icy slope to rescue a wounded American soldier. Under enemy observation, he worked three hours to rig a top sling to carry the wounded man to safety.
For personal gallantry, he received the Distinguished Service Cross. He served in combat again in Vietnam as a battalion commander in the First Infantry Division, receiving a Silver Star for his service. In 2000, he was inducted into the Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame at Fort Benning, Ga.