Dedicated to the Preservation of the
U.S. Air Force Helicopter History
James “Jim” R. Murtha, Colonel, USAF (Retired)July 01, 1937 – March 01, 2007
Colonel James (Jim) R. Murtha, age 69, U.S. Air Force retired, died March 1, 2007, at his home in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., following a courageous battle with cancer.
Born July 1, 1937, in New York City to the late James E. and Mabel H. (Smith) Murtha, he moved to Bennington, Vt., as a young boy. He graduated from Bennington High School in 1955. A winter laboring on the St. Lawrence Seaway inspired him to return to school and in 1960 he earned an economics degree from St. Michael’s College Burlington, Vt., and an officer’s commission in the U.S. Air Force. During his 24-year military career, which included Vietnam service, he traveled the world — Europe to Asia to Africa. He was a Command Pilot flying sea planes and helicopters for Air Rescue. He was awarded Vietnam combat decorations and many personal awards. Prior to retirement, he served as Chief, Resource Management Division, Directorate of Maintenance, Robins Air Force Base, Ga. Though proud of his career, he was most proud of the opportunity to work with so many outstanding military professionals.
Jim continued his service in the local community as the sixth/eighth grade math and history teacher at Saint Mary’s Catholic School. This 12 year period with the children of St. Mary’s was some of the most personally rewarding. He made his classes come alive and be pertinent to the children. The memories of his booming voice, larger than life, physical presence, infectious enthusiasm, sense of humor, as well as trips to battlefields, government offices and camping will live on with his students, dedicated teachers and staff, priests and parents at St. Mary’s.
Jim, a resident of Fort Walton Beach since 1970, served as former Mayor Pro-tem of Fort Walton Beach and four-year member of the Fort Walton Beach City Council and was an ardent participant in many political and civic venues on numerous issues of local and national interest. He was an active member of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, the Knights of Columbus, American Legion, the Daedalians, and the Military Officers’ Association.
Jim is survived by his loving wife of 44 years, Mary F. (Blount); and four children, James C. (Ann) of Milwaukee, Michael P. (Julie) of San Antonio, Texas, Christopher J. (Joli) of Atlanta, and Maria K. Murtha-Endris (Greg) of Seattle; his brother, Robert E. Murtha (Nancy) of Glens Falls, N.Y. Survivors also include seven grandchildren; and many, many in-laws, nephews, nieces and dear friends, all of whom provided time, love, support and prayers. He was predeceased by his parents; and his brother, Peter C. of Boston.
I never had the opportunity to serve with Jim when he was still flying. He was the Maintenance Control Officer when I was assigned to Job Control with the 1550 ATTW at Kirtland AFB NM. Jim had a way about himself in that he could inspire his subordinates to give 110% while still being firm on what it took to get the job done and meet the mission.
With the numerous maintenance issues that come up in a unit of that size, Jim was always able to calm the Flight Line troops and have them understand his reasoning behind a maintenance directive he issued.
Both Operations and Maintenance folks respected Jim for his honesty and integrity and the fact that he cared about all. On top of this he was well liked by everyone. I don’t think he ever met someone that he didn’t like.
When I was assigned to the Mission Support Division (MSD) at Headquarters ARRS at Scott AFB IL, Jim came to Scott and was the Logistics Plans (LGX) Chief. There were a lot of unit mobility issues at the time and through the efforts and dedication of Jim, they were all resolved to the Headquarters satisfaction. These efforts insured the Rescue units were well prepared for any contingency or deployment.
While at Scott Jim often had the Operations folks coming to him for assistance and advice with an issue they were working. Through his efforts the Ops and Maintenance folks at the Headquarters became a very cohesive organization.
Off duty Jim was an extremely fun person to be around when it came to the Headquarters picnics or other outside activities. He was always able to find some humor in everything.
I lost contact with Jim when I left Scott in 1981. Just recently I learned of his medical issues and with some research I was able to locate him. A few weeks before his death I was able to talk with him on the phone. He never once was concerned with his condition and was only concerned with mine. That is just the way Jim was. I feel good that I was able to talk with him that one last time.
I feel that I am a better person having known and served with Jim. He set an example for others to follow.
Jim was not a member of our group of “USAF ROTORHEADS”, however the group would have been honored to have him in our midst.
I will miss Jim knowing that someday we will meet again and be able to converse about the good “ole” days of Air Force helicopters.
Jim MooreMarch 04, 2007