Arthur Murray Preston was born in Washington, District of Columbia on November 1, 1913. He was a graduate of both Yale University and the University of Virginia, and was an attorney in Washington, DC when he volunteered to enlist in the United States Navy in September of 1940.
Preston was sent to the Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School at Northwestern University and was commissioned as an Ensign in the United States Naval Reserve during March of 1941. He became an officer in motor torpedo (PT) boats and was present at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked on December 7, 1941.
Except for a brief period during 1943 when he returned to the mainland United States to act as a torpedo boat instructor, Preston served in combat in the Pacific. Then-Lieutenant Preston was given command of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 33 in December 1943, and it was in that capacity nearly a year later that he led two of his boats in a daring mission deep into Japanese-held waters to rescue a shot down pilot at Halmahera Island in the Maluku chain.
Soon afterwards, he was promoted to Lieutenant Commander and for his courage in command, was decorated with the Medal of Honor.
PRESTON, ARTHUR MURRAY
Rank and organization: Lieutenant, U.S. Navy Reserve, Torpedo Boat Squadron 33. Place and date. Wasile Bay, Halmahera Island, 16 September 1944. Entered service at: Maryland
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commander, Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 33, while effecting the rescue of a Navy pilot shot down in Wasile Bay, Halmahera Island, less than 200 yards from a strongly defended Japanese dock and supply area, 16 September 1944. Volunteering for a perilous mission unsuccessfully attempted by the pilot’s squadron mates and a PBY plane, Lt. Comdr. (then Lieutenant) Preston led PT-489 and PT-363 through 60 miles of restricted, heavily mined waters. Twice turned back while running the gauntlet of fire from powerful coastal defense guns guarding the 11-mile strait at the entrance to the bay, he was again turned back by furious fire in the immediate area of the downed airman. Aided by an aircraft smokescreen, he finally succeeded in reaching his objective and, under vicious fire delivered at 150-yard range, took the pilot aboard and cleared the area, sinking a small hostile cargo vessel with 40-mm. fire during retirement. Increasingly vulnerable when covering aircraft were forced to leave because of insufficient fuel, Lt. Comdr. Preston raced PT boats 489 and 363 at high speed for 20 minutes through shell-splashed water and across minefields to safety. Under continuous fire for 2 l/2 hours, Lt. Comdr. Preston successfully achieved a mission considered suicidal in its tremendous hazards, and brought his boats through without personnel casualties and with but superficial damage from shrapnel. His exceptional daring and great personal valor enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
Murray left the Navy in 1953 holding the rank of Commander and returned to the practice of law. He passed away on January 7, 1968 at age 54 and was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. As yet, there has been no warship of our Navy named for this hero of the naval service.