Private Man Goes Public Duncan Murphy, 3 Others Fast Over Nicaragua

Posted: October 10, 1986

Even in the briefest of conversations, which is the way he prefers them, Duncan Murphy comes across as an essentially private man.

But contradictory as this might seem, it would be literally correct to say that he is starving for attention!

Murphy, 66, is one of four decorated war veterans who have been fasting on the steps of the Capitol building in Washington to draw wider public attention to the immorality of U.S. intervention in Central America. The fast is total. Their only sustenance is water.

The oldest of the four veterans, Murphy served with an American field service unit attached to the British 8th Army in World War II. Although he saw action in North Africa, Italy, France and Germany, none of that prepared him for the horrors he encountered at the notorious Belsen concentration camp.

The nightmare of Belsen confirmed Murphy's repugnance for war. But ironically, he was to experience the same sense of outrage when he made three visits to Nicaragua and witnessed the brutal effects of the U.S.-sponsored Contra campaign.

"I worked with survivors of the Nazi atrocities after the army unit I was with liberated Belsen," Murphy recalled. "The Jews, Gypsies and other prisoners there told me the same kinds of stories I've heard from survivors of Contra atrocities during my trips to Nicaragua.

"For over 40 years, I have done everything I possibly could to prevent the horrors of the Holocaust from recurring, only to be betrayed by high officials in this country. Two-thirds of the American people were opposed to aid for the Contras, but Congress went ahead and gave them $100 million anyway!

"So now I'm willing to lump together whatever years are left to me and give them all in one short time to activate the ending of the U.S. war in Central America."

With that vow, Duncan Murphy began fasting on Sept. 15, along with Brian

Willson, 45, a former U.S. Air Force intelligence officer in Vietnam.

Murphy and Willson joined two other Vietnam veterans, George Mizo, 41, and Charles Liteky, 55, who had been fasting in front of the Capitol since Sept. 1.

Mizo, a former sergeant, received a medal for gallantry in combat, but he also received extended exposure to Agent Orange. He was the original plaintiff in the so-called Agent Orange Suit against the government.

Liteky is the former Roman Catholic chaplain who gained brief national attention in July by returning the Congressional Medal of Honor he'd won for carrying 20 wounded men to safety, while wounded himself and under heavy fire, during a late-1967 fire fight in Bien Hoa province.

You may recall that after putting his gold medal in an evelope and placing it at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Liteky declared:

"The question is no longer, 'Will Central America become another Vietnam?'

"Central America is another Vietnam, and the time to demonstrate against it is now - not only to prevent the future loss of young American lives, but to stop the current killing of Nicaraguan and Salvadoran innocents."

Today, Duncan Murphy has taken reluctant leave of his comrades on the Capitol steps to try to bring that same message to Philadelphia.

Murphy was scheduled to lead a noon vigil in front of City Hall, tape an afternoon interview for Channel 3, and join WDVT radio talk host Maxine Schnall at 5 p.m., before concluding his visit with a 7:30 p.m. open meeting in the Old First Reformed Church, at 4th and Race streets.

That's a taxing public itinerary for an essentially private man who hasn't eaten in 26 days. But Liteky and Mizo, both in their 40th day without food, are no longer fit to travel.

Liteky now makes it up Capitol Hill in a wheelchair, because of numbness in the leg that was ripped by shrapnel in Bien Hoa.

Mizo, the Agent Orange victim, is suffering from critical respiratory complications.

If you believe four good men shouldn't have to die for a concern you already share, help send Duncan Murphy back to Washington with that plea!

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