Earth Day Thoughts from WWII Veteran Dr. Kenneth M. Murray, Jr.

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Thalia Ertman
April 22, 2019

Today is Earth Day! And we here at the Friends of the National World War II Memorial are lucky enough to have some thoughts from a World War II veteran on the state of our planet and what we can do to make it better.

A few weeks ago, we traveled down to Florida and were lucky enough to meet Dr. Kenneth M. Murray, Jr., a U.S. Army Air Corps veteran and a PhD.

Not only did we get to interview Dr. Murray as part of our Voices of World War II effort, but he also gave us an essay he had written called “Our beautiful but fragile blue blanket” about earth’s atmosphere and how we can help it.

In celebration of Earth Day, we wanted to share with you Dr. Murray’s essay, which he wrote and graciously provided to us to share with all of you.

And, if you want to learn more about Dr. Murray, you can watch our interview with him!

Our beautiful but fragile blue blanket. Respect it!
by Dr. Kenneth M. Murray, Jr.

Our planet, earth, is 25,000 miles around. The atmosphere covers our earth, but, it is perilously thin! Our beautiful blue blanket, our atmosphere, is only a few miles thick, less than your average drive to the local supermarket. Half of it is below 15,000 feet, less than three miles. Let’s look at what it does for us.

• It provides us our life giving oxygen.

• It provides us with temperature moderation. The surface temperatures on the moon, which has no atmosphere, shifts daily from +225 degrees F to -243 degrees F.

• Carbon dioxide in proper amount supports our plant-life without too much “green-house” effect.

• High energy particles, “cosmic rays” which bombard our planet, dissipate their energy high in our atmosphere in showers of electron like particles which pass through our bodies harmlessly.

• It makes possible “weather” which, for the most part provides rain to support our crops by picking up moisture from our vast oceans and carrying it over our lands where it cools and drops as rain. Most runs back to the oceans but some returns to the atmosphere.

• Its upper layer, the ozone layer, stops most of the harmful UV rays from the sun, protecting us from serious “sun burn” and skin cancer.

• This “weather” also provides an infinite variety of beautiful sunsets and sunrises.

What are we doing to our beautiful blue blanket?

We are dumping in it!!!!

We live in an energy hungry society. 59% of this country’s electricity comes from burning coal and most of the rest from burning oil. Our automobiles suck about our entire atmosphere through their engines converting oxygen molecules into carbon carrying molecules every year. The average household pumps a ton of carbon dioxide into our beautiful blue blanket every month. There IS a better way. The sun shines enough energy on every square yard of your home to provide about 5 times the energy you consume. We MUST find a way of using this RENEWABLE energy NOW and stop destroying our beautiful blue blanket.

But there is so much more to our story about our wonderful atmosphere, our beautiful blue blanket.

Plants and animals.

Plants together with sunlight perform a ballet called photosynthesis. They take carbon dioxide and sunlight to make leaves and twigs and stems etc. and in turn release the oxygen that animals, including us, need to be alive. The animals use the oxygen together with hydrogen and exhale the carbon dioxide which the plants consume. A beautiful balance!

Actually there is more than enough sunlight to keep these processes going. As the plant and animal matter dies and decays it is slowly compressed by geological forces into what we call “fossil fuels” which have stores some of that extra solar energy.

We should not forget water, “H2O.” Water is an essential part of this story. It provides a warm damp environment for many of the aforementioned processes to proceed.

So what is next?


Humans discovered how to extract that fossil fuel that has been stored away for eons to fuel their need for energy. But it comes with a price – extra carbon dioxide! A greenhouse gas us humans cannot prevent from entering our beautiful blue blanket in sufficient quantities to start climate change. And, we ARE feeling the effects! Humans are smart enough to find ways that do NOT make our beautiful blue blanket grungy and sick. We just have to make our elected representatives see that messing up our atmosphere is NOT in anyone’s best interest.

Tell all our elected AND the Lobbyists who have them in their pockets that “we, the people,” of this beautiful nation are sick and tired of them treating our beautiful blue blanket as a toilet!!!

Guiding hand behind the establishment of many West coast Victory Gardens, Professor Harry Nelson of San Francisco’s Junior College still finds time to give his ten-year-old daughter Pat (left) and her Girl Scout friends some pointers in transplanting young vegetables. (Ann Rosener, photographer, United States. Office of War Information, 1943)