Audie Murphy was the most decorated soldier of World War II. He did not come from a privileged life; born to humble beginnings in Kingston, Texas on June 20th, 1945, he was one of twelve children. His family were sharecroppers. Unfortunately his father never had a big presence in his life and after several years of showing up sporadically he finally abandoned the family. Audie was known for being a moody loner as a child which was possibly due to abandonment issues caused by his father. In fifth grade he dropped out of school and began working. He also had to hone his skills with a gun in order to provide food for his family. This would come in hand during his war service.
In 1941 his mother passed away. This was also the same year the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Audie feeling incensed tried to join the Army, Marines, and Navy, even though he was under age. He was denied by all three branches for being underweight and underage. His sister lied on an affidavit about his age and he was finally admitted into the army on June 30th, 1942. Camp Wolters was the home for his basic training where he earned a marksman badge with a rifle component. He was transferred to Fort Meade for advanced infantry training.
On February 20th, 1943 he was finally shipped off to participate in World War II. Casablanca in French Morocco would be his first stop. He was assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 19th infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. His first duties included being a platoon messenger in Algeria. It was in Africa where he trained for the allied assault on Sicily. By July 15th he had been promoted to Corporal.
On July 10th, 1943 his infantry landed in Sicily. He performed service as a division runner. In September of that year he was part of a mainland landing at Battipaglia in Salerno. He was scouting on the the Volturno river with two comrades when they were attacked by German machine gunfire. One of his fellow soldiers was killed. He killed the German soldiers with machine gun fire and grenades. In October he participated in an assault near Mignano Monte Lungo Hill. He and his men were attacked by the Germans and they defeated them and took those who survived captive.
On December 13th, 1943 he was promoted to Sergeant and in January 1944 he was promoted to Staff Sergeant. He was supposed to serve in the first landing at the Anzio Beachhead but he had contracted Malaria and was out of commission for about a week. On January 29th, 1944 he returned to service and engaged in the first Battle of Cisterna. He was promoted to Platoon Sergeant of Company B Platoon after the battle. He remained in Anzio with his Platoon for months.
Murphy earned a Bronze Star on March 2nd, 1944. He and his platoon took refuge in an abandoned farmhouse. A German tank was passing by and he and his men killed all the German soldiers. He exited the farm by himself and destroyed the tank with a grenade.
On June 4th Murphy was part of the group of Americans who helped to liberate Rome. He stayed in Rome until July and was then moved along to France.
In August of 1944 he participated in one of the first Allied invasions of Southern France. He earned the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions in battle. He and his platoon were passing through a vineyard when they were ambushed by German machine gunfire. Murphy located a detached machine and turned the weapon on the Germans. He was able to kill two men and wound another. A few Germans deceptively waved their white flag and killed his friend when he went to accept their surrender. Murphy advanced on them by himself and he killed six, wounded two and took eleven soldiers prisoner.
On October 2nd 1944 he earned a Silver Star attacking Germans at the L'omet Quarry in the Cleurie River Valley. Three days after that he crawled by himself towards the Germans at L'omet. He directed his men over radio and they were able to take the hill. This earned him his second Silver Star. On October 14th he was promoted while in combat to Second Lieutenant, this made him his platoon leader.
While traveling to a different French locale, on October 26th, he and his platoon were hit by a German sniper group. Murphy took a bullet to the hip but was able to fire a return and hit a sniper square between the eyes. His wound got infected with gangrene. He had to have surgery and lost a good portion of his hip muscle. He was not able to serve for several months and received a Purple Heart for his injury. In January of 1945 he returned to action.
On January 24th, 1945 he and his division advanced to the town of Holtzwihr where they were attacked my a group of Germans. Murphy was wounded in both legs. The Germans took down a M10 tank destroyer and the Murphy ordered his men to retreat. Audie stayed and climbed on the destroyed tank and took over the machine gun attached to it. He stayed in that position for an hour before he ran out of fire. Rejoining his men he continued to serve with them while his legs were being treated. For this he earned the Medal of Honor, a Purple Heart, a Presidential Unit Citation and a Legion of Merit Medal. He also was promoted to First Lieutenant.
By mid 1945 he had returned to the States. The opportunity to attend West Point arose but he decided against attending. He was sent to Fort Sam Houston in Texas to await reassignment. A period of 30 days was appointed for recuperation. During this time he attended many parades and banquets in his honor across the country. He was discharged on September 21st, 1945 as a First Lieutenant and with 50% disability. He was called back into service briefly during the Korean War to serve as captain to a division of the Texas Army National Guard.
After the war he struggled with PTSD. He suffered from insomnia, depression, mood swings. headaches, vomiting, and nightmares. Constantly reminded of the horrors of war he slept with a loaded gun under his pillow. He became addicted to sedatives in order to sleep. When he realized he had an addiction he locked himself in a room and detoxed himself. By writing poetry he was able to find some therapeutic relief. He brought up his concerns to the government and urged them to study the psychological consequences of combat.
In 1948 he started a twenty year acting career. James Cagney saw him on a cover of Life magazine and brought him to Hollywood and got him set up with a contract. Many of his films were westerns. He acted in forty film and one television series. He refused many offers to appear in alcohol and cigarette advertisements because he felt it would set a bad example to those who looked up to him. In 1948 he released a memoir, To Hell and Back. In 1955 it was made into a film of the same name and he played himself. He also enjoyed a career in song writing and breeding quarter horses.
On May 28th, 1971, tragedy struck and he died in a plane crash. The plane crashed near Brush Mountain in Virginia. At the age of 45, Audie still had a lot more life to live. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full honors.
Audie Murphy was an incredibly skilled and brave soldier. During his time served he always gave his all and put his men's safety above his own. After his time served he suffered hardships with PTSD but unlike some other sufferers, he found a life and job after the war and continued to try to do what was honorable above all else. Tragedy struck and he was taken from this world at the young age of forty-five. First Lieutenant Audie Murphy will live on as a great example of an American Hero and what he did in his short time here will be remembered.
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