Audie Murphy who served in Europe for 27 months during World War II was awarded the Medal of Honor, plus 32 other awards by the United States and foreign countries.
Murphy was born June 20, 1924 in Kingston, Texas. He had to drop out of school in the fifth grade to support his family as a farm worker. He was a very good shot and said once, that if he didn’t shoot what he shot at that his family wouldn’t eat that day.
He tried to join the Marines, Army Air Corps and Navy, but they all said he was underweight at 110 pounds. The U.S. Army did accept him and after passing out during a basic training drill, the Army tried to send him to baker’s school, but he insisted on being assigned to an infantry unit.
It didn’t take long for Murphy to be promoted after shooting two Italian officers in Sicily, so he was promoted to corporal. Two months later he was promoted to sergeant after fighting his way out of a German ambush on the Italian mainland.
His most heroic action was when his unit only had 19 soldiers remaining out of 128 and he sent the 19 soldiers to the rear while he singlehandedly fought the Germans. Then when he ran out of ammunition, he jumped in a burning tank destroyer and starting firing on the German position. In addition, he also called in artillery strikes. Murphy then gathered the 19 remaining soldiers, as they drove the Germans from the battlefield. He had suffered a leg wound but continued fighting. His actions in this battle won him the Medal of Honor. His Medal of Honor citation credits Murphy with killing or wounding 50 German soldiers in that one battle.
Murphy joined the Texas National Guard after the Korean War began, but his unit was never called into combat.
He was a private first class when he was part of the invasion force entering Sicily in July of 1943, but by the end of 1944 he had been promoted to corporal, sergeant, staff sergeant and second lieutenant.
Starred in Movies, Television
Murphy moved to Hollywood and after struggling at first to find movie roles, was seen in 44 movies and is on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
He played a copy boy in his first movie Texas, Brooklyn and Heaven in 1948 and was seen in 33 westerns. He did play himself in To Hell and Back which was based on his autobiography by the same name. He appeared as Jesse James in A Time For Dying which ironically was his last movie before his death.
The trailer from To Hell And Back the autobiographical movie about Audie Murphy.
The highlight of his television career was when he played the title character in Whispering Smith. Only 26 episodes were filmed of the series.
To see a complete list of his movie and television appearances:
Country Music Songwriting Career
Audie Murphy also was a country music songwriter. He was admitted to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1981. His most famous composition would be Shutters and Boards which is heard being sung by Jerry Wallace:
Jerry Wallace singing Shutters and Boards written by Audie Murphy.
Dies in Virginia Plane Crash
Murphy was flying in a private plane on May 28, 1971 with zero visibility, when it crashed into Brush Mountain near Catawba, Virginia. The pilot had 8,000 hours of flying time but no instrument rating.
He had requested before his death to have a simple headstone at Arlington National Cemetery, not wanting the customary gold leaf surrounding the headstone for previous Medal of Honor winners.
Murphy was a humble man who like most war veterans who experienced combat situations, suffered post traumatic stress upon returning from the war and worked to get special compensation for veterans experiencing it.
It was ironic that Murphy who risked his life many times on the battlefield would die on a plane, that probably shouldn’t have even been in the air.
Murphy was only 45 at the time of his death, but had more life experiences than most of us, who lived many years longer.
It is probably safe to say that Audie Murphy is the only person to have won the Medal of Honor, enshrined on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Cowboy Hall of Fame.
Audie Murphy was not only the greatest American soldier who was on a battlefield, but also a humble man who never seeked to capitalize on his acts of heroism. In fact he wanted Tony Curtis to play his part in To Hell and Back.
We need to keep the memory of Audie Murphy alive for generations to come. He faced adversity as a child and as a soldier on the battlefield, but he overcame adversity to become America’s greatest war hero. America needs more men like Audie Murphy today.