Audie Murphy's medals and badges

Audie Leon Murphy was born near Kingston, Texas, on June 20, 1924. Audie was the 7th of 12 children. His parents were very poor and Audie had to work in the house and around to earn some extra money for his family. He often went out hunting with his little rifle to help feeding his familymembers. Audie did earn shootingskills thanks to the hunting.

When the United States declared war in December of 1941, Audie went to enlist. He first wanted to join the Marines, but was rejected because he was underweight. He got the same reason for rejection from the paratroopers. Then he enlisted in the regular Army as Infantryman.

First Audie took his basic recruit training at Camp Wolters, Texas. Then he went through Advanced Infantry Training at Fort Meade, Maryland. He served as a post office clerk until early 1943, when his unit was shipped to North Africa, where the Axis troops had just surrendered. In North Africa he joined Company B, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. He arrived there in February of 1943.

On July 10, 1943, Audie landed in Gela, Sicily, where he saw his first reall combat action. Audie’s Captain did his best to keep the small soldier from fighting by making him a runner. Audie Murphy soon proved to be a ruthless soldier, who single-handedly killed numerous Italian and German soldiers in seemingly hopeless situation and he soon distinguished himself under fire as a resourceful and effective soldier. Finally the Captain gave up and promoted Audie to Corporal.

Audie Murphy

Audie’s next action was in the invasion of Salerno on the Italian mainland. Here Audie again excelled as a soldier and leader. While leading a night patrol, Audie and his men ran into a group of German soldiers. After fighting their way out of an ambush, they took cover in a rock quarry. The Germans sent a squad of soldiers in to get them out but were stopped by heavy machine gun and rifle fire. Three Germans were killed and several others captured. For Audie’s actions at Salerno, he was promoted to Sergeant.

Audie missed the attack on Anzio because Malaria, when he collapsed on the road to Messina, a major stopped his jeep and asked him if he was sick. Audie just replied: “No sir, I’m just spilling my guts for the hell of it.”

Audie soon recovered and rejoined his unit just in time for some of the thoughest fighting of the war. For 3 days the Americans fought to escape their beachhead, but were unsuccessful. The situation deteriorated to a stalemate with neither side gaining. This went on for months and the soldiers dug in for the long haul. Audie volunteered for numerous patrols and his unit came under artillery fire almost every night. Audie was soon evacuated from the front with another attack of malaria.

Within 10 days Audie was back at the front to fight. Soon after the unit was pulled out for a short rest. Audie was offered a battlefield commission to 2nd Lieutenant.  Audie refused, because he didn’t wanted to leave his men.

Once back at the front, Audie quickly surveyed his area and discovered that there was only one route the enemy armor could pass through. Audie heavily mined the area. When the Germans attacked, the lead tank hit a mine and blocked the road completely. The Germans withdrew, but Audie wanted to be sure that they could not move the damaged tank. Taking a small patrol forward, Audie ordered them to cover him while he approached the tank. He first threw two Molotov cocktails at the tank. Neither ignited. A grenade he tossed inside was ineffective. The Germans guarding the tank began firing at him. Audie next used rifle grenades and finally managed to knock the tank treads off one side. For this action, Audie was awarded the Bronze Star.

On May 23, the 3rd Division finally broke out of the Anzio beachhead. After fighting their way to Rome, the Division was then ordered to a rear area for amphibious training.

Audie Murphy and his buddies

On August 15, 1944, the Division made their landing in Southern France. Audie’s battalion was tasked with capturing an enemy artillery position high up on a ridge. The men of 1st Battalion slowly advanced up the slope, struggling all the way. As they reached the top, the Germans opened deadly fire. Every way of approach was covered by heavy machine gun fire. Audie, whose platoon was located in the rear of the lines, moved forward, out of the line of ambush, and took stock of the situation. Half the unit was pinned down, the other half was being decimated by enemy fire. Audie could not reach the enemy positions with grenades and his carbine was ineffective. Audie slowly crawled down the slope and reached the heavy weapons platoon. Commandeering a .30 cal machine gun, Audie crawled back. Setting up the gun, he opened fire and quickly killed two German slodiers. With only one belt of ammunition, Audie used short bursts and forced the German gunners to cease firing and duck down. Once out of ammunition, Audie and another soldier, Pvt. Lattie P. Tipton, charged the first German position and quickly silenced it. As they prepared to attack the next position, Tipton noticed a German soldier waving a white flag. He stood up to take the soldier prisoner, Tipton was killed by a single rifle bullet. Audie was enraged by this act and picked up the German machine gun. He first charged one enemy position with grenades and the gun and killed both German soldiers in it. He charged several more positions and killed all of the soldiers within them. When it was over, they discovered that the artillery they had been sent to silence was a fake. They had been suckered into an ambush. For his actions, Audie was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

Audie Murphy in action (from his movie "To the Hell and Back")

As the 3rd Division continued their advance, Audie was wounded in the heel by a shell fragment. He received the Purple Heart and spent two weeks in an Evac hospital. After returning to his unit, they were ambushed while on patrol. Audie, who crawled out of the ambush zone, charged the enemy position and using two hand grenades, silenced it. For this action, which saved the lives of this patrol, Audie was awarded the Silver Star. Several days later, his platoon was ambushed again and several more soldiers were killed. Audie grabbed a radio and crawled forward to where he could see the enemy position. While under intense fire, Audie called in mortar and artillery fire on the Germans. Official Army records indicate the indirect fire killed 15 and wounded 35 enemy soldiers. For this, Audie received his second Silver Star, three days after earning his first.

Several days later, Audie was ordered to the 15th Regiment’s headquarters. Once there he was discharged from the Army as a Sergeant and then commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. With his new rank, Audie returned to his platoon, this time to command it.

On October 26, 1944, Audie was wounded again by a sniper bullet in his hip. He was evacuated to a hospital and spent there 3 months recuperating. He rejoined his unit in January, 1945, Audie led his men against the German stronghold at Holtzwihr. For three days they attacked the fortress with no success. Soon, Audie was the only officer left alive. He took command of the company and organized the next assault. This was said over Audie’s combat and command: “2nd Lt. Murphy commanded Company B, which was attacked by 6 tanks and waves of infantry. 2nd Lt. Murphy ordered his men to withdraw to prepared positions in a woods, while he remained forward at his command post and continued to give fire directions to the artillery by telephone. Behind him, to his right, 1 of our tank destroyers received a direct hit and began to burn. Its crew withdrew to the woods. 2nd Lt. Murphy continued to direct artillery fire which killed large numbers of the advancing enemy infantry. With the enemy tanks abreast of his position, 2nd Lt. Murphy climbed on the burning tank destroyer, which was in danger of blowing up at any moment, and employed its .50 caliber machine gun against the enemy. He was alone and exposed to German fire from 3 sides, but his deadly fire killed dozens of Germans and caused their infantry attack to waver. The enemy tanks, losing infantry support, began to fall back. For an hour the Germans tried every available weapon to eliminate 2nd Lt. Murphy, but he continued to hold his position and wiped out a squad which was trying to creep up unnoticed on his right flank. Germans reached as close as 10 yards, only to be mowed down by his fire. He received a leg wound, but ignored it and continued the single-handed fight until his ammunition was exhausted. He then made his way to his company, refused medical attention, and organized the company in a counterattack which forced the Germans to withdraw. His directing of artillery fire wiped out many of the enemy; he killed or wounded about 50. 2nd Lt. Murphy’s indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground saved his company from possible encirclement and destruction, and enabled it to hold the woods which had been the enemy’s objective”.

Murphy stopped a German advance, saved his Platoon and killed 50 Germans and wounded a lot more

In June 1945, Audie Murphy returned to Texas and was given a hero’s welcome. He was awarded the Medal of Honour and left the Army (in 1948 he was awarded the Cross of the Chevalier of the Legion of Honour in Paris).

2nd Lt. Murphy receiving his Medal of Honor

On 21 September, 1945, Audie was released from the Army as an active member and reassigned to inactive status. During this same time, actor James Cagney invited Murphy to Hollywood in September 1945, when he saw Murphy’s photo on the cover of Life Magazine. The next couple of years in California were hard times for Audie Murphy. Struggling and becoming disillusioned from lack of work while sleeping in a local gymnasium, he finally received token acting parts in his first two films.

Audie Murphy on the cover of the Life Magazine

Audie Murphy rose to national fame as the most decorated U.S. combat soldier of World War II. Among his 33 awards and decorations was the Medal of Honor, the highest military award for bravery that can be given to any individual in the United States of America, for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.” He also received every decoration for valor that his country had to offer, some of them more than once, including 5 decorations by France and Belgium. Credited with either killing over 240 of the enemy while wounding and capturing many others, he became a legend within the 3rd Infantry Division. Beginning his service as an Army Private, Audie quickly rose to the enlisted rank of Staff Sergeant, was given a “battle field” commission as 2nd Lieutenant, was wounded three times, fought in 9 major campaigns across the European Theater, and survived the war.

Major Audie L. Murphy

During Murphy’s 3 years active service as a combat soldier in World War II, Audie became one of the best fighting combat soldiers of this or any other century. What Audie accomplished during this period is most significant and probably will never be repeated by another soldier, given today’s high-tech type of warfare. The U.S. Army has always declared that there will never be another Audie Murphy.

Audie L. Murphy

Audie sufferred from what is now known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and was plagued by insomnia and depression. During the mid-60's he became dependent for a time on doctor prescribed sleeping pills called Placidyl. When he recognized that he had become addicted to this prescription drug, he locked himself in a motel room, stopped taking the sleeping pills and went through withdrawal symptoms for a week. Always an advocate for the needs of veterans, he broke the taboo about discussing war related mental problems after this experience. In a effort to draw attention to the problems of returning Korean and Vietnam War veterans, Audie Murphy spoke-out candidly about his personal problems with PTSD, then known as “Battle Fatigue”. He publicly called for United States government to give more consideration and study to the emotional impact war has on veterans and to extend health care benefits to address PTSD and other mental health problems of returning war vets.

While on a business trip on May 28, 1971, (Memorial Day Weekend) he was killed at the age of 46. A private plane flying in fog and rain crashed in the side of a mountain near Roanoke, Virginia. Five others including the pilot were also killed. Although Audie owned and flew his own plane earlier in his career at Hollywood, he was among the passengers that tragic day.

Audie L. Murphy and his wife Pamela Archer Murphy

On June 7th, Audie Murphy was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery. His gravesite, near the Amphitheater in Section 46 at Arlington, a site overlooking the Tomb Of Unknows. Audie’s gravesite is second most visited gravesite year round. President Kennedy's grave is the most visited.

In 1996 the Texas Legislature officially designated his birthday, June 20th, as Audie Murphy Day. On June 9, 1999, Governor George W. Bush, Texas, made a similar proclamation declaring June 20th to be officially Audie Murphy Day in the state of Texas.

Sgt. Murphy ("To the Hell and Back")