AUDIE LEON MURPHY (1924 ~ 1971). Medal of Honor Recipient Audie Murphy was born on June 20, 1924; one of twelve children in a poor family living near Kingston, Texas. His family moved to Celeste, Texas, where Murphy dropped out of school in the 8th grade to work to help his family. He tried to enlist in the Army but was rejected for being too young, but joined in 1942 after waiting to turn 18.
Murphy was assigned to North Africa with Company B, Fifteenth Infantry Regiment, Third Infantry Division; a company he later commanded. Over the course of the war, he took part in a total of eight campaigns in Sicily, Italy, France, and Germany, was wounded three times, and promoted to Second Lieutenant.
On January 26, 1945, near Holtzwhir, France, Murphy's company was attacked by six enemy tanks and a large number of infantry. Murphy ordered his men to take up protected positions in a nearby wood, while he remained in the clearing and directed artillery fire against the German advance. When enemy tanks overran his position, Murphy manned a damaged tank destroyer and fired its machine gun at the enemy. Though he was alone and exposed to enemy fire on three sides, Murphy held back enemy infantry and tanks for an hour under constant enemy fire. He was shot in the leg, but held his position until he ran out of ammunition. Returning to his company in the wood, Murphy refused medical treatment until he organized a successful counterattack to force the enemy's withdrawal. Those actions earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Murphy returned to the United States as a celebrity; the most decorated soldier in U.S. history. During the War, Murphy earned the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star Medal with an Oak Leaf Cluster, the Legion of Merit, three Purple Hearts, the Bronze Star Medal with the Valor device and Oak Leaf Cluster, the French Legion of Honor, the French Fourragere in Colors of the Croix de Guerre, two Croix de Guerre with a Silver Star and a Palm from France, a Croix de Guerre with a Palm from Belgium, the Good Conduct Medal, a Presidential Unit Citation with Oak Leaf Cluster, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with One Silver Star, Four Bronze Service Stars, and one Bronze Arrowhead, the American Campaign Medal, the WWII Victory Medal, the French Liberation Medal, the Army of Occupation Medal with Germany clasp, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Expert and Marksman Badges, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal, the U.S. Army Outstanding Civilian Service Medal, and an honorary badge of the 159th French Alpine Infantry Regiment.
In 1950, he joined the Texas National Guard hoping to be deployed to Korea. Though it was never called to active duty, Murphy remained in the guard for several years, earning the rank of Major. James Cagney invited Murphy to Hollywood in 1951 to become a movie star. After writing his autobiography in 1949, Murphy starred in the film version of his own life story, To Hell and Back, in 1955. He acted in 44 films, mostly westerns, and enjoyed popularity at home and abroad as a movie star. Murphy also wrote and published 17 songs which were recorded by a variety of performers.
Murphy suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which manifested itself in a quick temper, insomnia, and depression, which led him to a dependence on sleeping pills and paranoia that caused him to carry a gun at all times. His illness led him to lobby the government to spend more time and money on returning veterans during the Vietnam War, hoping to save them from the many problems he and other World War II veterans endured. Murphy married co-star Wanda Hendrix for a short period of time before marrying Pamela Archer in 1951; he and Archer had two sons.
On May 28, 1971 Murphy died in a plane crash near Christiansburg, Virginia. Funeral services were held on June 4 in Hollywood, California, and Farmersville, Texas. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery and today his grave is the second most visited in the Cemetery, after President John F. Kennedy. There is a memorial in his honor in Farmersville, as well as a collection of memorabilia at Hill Junior College. A statue of Murphy was erected at the Veterans Hospital in San Antonio. In 1996 he was posthumously inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma. The Sergeant Audie Murphy Club in the U.S. Army serves as an honor society for deserving noncommissioned officers; membership in the club is a reward for showing leadership qualities which Audie Murphy is remembered for in the Army. An act of the Texas Legislature in 1996 made June 20 "Audie Murphy Day" in Texas.
Bibliography: "Above and Beyond: The Medal of Honor in Texas," Capitol Visitors Center, State Preservation Board of Texas. Arlington National Cemetery, http://www.arlingtoncemetery.org/historical_information/audie_murphy.html, September 23, 2005. Audie L. Murphy Memorial Website, http://www.audiemurphy.com, October 14, 2005. Dallas Morning News: September 16, 1962, pg. 10: May 17, 1975. The Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association, University of Texas, http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/MM/fmu13.html, September 26, 2005. Internet Movie Database, http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001559/bio, October 14, 2005. Tribe, Ivan M. "From WWII Hero to Hollywood Star," http://www.srmason-sj.org/council/journal/feb99/TRIBE.htm, October 18, 2005.