Audie Leon Murphy, son of poor Texas sharecroppers, 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 five decorations by France and Belgium. Credited with 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 nine major campaigns across the European Theater, and survived the war.
On 21 September, 1945, Audie was released from the Army as an active member and reassigned to inactive status. He later went to Hollywood and became a successful movie star. His 1949 autobiography To Hell And Back was a best seller. Murphy starred as himself in a film biography released by Universal-International in 1955 with the same title. The movie, To Hell and Back, held the record as Universal’s highest grossing picture until 1975 when it was finally surpassed by the movie Jaws.
While on a business trip on Memorial Day weekend, May 28, 1971, he was killed at the age of 46. A private plane flying in fog and rain crashed into 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 Hollywood career, he was among the passengers that tragic day.
On June 7th, Audie Murphy was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery. His gravesite, near the Amphitheater in Section 46, is the second most visited gravesite, President Kennedy’s grave being the most visited. The headstones of Arlington’s Medal of Honor recipients are normally decorated in gold leaf, but Murphy had requested that his stone remain plain and inconspicuous, as would be the case with an ordinary soldier. An Oak Leaf Cluster signifies a subsequent award of the same decoration. First Lieutenant Audie Murphy was one of very few company-grade officers ever to be awarded the Legion of Merit. That decoration is usually awarded only to officers of the rank of lieutenant colonel and above. In 1996 the Texas Legislature officially designated his birthday, June 20th, as Audie Murphy Day.
For further about Audie Murphy go to: www.audiemurphy.com.
Audie Murphy went to school in Celeste, TX until the eighth grade, when he dropped out to help support his family (his father deserted them in 1936). He became very skilled with a rifle, hunting small game to help feed the family. One of his favorite hunting companions was neighbor Dial Henley. When he commented that Murphy never missed when he shot at game, Murphy replied, “Well, Dial, if I don’t hit what I shoot at, my family won’t eat today.” During the 1930s Murphy worked at a combination general store/garage and filling station in Greenville, Texas. At fifteen he was working in a radio repair shop when his mother died on May 23, 1941. Later that year, in agreement with his older sister Corrinne, Murphy was forced to place his three youngest siblings in an orphanage to ensure their care. He later reclaimed his siblings from the orphanage after the end of World War II.
After the attack on Pearl harbor, 7 Dec. 1941, Murphy, then just 15 years old, tried to enlist in the military, but the services rejected him for being under age. In June 1942, shortly after his 16th birthday (sister Corrine adjusted his birth date so he appeared to be 18 and legally allowed to enlist), Murphy was accepted into the Army after being turned down by the Marines, paratroopers, and the Navy for being slight of build and too short.