AMERICA’S MOST DECORATED WORLD WAR II COMBAT SOLDIER
Audie Leon Murphy was born on June 20, 1924 in Kingston, Hunt County, Texas. He grew up in poverty on a farm, and was the seventh of twelve children. His parents were sharecroppers of Irish decent.
He was an American soldier, actor, songwriter, and the most famous and decorated combat soldiers of World War II, including the Congressional Medal of Honor.
His dream was to become a soldier, and on June 30, 1942, during World War II, he lied about his age to enlist in the United States Army, as an Infantryman (Parachute Troops). He would become a legend and true inspiration in the 3rd Infantry Division.
He was only 19 years old when he received the Congressional Medal of Honor. He also served in the Mediterranean and European Theater of Operations, and received several medals and decorations for heroism in combat. Murphy always maintained that the medals belonged to his entire military unit.
After the war, Murphy suffered from postwar combat nightmares, which caused him to sleep with a loaded .45 by his bedside. He also became addicted to sleeping pills, and drew public attention to his trauma, which would later be labeled as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans Hospital in San Antonio is named for him.
To make matters worse, he was a heavy gambler and filed for bankruptcy in 1968. Although his life was filled with legal troubles after the war, he remained mindful of his influence on youth, refusing to appear in commercials for alcohol and cigarettes.
Murphy was honored with a total of 32 U.S. and Foreign medals. Listed below is a number of honors.
Medal of Honor (the United States Military’s highest award for Valor)
Distinguished Service Cross
Silver Star (2)
Legion of Merit
Bronze Star Medal (2)
Purple Heart (3)
Outstanding Civilian Service Medal
Good Conduct Medal
Distinguished Unit Emblem
American Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Army of Occupation Medal
Combat Infantry Badge
Expert Marksmanship Badge
French Legion of Honor, Grade of Chevalier
French Croix de Guerre with Silver Star
French Croix de Guerre with Palm
Belgian Croix de Guerre 1940 with Palm
Medal of Liberated France
A CELEBRATED ACTOR
In 1945, Murphy’s path led him to James Cagney, who sent him to study acting at the Actor’s Lab in Hollywood while he lived as a guest in Cagney’s home. His new career path would span 20 years, and 44 films, primarily westerns.
To Hell and Back is an autobiographical film, starring Murphy about his life as a war hero. In 1955, the film was Universal Studios highest grossing film, and held this record until Steven Spielberg’s film, Jaws.
Murphy died tragically at the age of 45, in an airplane crash near Catawba, Virginia on May 28, 1971. He was interred on June 7, 1971, with full military honors, in Arlington National Cemetery. His gravesite is second to President John F. Kennedy’s for most-visited.