Stephen F. Austin State University

Audie Murphy - My Hero and your's too! (December 2012)

Audie Murphy - My Hero and your's too!
By Rickey Robertson

As we stop and remember, many thousands of American's have answered the call to service to our country, with so many paying the ultimate sacrifice. These soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines came from all walks of life, city slickers and country bumpkins, rich and poor, and young and those not so young. As we look back at these heroes, one stands out above the rest. He was my hero and I know he was yours also. His name was Audie L. Murphy.

Audie Leon Murphy was born June 20, 1924, one of 12 children. He was born near Kingston, Texas and he grew up in absolute poverty as the son of a sharecropper. And his father abandoned the family during the Great Depression. Audie's mother kept the family together, barely being able to provide food and clothing for her children. Audie took on odd jobs and worked on farms, filling stations, and as a delivery boy just to help his mother out. Audie loved and attempted to provide for his brothers and sisters after his mother died in 1941, yet several of them were placed in the care of the county and state authorities. Audie never forgot being raised in this type of poverty, even after he became a Hollywood star.

Audie initially attempted to join the U.S. Marines but was turned down for not meeting the height requirements and for being underweight. Audie was only 5 ft. 5 inches tall and 112 pounds when he attempted to join the Marines. But on June 30, 1942 young Audie Murphy enlisted into the U.S. Army. Little did the Army know, but this youngster from Texas was to become the most decorated soldier of World War II.

Audie underwent basic training at Camp Wolters, Texas and then was transferred to Fort Meade, Maryland for advanced infantry training. On March 3, 1943 Audie was assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. Audie would remain in this unit throughout the war years. Due to his good conduct, he was promoted to private first class in May 1943.

When Audie shipped overseas, little did he know that he would participate in nine major battle campaigns, such as Sicily, Italy, and Southern France. Audie's heroics began on the beachhead at Anzio and for his actions he was awarded the Bronze Star with "V" device and the coveted Combat Infantryman's Badge. On August 15, 1944 during the landings in Southern France, Audie's unit was advancing inland when they were halted by intense German machine gun fire. Audie advanced alone and wiped out several enemy machine gun nests and captured 5 German soldiers. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions. On October 2, 1944 Audie and a group of officers on reconnaissance duty came under heavy German fire. Audie advanced and made his way to within 15 yards of the German positions. Audie engaged the Germans with rifle fire and grenades and continued to advance where he radioed for artillery fire on other German strongpoints. These strongpoints were completely destroyed. Audie was awarded the Silver Star for this action. Also, due to his heroism, Staff Sergeant Murphy received a battlefield promotion on October 14, 1944 to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. Two weeks later Audie was severely wounded by shrapnel from German mortar fire on his position. Audie was hospitalized for an extended length of time due to this wound. During his service in World War II Audie received 3 Purple Heart Medals for wounds received in combat.

With the Battle of the Bulge raging, Audie checked himself out of the hospital and rejoined his unit. On January 25, 1945 Lt. Murphy and his B Company were advancing through the Riedwihr Woods near Hotzwhir, France. Due to heavy fighting, Audie's company was reduced to 2 officers and 28 enlisted men. He received 5 replacements and was told to advance with cover being provided by 2 tank destroyers. The weather was terrible with heavy snow flurries, and one tank destroyer became trapped in a ditch. 6 German tanks and 250 enemy soldiers attacked Audie's small unit. Seeing they were about to be overrun, Audie climbed on top of the knocked out tank destroyer and began firing the 50 caliber heavy machine gun into the oncoming Germans. Audie's fire was the turning point of the battle, with him killing over 100 Germans and the enemy tanks retreating. Audie leaped from the burning tank destroyer jut seconds ahead of it exploding.

Lt. Audie Murphy's heroism in the Colmar Pocket earned him his nation's highest award, the Congressional Medal of Honor. Audie was awarded his Medal of Honor in a ceremony at an airfield near Werfen, Austria in 1945.

When he returned home, Audie was a national hero. James Cagney invited him to Hollywood for a screen test, where he soon became a highly successful screen actor. Even though he was a successful actor, Audie was still a soldier at heart. After returning from World War II in 1945, Audie joined the Texas National Guard's 36th Infantry Division (T-Patchers). Audie continued to serve in this capacity and eventually attained the rank of Major before retiring. Many Sabine and Natchitoches Parish residents don't know it, but Audie actually came to our area during maneuver training. During the Sagebrush Maneuvers of the mid 50's till the early 60's, Audie and the 36th Division came to Camp Polk, La. for field training. Audie was in charge of combat training, rifle training, and bayonet training during these maneuvers, with him participating in the maneuvers on Peason Ridge, located in south Sabine and western Natchitoches Parishes. During this time Audie's book "To Hell and Back" was a best seller, with it also becoming a highly successful movie. Audie was a hit with the civilians and the soldiers everywhere he went. Whenever he went into Leesville, people would swarm him.

Even though he was a successful actor who made over 46 movies, he continued to attend Veterans Programs throughout the United States. He was still shy and polite and he always remembered his fellow soldiers. On Memorial Day Weekend, May 18, 1971 Audie was killed along with 5 others in the crash of a plane carrying him to a Veterans Event.. America's greatest combat soldier was dead. Audie was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery. His and the grave of John F. Kennedy are the most visited in the cemetery. Audie won every medal for heroism given by the United States during his wartime service.

My grandfather served in World War I, three of my uncles in World War II with one of them being killed in action, and my Dad who served during Korea were my heroes. I was proud to hear of their service, but I also had another hero. My hero was Audie Murphy. I have many items in my collection pertaining to Audie. I have his famous Life Magazine, a Collin County Texas World War II Veterans yearbook with Audie's photo and story in it (his home county), several Hollywood screen photo's, and I also was able to converse with his sister Nadine by phone and mail.

Today, America's heroes are celebrities who try to stand out and make a big splash with their big money and fancy dress and automobiles. Audie fought for a cause that he believed in and he upheld the rigid military traditions throughout his life. You know, a hero can come from any walk of life. Just look at Adie Murphy. Today, let's remember Audie Murphy as the American Hero he was, for to many people, he may have been our last great military hero. He was my hero……….I bet he was yours too!