Audie Murphy was a soldier and patriot long before he became a movie star.
Audie wanted to serve his country so badly after the attack on Pearl Harbor that he had his sister help him falsify documentation regarding his birthdate. He finally enlisted in the Army in 1942 at age 17 after having been previously turned down by the Army, Navy and Marine Corps for being underweight and not of age.
After completing basic training and advanced infantry training, Audie was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division.
Audie and the 3rd Infantry Division landed in Sicily in July of 1943. While on a scouting patrol he shot and killed two fleeing Italian officers. On a separate scouting party along the Volturno river in Italy they were ambushed by Germans. Several of the soldiers in the scouting party were killed. Audie and the other survivor returned fire and repelled the attack, killing 5 German soldiers.
After suffering a bout of Malaria in early 1944, Audie returned to the 3rd Infantry Division at Anzio, Italy. There his platoon took down a German tank and the crew. Audie had crawled out from the safety of a farmhouse to disable the tank with grenades.
On August 15th, 1944 Audie and his platoon were attacked by the Germans while crossing through a vineyard. Audie returned fire and killed two German soldiers. The Germans pretended to surrender after emerging from a house and opened fire on the platoon. Audie’s best friend was killed during the deception.
Audie took matters upon himself and went directly for the Germans and their position. While under heavy fire, he killed six German soldiers and took 11 prisoner. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions.
The most unbelievable act of Audie’s military career happened on January 26th, 1945 in Holtzwihr, a town in Northeast France. As his company was awaiting reinforcements, six German tanks and German infantrymen start across a clearing towards their position. Audie ordered the company to take cover in the woods.
Audie then climbed on top of a disabled American tank and grabbed a hold of the .50 caliber machine gun and sprayed the approaching Germans. He single-handedly held off the German advance for a hour until his ammunition ran out.
When the smoke had cleared, Audie had wounded or killed 50 Germans. For his heroic act he was awarded the Medal of Honor. When later asked why he single-handedly took on company of German soldiers he replied “because they were killing my friends”.
Audie was three times the recipient of the Purple Heart award for various wounds received in battle. They include taking shrapnel in his heel from a mortar blast, being shot in the hip by a sniper (whom he ended up killing), and being wounded in both legs from a separate mortar attack.
By the end of World War II, Audie had received from the U.S. Army every military combat award for valor.
Audie's list of awards and medals include: Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Good Conduct, Presidential Unit Citation, American Campaign, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign, WW2 Victory, Army of Occupation, French Legion of Honor, French Croix de Guerre, Belgian Croix de Guerre, and Combat Infantryman.
After World War II, Audie made the jump from Soldier to Hollywood star when James Cagney and his brother signed Audie to their production company and provided him with training in voice and acting.
Audie left the Cagney brothers in 1947 and would go on to star in over 40 films. His biggest role was portraying himself in “To Hell and Back”, the adaptation of his own book.
Audie was not a star who served in the military. He was a Soldier who starred in films. There will never be another man like him.
If you think that Audie's heroics were mind-boggling, check out some truly staggering numbers from World War 2 in the video below.