Audie Leon Murphy (June 20, 1926 (?) – May 28, 1971) was a highly-decorated American soldier who served in the European Theater during
World War II. He later became an actor, appearing in 39 American films, and also found some success as a country music
In 27 months of combat action, Murphy became one of the most highly decorated United States soldiers of World War II. He received the
Medal of Honor, the U.S. military's highest award for valor, along with 32 additional U.S. and foreign medals and citations, including
five from France and one from Belgium.
Murphy's successful movie career included the extremely popular To Hell and Back (1955), which was based on his book of the same name
(1949). He also starred in an impressive 39 Hollywood films. He died in a plane crash in 1971 and was interred, with full military
honors, in Arlington National Cemetery. Audie Murphy's grave site is the second-most visited grave at Arlington, after that of
President John F. Kennedy.
He was born in Texas, to Emmett Berry and Josie Bell Murphy (née Killian) who was of Irish descent, poor sharecroppers, and grew up on
farms between Farmersville and Greenville, as well as near Celeste, Texas (Hunt County). Murphy was the sixth of twelve children, nine
of whom survived until the age of eighteen. His brothers and sisters included Corinne, Charles Emmett (Buck), Vernon, June, Oneta,
J.W., Richard, Eugene, Nadine, Billie, and Joseph Murphy. He went to school in Celeste until the eighth grade, when he dropped out to
help support his family (his father deserted them in 1936), working for a dollar a day, plowing and picking cotton on any farm that
would hire him. 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 squirrels, rabbits, and birds, 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 reclaimed them after World War II)
After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 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 his sister Corrine adjusted his birth date so
he appeared to be 18 and legally allowed to enlist, and his war memoirs, To Hell and Back, maintained this misinformation, leading to
later confusion and contradictory statements as to his year of birth. Murphy was accepted into the United States Army, at Greenville,
after being turned down by the Marines and the paratroopers for being too short (5 feet 5.5 inches (166.4 cm)) and of slight build. He
was also turned down by the Navy for being slight of build. He was sent to Camp Wolters, Texas, for basic training and during a
session of close order drill, passed out. His company commander tried to have him transferred to a cook and bakers' school because of
his baby-faced youthfulness, but Murphy insisted on becoming a combat soldier. His wish was granted: after 13 weeks of basic training,
he was sent to Fort Meade, Maryland for advanced infantry training.
Murphy still had to "fight the system" to get overseas and into combat. His persistence paid off, and in early 1943 he was shipped out
to Casablanca, Morocco as a replacement in Company B, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. Murphy saw no
action in Africa, but instead participated in extensive training maneuvers along with the rest of the 3rd Division. His combat
initiation finally came when he took part in the invasion of Sicily on July 10, 1943. Shortly after arriving, Murphy was promoted to
corporal after killing two Italian officers as they tried to escape on horseback. He contracted malaria while in Sicily, an illness
which put him in the hospital several times during his Army years.
After Sicily was secured from the Axis forces, the 3rd Division invaded the Italian mainland, landing near Salerno in September 1943.
While leading a night patrol, Murphy and his men ran into German soldiers but fought their way out of an ambush, taking cover in a
rock quarry. The German command sent a squad of soldiers in, but they were stopped by intense machine-gun and rifle fire. Three German
soldiers were killed and several others captured. As a result of his actions at Salerno, Murphy was promoted to sergeant.
Murphy distinguished himself in combat on many occasions while in Italy, fighting at the Volturno River, at the Anzio beachhead, and
in the cold, wet Italian mountains. While in Italy, his skills as a combat infantryman earned him promotions and decorations for
Following its participation in the Italian campaign, the 3rd Division landed in Southern France on August 15, 1944 as part of
Operation Anvil-Dragoon. Shortly thereafter, Murphy's best friend, Lattie Tipton (referred to as "Brandon" in Murphy's book To Hell
and Back), was killed by a German soldier in a machine gun nest who was feigning surrender. Murphy went into a rage, and single-
handedly wiped out the German machine gun crew which had just killed his friend. He then used the German machine gun and grenades to
destroy several other nearby enemy positions. For this act, Murphy received the Distinguished Service Cross (second only to the Medal
of Honor). During seven weeks of fighting in that campaign in France, Murphy's division suffered 4,500 casualties.
Just weeks later, he received two Silver Stars for further heroic actions. Murphy, by now a staff sergeant and holding the position of
Platoon Sergeant, was eventually awarded a battlefield commission to second lieutenant, which elevated him to the Platoon Leader
position. He was wounded in the hip by a sniper's ricocheting bullet 12 days after the promotion and spent ten weeks recuperating.
Within days of returning to his unit, and still bandaged, he became company commander (January 25, 1945), and suffered further wounds
from a mortar round which killed two others nearby.
The next day, January 26 (the temperature was 14 °F (−10 °C) with 24 inches (61 cm) of snow on the ground), the battle at Holtzwihr
(France) began with Murphy's unit at an effective strength of 19 out of 128. Murphy sent all of his men to the rear while he took pot
-shots at the Germans until out of ammunition. He then proceeded to use an abandoned, burning tank destroyer's .50 caliber machine gun
to cut into the German infantry at a distance, including one full squad of German infantry that had crawled in a ditch to within 100
feet of his position. Wounded in the leg during heavy fire, he continued this nearly single-handed battle for almost an hour. His
focus on the battle before him stopped only when his telephone line to the artillery fire direction center was cut by either U.S. or
German artillery. As his remaining men came forward, he quickly organized them to conduct a counter attack, which ultimately drove the
enemy away from Holtzwihr. For these actions Murphy was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Murphy was then removed from the front lines and made a liaison officer; he was promoted to 1st lieutenant on February 22, 1945. On
June 2, 1945, Lt. Gen. Alexander Patch, commander of the US Seventh Army, presented him with the Medal of Honor and Legion of Merit.
The Legion of Merit was awarded for outstanding services with the 3rd Infantry Division during January 22, 1944 to February 18, 1945.
On June 10, Murphy left Paris by plane, arriving in San Antonio, Texas four days later.
Audie Murphy received 33 US medals, plus five medals from France and one from Belgium. It has been said that he received every US
medal available at the time; 5 of them awarded more than once.
His height and weight at his enlistment were 5 feet 5.5 inches (166.4 cm) and 110 pounds (50 kg); after his three year enlistment,
they were 5 feet 7 inches (170 cm) and 145 pounds (66 kg).
Medal of Honor citation
The official U.S. Army citation for Audie Murphy's Medal of Honor reads:
Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army, Company B 15th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division.
Place and date: Near Holtzwihr France, January 26, 1945.
Entered service at: Dallas, Texas. Birth: Hunt County, near Kingston, Texas, G.O. No. 65, August 9, 1944.
Citation: Second Lt. Murphy commanded Company B, which was attacked by six tanks and waves of infantry. 2d Lt. Murphy ordered his men
to withdraw to a prepared position in a woods, while he remained forward at his command post and continued to give fire directions to
the artillery by telephone. Behind him, to his right, one of our tank destroyers received a direct hit and began to burn. Its crew
withdrew to the woods. 2d Lt. Murphy continued to direct artillery fire, which killed large numbers of the advancing enemy infantry.
With the enemy tanks abreast of his position, 2d Lt. Murphy climbed on the burning tank destroyer, which was in danger of blowing up
at any moment, and employed its .50 caliber machine gun against the enemy. He was alone and exposed to German fire from three sides,
but his deadly fire killed dozens of Germans and caused their infantry attack to waver. The enemy tanks, losing infantry support,
began to fall back. For an hour the Germans tried every available weapon to eliminate 2d Lt. Murphy, but he continued to hold his
position and wiped out a squad that was trying to creep up unnoticed on his right flank. Germans reached as close as 10 yards, only to
be mowed down by his fire. He received a leg wound, but ignored it and continued his single-handed fight until his ammunition was
exhausted. He then made his way back to his company, refused medical attention, and organized the company in a counterattack, which
forced the Germans to withdraw. His directing of artillery fire wiped out many of the enemy; he killed or wounded about 50. 2d Lt.
Murphy's indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground saved his company from possible encirclement and destruction,
and enabled it to hold the woods which had been the enemy's objective.
Awards and honors
Audie Murphy was credited with destroying six tanks in addition to killing over 240 German soldiers and wounding and capturing many
others. His principal U.S. decorations included the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, the Legion of
Merit, two Bronze Stars with Valor device, and three Purple Hearts (all for genuine combat wounds). Murphy participated in campaigns
in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and Germany, as denoted by his European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one silver
battle star (denoting five campaigns), four bronze battle stars, plus a bronze arrowhead representing his two amphibious assault
landings at Sicily and southern France. During the French Campaign, Murphy was awarded two Presidential Citations, one from the 3rd
Inf, Division, and one from the 15th Inf. Regiment during the Holtzwihr action.
The French government awarded Murphy its highest award, the Legion of Honor (Grade of Chevalier). He also received two Croix de Guerre
medals from France and the Croix de Guerre 1940 Palm from Belgium. In addition, Murphy was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge. (A
complete list of his awards and decorations appears later in this article.) He spent 29 months overseas and just under two years in
combat with the 3rd Infantry Division, all before he turned 21.
In early June 1945, one month after Germany's surrender, he returned from Europe to a hero's welcome in his home state of Texas, where
he was feted with parades, banquets, and speeches. Murphy was discharged from active duty with the U.S. Army as a First Lieutenant, at
Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas on August 17, 1945, and discharged from the U.S. Army on September 21, 1945.
He gained nationwide recognition, appearing on the cover of Life magazine for July 16, 1945 (see image above).
After the Korean War broke out in June 1950, Murphy joined the 36th Infantry Division (United States) of the Texas National Guard;
however, that division was not called up for combat duty. By the time he left the Guard in 1966, Murphy had attained the rank of
List of Decorations
Medal of Honor
Distinguished Service Cross
Silver Star (with oak leaf cluster)
Legion of Merit
Bronze Star (with oak leaf
cluster and Valor device)
Purple Heart (with two oak leaf clusters)
U.S. Army Outstanding Civilian Service Medal
Good Conduct Medal
Presidential Unit Citation (with First Oak Leaf Cluster)
American Campaign Medal
Eastern Campaign Medal (with One Silver Star, Four Bronze Service Stars (representing nine campaigns) and one Bronze Arrowhead
(representing assault landing at Sicily and Southern France)),
World War II Victory Medal
Army of Occupation Medal (with Germany Clasp)
Armed Forces Reserve Medal
French Fourragere in
Colors of the Croix de Guerre
French Legion of Honor - Grade of Chevalier
French Croix de Guerre (with Silver Star),
Croix de Guerre (with Palm)
Medal of Liberated France
Belgian Croix de Guerre (with 1940 Palm)
Additionally, Murphy was
| the Combat Infantry Badge,
Marksman Badge with Rifle Bar,
Expert Badge with Bayonet Bar
Post war illness
Murphy suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after his return from the war. He was plagued by insomnia, bouts of
depression, and nightmares related to his numerous battles. His first wife, Wanda Hendrix, often talked of his struggle with this
condition, even claiming that he had at one time held her at gunpoint. For a time during the mid-1960s, he became dependent on doctor
-prescribed sleeping pills called Placidyl. When he recognized that he had become addicted to the drug, he locked himself in a motel
room where he took himself off the pills, going through withdrawal for a week.
Always an advocate of the needs of America's military veterans, Murphy eventually broke the taboo about publicly discussing war-
related mental conditions. In an effort to draw attention to the problems of returning Korean and Vietnam War veterans, Murphy spoke
out candidly about his own problems with PTSD, known then and during World War II as "battle fatigue" and also commonly known by the
World War I term "shell shock." He called on the United States government to give increased consideration and study to the emotional
impact that combat experiences have on veterans, and to extend health care benefits to address PTSD and other mental-health problems
suffered by returning war veterans.
Murphy married actress Wanda Hendrix in 1949; they were divorced in 1951. He then married former airline stewardess Pamela Archer, who
was an army nurse, by whom he had two children: Terrance Michael "Terry" Murphy (born 1952) and James Shannon "Skipper" Murphy (born
1954). They were named for two of his most respected friends, Terry Hunt and James "Skipper" Cherry, respectively. Audie became a
successful actor, rancher, and businessman, breeding and raising quarter horses. He owned ranches in Texas, Tucson, Arizona and
After seeing the young hero's photo on the cover of the July 16 edition of Life Magazine and sensing star potential, actor James
Cagney invited Murphy to Hollywood in September 1945. Despite Cagney's expectations, the next few years in California were difficult
for Murphy. He became disillusioned by the lack of work, was frequently broke, and slept on the floor of a gymnasium owned by his
friend Terry Hunt. He eventually received token acting parts in the 1948 films Beyond Glory and Texas, Brooklyn and Heaven. His third
movie, Bad Boy (1949 film), gave him his first leading role. He also starred in the 1951 adaptation of Stephen Crane's Civil War
novel, The Red Badge of Courage, which earned critical success. Murphy expressed great discomfort in playing himself in To Hell and
Back. In 1959, he starred in the western No Name on the Bullet, in which his performance was well-received despite being cast as the
villain, a professional killer who managed to stay within the law.
First starring role
After returning home from World War II, Murphy bought a house in Farmersville, Texas for his oldest sister Corinne, her husband Poland
Burns, and their three children. The idea was that Audie's three youngest siblings, Nadine, Billie, and Joe, who had been living in an
orphanage since Murphy's mother's death, would also be able to live with Corinne and Poland and would become part of a family again.
Unfortunately, six children under one roof created too much stress on everyone, particularly Nadine and Joe, so Murphy picked them
Joe and Nadine wanted to stay with him, but despite a lot of post-war publicity, his acting career had gone nowhere and he was finding
it difficult to survive financially. The oldest Murphy brother, Buck, and his wife agreed to take Nadine, but Murphy didn't know what
to do with Joe. He approached James "Skipper" Cherry, a Dallas theater owner who was involved with the Variety Clubs International
Boy's Ranch, a 4,800 acre (19 km²) ranch near Copperas Cove, Texas who arranged for the Boy's Ranch to take Joe in. He loved it there
and Murphy was able to visit him, as well as Cherry, frequently. In a 1973 interview, Cherry recalled, "He was discouraged and
somewhat despondent concerning his movie career."
Variety Clubs was financing a film to be called Bad Boy to help promote the organization's work with troubled children and Cherry
called Texas theater executive Paul Short, who was producing the film, to suggest that they considered giving Murphy a significant
role in the movie. He looked good in the screen test, but the president of Allied Artists did not want to cast someone with so little
acting experience in a major role. However, by this time, Cherry, Short, and the other Texas theater owners had decided that Audie
Murphy was going to play the lead or they weren't financing the film. Their money talked and he was cast, turning in such a fine
performance that the Hollywood powers that be finally recognized his talent. As a direct result of the film, Universal Studios signed
Murphy to his first seven-year studio contract. After a few box-office hits there, the studio bosses gave Audie latitude in choosing
his roles, as long as plenty of action was included in the scenarios.
Murphy's 1949 autobiography To Hell and Back became a national bestseller. In the book, actually ghostwritten by his friend David
"Spec" McClure, already a professional writer Murphy modestly described some of his most heroic actions — without portraying himself
as a hero. Not once does he mention any of the many decorations he received for his incredible combat exploits. Instead, he chose to
praise the skills, bravery, and dedication of the other soldiers in his platoon. Murphy even attributed a song he had written to
Murphy played himself in the 1955 film version of his book with the same title, To Hell and Back. The film grossed almost ten million
dollars during its initial theatrical release, and at the time became Universal's biggest hit of the studio's 43-year history. This
movie held the record as the company's highest-grossing motion picture until 1975, when it was surpassed by Steven Spielberg's Jaws.
Terry Murphy, who played younger brother Joe Preston Murphy (at age four), is in fact Murphy's older son.
Audie was reluctant to star in To Hell and Back, fearing it would appear he was cashing in on his war experience, so he suggested his
role be played by Tony Curtis. The film was introduced by General Walter Bedell Smith, United States Army, Retired. During World War
II, Smith had served as Chief of Staff to General Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Harold B. Simpson's 1975 comprehensive biography, Audie Murphy, American Soldier, covers the breadth of Murphy's life. The book
emphasizes his military exploits, and includes photos, maps, and battle-maneuver diagrams. Murphy's post-war career is also well-
In the 25 years he spent in Hollywood, Audie Murphy made 44 feature films, 33 of them Westerns. His highest grossing film was the
autobiographical To Hell and Back, which was the highest grossing film for Universal Pictures, until Jaws in 1975. His films earned
him close to $3 million in his 23 years as an actor. He also appeared in several television shows, including the lead in the short-
lived 1961 NBC western detective series Whispering Smith, set in Denver, Colorado. For his contribution to the motion picture
industry, Audie Murphy has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1601 Vine Street. His nickname among his Hollywood contemporaries
was "Pappy," which alludes to his youthful appearance.
In addition to acting, Murphy also became successful as a country music songwriter. teaming up with such talented musicians and
composers as Guy Mitchell, Jimmy Bryant, Scott Turner, Coy Ziegler, and Terri Eddleman. Murphy's songs were recorded and released by
such performers as Dean Martin, Eddy Arnold, Charley Pride, Jimmy Bryant, Porter Waggoner, Jerry Wallace, Roy Clark, and Harry
Nilsson. His two biggest hits were "Shutters and Boards" and "When the Wind Blows in Chicago". Eddy Arnold recorded the latter for his
1983 RCA album, Last of the Love Song Singers.
Just after noon on May 28, 1971, during Memorial Day weekend, Murphy was killed when his private plane crashed into Brush Mountain,
near Catawba, Virginia, 20 miles west of Roanoke. The pilot and four other passengers were also killed. In 1974, a large granite
memorial marker was erected near the crash site. A close friend, Captain Carl Swickerath (who is now buried directly in front of
Murphy), represented the Murphy family at the dedication.
On June 7, 1971, Murphy was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with a full-honors ceremony. The official U.S. representative at the
ceremony was the decorated World War II veteran and future President George H. W. Bush. Murphy's gravesite is in Section 46, located
across Memorial Drive from the Amphitheater. A special flagstone walkway was later constructed to accommodate the large number of
people who visit to pay their respects. It is the second most-visited gravesite, after that of President John F. Kennedy.
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 unknown person maintains a small American flag next
to his engraved Government-issue headstone, which reads as follows:
Audie L. Murphy, Texas. Major, Infantry, World War II. June 20, 1924 to May 28, 1971. Medal of Honor, DSC, SS & OLC, LM, BSM & OLC, PH
& two OLC.
(Key to abbreviations: DSC = Distinguished Service Cross; SS = Silver Star; LM = Legion of Merit; BSM = Bronze Star Medal; PH = Purple
Heart; OLC = Oak Leaf Cluster.)
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.
A person Murphy served with during the war once commented about his grave marker: "Like the man, the headstone is too small."
Lori Nelson is an American actress born in Santa Fe, New Mexico on August 15, 1933. She began as a performer, dancing at the young age of 4, as well as winning a Little Miss America title. Many of her early auditions were unsuccessful. However, in 1952, she made it into her first role as Marjie Baile in Bend of the River. Many of her roles were big, and were mostly in 1950s movies. Today, she is acting sparingly, still maintaining popular roles, most recently, The Naked Monster. Her most memorable TV work was costarring with Barbara Eden in the series How to Marry a Millionaire (1957 – 1959).
Photograph is from the 1954 moive, Destry and was Hand Oil Tinted by Artist Margaret A. Rogers