Audie Murphy was one of the United States’ greatest war heroes and the most decorated soldier in American history. He distinguished himself countless times in the face of incredible adversity, overcame every obstacle he faced, braved peril of every sort, and did it all with humility, dignity, and a healthy amount of machine gun fire.
Murphy was born in rural Texas in 1924, the sixth of twelve children. He dropped out of school early on as many kids did so that he could help earn money for the family, but then his father split town on the family in 1936 and his mother died in 1940, so Audie was left to raise his brothers and sisters. Pearl Harbor happened, and Murphy figured that the military was the ticket to a better life. He tried to sign up immediately but was too young. Upon turning 18, he went to the Marines. At 5’5” and 110 pounds, they laughed and sent him home. So did the Navy. The Army shrugged their shoulders and sent little Audie to North Africa as part of the US 3rd Infantry Division.
Audie trolled around in the desert for a while but never saw any combat until his unit was sent to invade Sicily. There, he proved himself in several battles and was quickly promoted to Sergeant. He continued to distinguish himself during the Allied invasion of mainland Italy, serving bravely during an amphibious invasion and in several key battles of the Italian campaign.
After helping secure Italy, the 3rd Division was tasked with the amphibious invasion of Southern France. After landing on the beachhead, Audie and his best friend noticed a group of German soldiers heading towards them waving a white flag and holding their rifles in the air. The Americans advanced forward to accept their surrender when all of a sudden the Kraut bastards pulled their rifles down and shot the shit out of Audie’s buddy.
This did not sit well with our friend Sergeant Murphy. He turned into an Army version of the Hulk and gunned down the Nazi bastards like a wildman. As soon as he opened fire a hidden Nazi bunker opened and they opened fire. This just pissed him off more. He charged up the hill somehow not getting shot and smoked all of them. He then took their MG42 machine gun and pointed it at another Nazi bunker and shot it all to hell. He grabbed the next gun in pure Rambo style and took out two more bunkers and a sniper before getting to the top of the hill. His heroics in kicking Kraut asses earned him the US Distinguished Services cross -the 2nd highest honor given out by the military.
Murphy continued across southern France, picking up some more Silver Stars for taking out machine gun nests and calling down artillery strikes on enemy armored troop positions. He was eventually promoted to Second Lieutenant, but his adventure wasn’t over yet.
Lt. Murphy was serving as company commander in the Holzwihr forest on 26 January 1945. His unit had been completely decimated – he had 19 men left in his company that was once 128 strong – and had been assigned to hold the critical Colmar Pocket region from a German counterattack. He had two M-10 tank destroyers attached to his unit, and was expecting and additional two companies of infantry to come cover his flank.
It was a cold, rainy morning when Lt. Murphy first noticed the battalion of German mechanized infantry heading towards his position. Three companies of Nazi soldiers and half a dozen heavy Tiger tanks were bearing down on him. Murphy radioed to HQ, only to find that the two companies of supporting infantry he was expecting to hold the flank were not going to arrive in time. Audie was alone and outnumbered, but it was his duty to hold this position and he knew what he had to do.
He send his men back to take defensive positions behind him, and called the M-10s forward to take out some of the German armor. Within minutes, both vehicles had been knocked out like chumps. Now it was just Audie against an impossibly large force of German troops. Instead of falling back to safety like a regular, sane person, Murphy instead jumped up and manned the .50 caliber machine gun mounted one of the burning, disabled M-10s. He got on the radio with Command HQ and started calling in artillery strikes to hit the German positions. Shells rained down, taking out Nazis all over the place, but it wasn’t enough. Lt. Murphy opened up the machine gun from his completely exposed position and stared mowing down Krauts left and right. Artillery continued to pound the Germans while Murphy shot the shit out of them. Before long the German losses were so great that the Tiger tanks had to pull back because they had lost most of their infantry support. Audie continued to fire until he ran out of bullets, then dismounted the M-10 only seconds before the entire vehicle exploded. He rallied his men, and the small group of Americans charged forward and routed the German forces. The Colmar Pocket had held.
Murphy saw the war through to it’s conclusion before returning home as a hero and receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor. He served some time in the Texas National Guard, retiring at the rank of Major. After his military service, Audie Murphy went on to be a badass movie action hero, starring in a number of Westerns and even playing himself in the autobiographical To Hell and Back. He was eventually given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Murphy was the true definition of a badass. The very unassuming humble man and soldier simply did what he had to do during war, and saved countless lives. Here’s his list of medals, which made him the most decorated soldier in American military history:
Congressional Medal of Honor
Distinguished Service Cross
Two Silver Stars
Legion of Merit
Two Bronze Stars
Three Purple Hearts
U.S. Army Outstanding Civilian Service Medal
Good Conduct Medal
Two Presidential Unit Citations
American Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with One Silver Star,
Four Bronze Service Stars and one Bronze Arrowhead
World War II Victory Medal
Army of Occupation Medal
Armed Forces Reserve Medal
Combat Infantry Badge
Marksman Badge with Rifle Bar
Expert Badge with Bayonet Bar
French Fourragere in Colors of the Croix de Guerre
French Legion of Honor, Grade of Chevalier
French Croix de Guerre With Silver Star
French Croix de Guerre with Palm
Medal of Liberated France
Belgian Croix de Guerre 1940 Palm