General Alexander Patch of the U.S. 7th Army decorates Lt. Audie Murphy of Farmersville, Texas with the Congressional Medal of Honor. Lt. Murphy is the most decorated American soldier, holder of every decoration for bravery save the legion of merit. He rose from the rank of private to become a company commander in 30 months of combat duty with the veteran third division.
Audie Murphy was the most decorated American Army soldier of World War II. The orphaned son of Texas sharecroppers, he enlisted at age 18 and went on to win two dozen military medals for valor, including the coveted Congressional Medal of Honor. After the war Murphy parlayed his wartime fame into an up-and-down career as a movie actor, songwriter, and businessman. He wrote his war memoirs, To Hell And Back, and played himself in the 1955 movie of the same name.
June 20th is officially Audie Murphy Day in Texas… Murphy originally tried to join the Marines but was turned down for being too short.
I. MEDAL OF HONOR. - By direction of the President, under the provisions of the act of Congress approved 9 July 1918 (WD Bul. 43, 1918), a Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty was awarded by the War Department in the name of Congress to the following-named officer:
Second Lieutenant Audie L. Murphy, 01692509, 15th Infantry, Army of the United States, on 26 January 1945, near Holtzwihr, France, commanded Company B, which was attacked by six tanks and waves of infantry. Lieutenant 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. Lieutenant Murphy continued to direct artillery fire which killed large numbers of the advancing enemy infantry. With the enemy tanks abreast of his position, Lieutenant Murphy climbed on the burning tank destroyer which was in danger of blowing up any instant and employed its .50 caliber machine gun against the enemy. He was alone and exposed to the 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 Lieutenant Murphy, but he continued to hold his position and wiped out a squad which 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 the single-handed fight until his ammunition was exhausted. He then made his way 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 personally killed or wounded about 50. Lieutenant 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.
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BY ORDER OF THE SECRETARY OF WAR:
Audie’s string of decorations began on March 2, 1944 with the Bronze Star Medal with “V” device for valorous conduct in action against the enemy on the Anzio Beachhead, Italy. This was followed with the First Oak Leaf Cluster on the Bronze Star Medal for his exemplary conduct in ground combat on or about 8 May, 1944. Also at this time, Audie was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge.
After landing near Ramatuelle in Southern France, Audie earned the Distinguished Service Cross on 15 August, 1944. Audie Murphy advanced inland with his squad but was halted by intense machine gun and small arms fire from a boulder covered hill to his front. Acting alone, he obtained a light machine gun and in the ensuring duel, he was able to silence the enemy weapon. Killing two of it’s crew and wounding the third. As he proceeded further up the draw, two Germans advanced toward him. they were quickly killed. Still alone, Audie then dashed further up the draw toward the enemy strong point disregarding the hail of bullets directed at him. Closing in, he wounded two more Germans with Carbine fire, killed two others in a fire fight, and forced the remaining five to surrender. But it was during this action that took the life of his dear friend, Lattie Tipton. So devastated by this loss, that Audie co-dedicated his autobiographical book “To Hell and Back” to PVT Lattie Tipton and to PVT Joe Sieja who was killed in action on the Anzio Beachhead in January, 1944.
On the morning of 2 October 1944, near the Cleurie Quarry, France, Audie inched his way over rugged terrain toward an enemy machine gun which had fired upon a group of American Officers on reconnaissance. Getting to within fifteen yards of the German gun, Audie stood up, and disregarding a burst of enemy fire, flung two hand grenades into the position, killing four Germans and wounding three more thus destroying the position. For this action, Audie was awarded the Silver Star Just three days later, on October 5, 1944, on a hill in the Vosges Mountains near Le Tholy, France, he earned an Oak Leaf Cluster to the Silver Star. Carrying an SCR536 radio, and alone, Audie crawled fifty yards under severe enemy machine gun and rifle fire, to a point 200 yards from a strongly entrenched enemy. For an hour Audie Murphy directed artillery fire upon the enemy, killing fifteen Germans and inflicting approximately thirty-five casualties.
Audie Murphy’s three Purple Hearts recognize wounds he received on 15 September 15, 1944, in his action near Genevreuville, France; October 26, 1944 in action near Les Rouges, Eaux, France; January 25, 1945, in action in the Colmar Pocket.
Audie Murphy received a severe hip wound from a German mortar on October 26, 1944. Tired of the monotony of hospital life, he took it upon himself to rejoin Company B. He was still in a state of convalescence on January 26, 1945 when Audie earned the Nation’s highest tribute for action in the Riedwihr Woods near Holtzwihr, France. The Third Division was engaged in fierce fighting in the Colmar Pocket which consisted of a heavily fortified bulge stretching from the Rhine into France. At midnight on January 25, Company B moved through the Riedwihr Woods, but fierce fighting reduced the company to two officers and about 28 men. Despite five replacements, the company remained critically under strength. As the senior ranking officer, Audie was placed in charge of the company and was ordered to advance to the edge of the forest and hold the line until relieved. Company B was supported by two tank destroyers from the 601st Tank battalion which were attached to the 15th Infantry, but they would soon be out of action.
The frozen ground was covered with 10-12 inches of snow; it was impossible for the men to dig in. Audie’s company was strung along a three hundred yard front at the edge of the woods. Company B was in a defensive position when at 1400 hours, on January 26, 1945, the Germans began a fierce attack from Holtzwihr. This assault consisted of six heavy Jagdpanther tanks supported by approximately 250 German infantry attired in white snow capes. The first tank destroyer slid into a drainage ditch and could not extricate itself. The second TD received a direct hit from a German 88 , killing the commander and gunner. Seeing that the situation was desperate, Audie ordered his men to fall back to an alternate position. At this time, Audie began calling in artillery supported by a field telephone through Battalion Headquarters. With his ammunition depleted, Audie decided to mount the burning TD and employ it’s .50 caliber machine gun. After removing the dead TD commander, Audie sprayed deadly fire upon the German infantry. With the TD in danger of blowing up at any moment, the Germans gave it a wide berth. The black smoke streaming from the TD made it difficult for the Germans to see Audie, but it also reduced his view of the advancing infantry. At this point, Audie called in more artillery support even though it was dangerously close to his own position. For an hour, Audie managed to kill or wound approximately 50 to 100 Germans and confused the rest as to the source of the deadly fire. The German tanks, lacking infantry support, were forced to withdraw. Audie jumped from the burning TD only to hear it explode seconds later. Thus ended one of the most famous Medal of Honor actions of World War II.
Following the presentation of the Medal of Honor on June 2, 1945, at an airfield near Werfen, Austria, Audie was also awarded the Legion of Merit. In addition to the US awards, Audie received the French Legion of Honor (Grade of Chevalier); the French Croix du Guerre with Silver Star; the French Croix du Guerre with Palm and the Belgium Croix du Guerre 1940 with Palm. Despite the weight and burden of his medals, Audie always stated that the “the real heroes were the ones with the wooden crosses.”
On July 14, 1950, Audie was sworn in as a member of the Texas national Guard’s 36th Infantry Division and promoted to the rank of Captain. He was promoted to the rank of Major on February 14, 1956.
Audie Murphy’s fame earned him the cover of Life Magazine on July 16, 1945. His popular appeal led him to a film career in Hollywood. He was in forty-four movies, mainly westerns. His most noteworthy were “To Hell and Back, ” “The Red Badge of Courage,” and “The Unforgiven.”
Audie was a passenger in an Aero Commander 680E when it crashed in the Appalachian Mountains 12 miles northwest of Roanoke, Virginia on memorial Day weekend, May 28, 1971. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. Audie’s resting place is one of the most frequently visited sites at Arlington. There were many tributes paid to Audie, mostly after his untimely death. In the end, Audie was destined to cast a longer shadow than most Medal of Honor recipients.