One of the most decorated American soldiers … was a little man named Audie Murphy.
He was born in a family of sharecroppers in Texas in 1924. His father left and his mother died when he was 17 years old. As one of his twelve children, he left school early to support his siblings. He looked for food and worked as a cotton collector. After Pearl Harbor in 1941, Audie wanted to serve her country. The Navy and the Marines rejected it because of their age and size. He was 5 feet 5 inches and weighed only 112 pounds.
He enlisted in the army the following year after his sister falsified his affidavit. Murphy was sent to North Africa, and then to Italy and France. First saw combat in Sicily and proved to be a great fighter.
Beginning as a private, he reached the rank of second lieutenant. On January 26, 1945, his unit was near the French city of Holtzwihr. He had 19 soldiers left in his company when they were attacked by 250 German troops. Audie ordered his men to back off while he stayed and called for an artillery attack. Their tank destroyers were on fire, but the machine guns were in operation. He climbed into the burning vehicle and opened fire on the Nazis. He stopped them for an hour, killing 50 enemy soldiers without help. He was exposed to gunners all the time and his leg was injured.
Murphy was promoted to first lieutenant and received the Medal of Honor. It was just one of the 37 decorations he received from the United States, France and Belgium. Upon her return from the war, Audie appeared on the cover of Life magazine.
Young and handsome, he was seen by movie producers. He acted in more than 40 films in the next 20 years. In 1955, he played in To Hell and Back, an adaptation of his memoirs.
Although he was a star, he could not get rid of the horrors of war. Audie suffered from nightmares that led to insomnia and depression. He slept with a loaded gun under his pillow and became addicted to sleeping pills. He spoke about his problems to highlight the importance of special attention for veterans. Murphy died tragically in a plane crash in 1971. He was buried in the Arlington National Cemetery with all military honors.
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