[July 1, 2019] Yesterday, I was watching the movie, To Hell and Back (1955) when I remembered that I’d not written a “Hero” blog post in a long time. The movie, starring Audie Murphy (playing himself) has been one of my favorites since I can remember.1
“I’ll tell you what bravery really is. Bravery is just determination to do a job that you know has to be done.” – Audie Murphy
Audie Murphy was born to a dirt-poor, Irish sharecropper family in 1934. Born in Texas as one of twelve children, he struggled to help his family survive the harsh conditions of east Texas. He was fortunate that his older sister changed his age so he could join the U.S. Army at age 17. His wish was to be an Army paratrooper. A good summary of his background can be found at the website “World War II Graves.”2
As part of the 3rd Infantry Division, his first combat experience was in the invasion of Sicily in 1943. He was promoted to corporal after killing two Italian officers as they tried to escape on horseback. During the campaign in France, Murphy’s division suffered heavy casualties. He received two Silver Stars and the Distinguished Service Medal for further heroic actions.
Audie Murphy is best known for his heroism during a January 26, 1945 battle. As Company Commander and with his unit’s strength reduced to 19 out of 128, he sent all his remaining men to the rear while he shot at Germans. Running out of ammunition, he climbed aboard an abandoned, burning tank destroyer and used its .50 caliber machine gun to cut down Germany infantry. Using the tanks landline phone, he was able to also call in field artillery.
During the battle, he was wounded several times and only stopped fighting alone when his telephone line was cut by enemy fire. As his men moved forward, he organized a counterattack which drove the enemy from the tank. For this action, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
By the war’s end, Murphy had become the nation’s most-decorated soldier, earning 28 medals including three from France and one from Belgium. When victory in Europe was declared in May 1945, he had not yet reached his 21st birthday. Audie Murphy is a true American hero.
- As a young boy, I watched Westerns and War movies. Since the family black and white television only received one good channel and my choice of movie rare, I paid rapt attention. Audie Murphy was the star or co-star in several of these. My brother and I were enthralled at what we saw.