Second Lieutenant Audie L. Murphy began his career in the Army in June of 1942 as a private after falsifying his age to enlist and fight in World War II. During the war, Murphy received a battlefield commission, was wounded several times, and fought in nine campaigns across Europe. He earned his Medal of Honor fighting in the Colmar Pocket in January of 1945 for climbing aboard a burning tank destroyer and using its machine gun. With it, he held off dozens of German soldiers and their accompanying tanks. Beyond the Medal of Honor, Murphy earned every valor medal that the United States awards and several from other nations.
His battlefield heroism earned him fame, acclaim, and allowed him to star in many Hollywood films. He portrayed himself in the movie To Hell and Back, the account of his World War II experiences. Off-screen, Murphy struggled with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and publicly called for the United States government to give more consideration to the emotional impact of war on veterans. Tragically, he died in a plane crash on May 28, 1971, at 45. He lies at rest in Arlington National Cemetery, which constructed a special flagstone walkway to accommodate the many people who stop to pay their respects to him.
2d Lt. Murphy commanded Company B, which was attacked by 6 tanks and waves of infantry. 2d Lt. Murphy ordered his men to withdraw to prepared positions 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, 1 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 machinegun against the enemy. He was alone and exposed to German fire from 3 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 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 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.
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