January 26, 1945: Audie Murphy Earns Medal of Honor

Thursday, January 26, AD 2017

The real heroes are dead.

Audie Murphy

When Audie Murphy starred in his aptly titled World War II biopic, To Hell and Back, his battlefield exploits were downplayed.  Partially this was due to Murphy’s modesty, he had not wanted to appear in the movie and did so only after he was promised that much of the focus of the film would be on his buddies who died during the War, and partially due to the fact that what he did during the War was so unbelievably courageous that film audiences might have refused to believe it.  Here is his Medal of Honor citation that he earned in truly hellish fighting near Holtzwihr, France on January 26, 1945:

General Orders No. 65

WAR DEPARTMENT

Washington 25, D.C., 9 August 1945

MEDAL OF HONOR – Award

Section
1
* * * * *

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. It’s 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 eliminated 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.
* * * * *

BY ORDER OF THE SECRETARY OF WAR:
OFFICIAL:

EDWARD F. WITSELL
Major General
Acting the Adjutant General

G.C. MARSHALL
Chief of Staff

Continue reading...

One Response to January 26, 1945: Audie Murphy Earns Medal of Honor

January 26, 1945: Audie Murphy Earns Medal of Honor

Tuesday, January 26, AD 2016

The real heroes are dead.

Audie Murphy

When Audie Murphy starred in his aptly titled World War II biopic, To Hell and Back, his battlefield exploits were downplayed.  Partially this was due to Murphy’s modesty, he had not wanted to appear in the movie and did so only after he was promised that much of the focus of the film would be on his buddies who died during the War, and partially due to the fact that what he did during the War was so unbelievably courageous that film audiences might have refused to believe it.  Here is his Medal of Honor citation that he earned in truly hellish fighting near Holtzwihr, France on January 26, 1945:

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. It’s 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 eliminated 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.

* * * * *
BY ORDER OF THE SECRETARY OF WAR:
OFFICIAL:
EDWARD F. WITSELL
Major General
Acting the Adjutant General
G.C. MARSHALL
Chief of Staff
Continue reading...

One Response to January 26, 1945: Audie Murphy Earns Medal of Honor

Returning Soldiers: It’s Your America

Thursday, July 9, AD 2015

The Army during World War II had training films for everything including demobilization.  This one, Returning Soldiers: It’s Your America, stars actor Arthur Kennedy who spent his war making training films for the Army Air Corps.  This film told the returning troops an essential truth:  they were coming back different men.  It also reminded them why they had gone through this life changing experience:  America.  Unusually well done for a training film, and I appreciated the device of using a Lincoln penny to convey the meaning of America to the soldier in the film.

At the end of his harrowing combat memoir, aptly entitled To Hell and Back, Audie Murphy, the most decorated US soldier in World War II, I think spoke for a lot of combat veterans when he ended with these lines (They are made more poignant because Murphy would continue to have nightmares about the War for the rest of his life.):

Continue reading...

3 Responses to Returning Soldiers: It’s Your America

  • I often wonder whether the staggering rate of reported suicides among the veterans of Vietnam-and-after wars is not also due, along with the horrors of combat, to the way that the American ideals for which they fought are so incredibly far removed from the actual America to which they return. It is a question I cannot answer on my own.

  • It should also be noted that Ronald Reagan also spent his “war” in charge of making films
    for the military during WWII.

  • Yep, after volunteering for combat duty and being turned down because of his lousy eyesight. As all people who have been in the military know, you go where you are sent and you do what you are told. My comment was not meant to be a criticism of the late Mr. Kennedy who did his assigned duty well judging from this film.

To Hell and Back

Friday, June 20, AD 2014

“I never liked being called the ‘most decorated’ soldier. There were so many guys who should have gotten medals and never did–
guys who were killed.”

Audie Murphy

 

Today would be the 88th birthday of Audie Murphy if he had not died in a plane crash, fittingly enough on Memorial Day weekend, forty-three years ago.

In the Fifties actor Audie Murphy achieved stardom, mainly in Westerns.  Murphy looked like a typical Hollywood “pretty boy” but he was anything but.  From a family of 12 in Texas, he was the sixth child, Murphy had dropped out of school in the fifth grade to help support his dirt poor family after his worthless father ran off.    His mother died in 1941.  In 1942 he enlisted in the Army at 16, lying about his birthday, partially to help support his younger brothers and sister and partially because he dreamed of a military career.  He served with the Third Infantry Division in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and Germany.  By the end of the War, just before  his 19th birthday, he was a First Lieutenant and had earned, in hellish combat, a Medal of Honor, a Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, a Legion of Merit, a French Legion of Honor, a French Croix de Guerre, a Belgian Croix de Guerre, two Bronze Stars and three Purple Hearts.  He was the most decorated soldier of the US Army in World War 2.  Here is his Medal of Honor Citation  which helps explain why Murphy entitled his war memoir  To Hell and Back:

Second Lt. Murphy commanded Company B, which was attacked by six tanks and waves of infantry. 2d Lt. 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. 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 machine gun against the enemy. He was alone and exposed to 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 2d Lt. Murphy, but he continued to hold his position and wiped out a squad that 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 his single-handed fight until his ammunition was exhausted. He then made his way back 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.

Continue reading...

4 Responses to To Hell and Back

  • We were honored to have had a brave defender of liberty like him during the WW II. He was a grand warrior and a wonderful man. RIP!

  • Good read but for historical record, Murphy would have been 90 years old yesterday, not 88 as alluded to in the article. Thanks!

  • His age Dave is a matter of controversy since his older sister fibbed on his age for him to join the Army. I agree with those who believe he was born in 1926 and hence 16 when he joined the Army in 1942.

  • Dennis, As a noted Murphy historian and scholar, personal friend of the family, the spearhead behind the recent posthumous award to Audie of the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor by Texas Governor Perry and the executive administrator of the Audie Murphy Presidential Medal of Freedom Campaign, I can assure you that he was not born in 1926.
    The logic behind my thoughts are as follows: His brother Richard was born on February 20, 1926 and therefore Audie could not have been born in ’26, nor really in ’25. With a birthdate of June 20th, 1925 and a brother’s birthdate of February 20, 1926 his mother would have had to have gotten pregnant within days of Audie’s birth to have had a child again seven and one-half months later. That would have been a near impossibility. Given high infant mortality rates prevalent in the 1920’s, limited medical and prenatal care, coupled with the fact that Audie’s mom had previously had a stillborn child, I find it to be a stretch of credulity, and almost impossible that Audie could have been born in any year except 1924.
    I offer forth to you as a reasonable and plausible version of the discrepancy the following. Although this cannot be proven, I do believe it is the most likely scenario for the age mystery.
    First, Audie did not have birth certificate issued at the time of his birth as did his younger Richard. Richard’s birth certificate was issued five days after his birth and was duly recorded by the Texas Bureau of Vital Statistics at that time so it is verified that he was in fact born February 20, 1926. Richard as far as we know, had no serious childhood illnesses and was again as far as we know, not born premature. Audie’s birth certificate was not issued until 1942 and it was signed by the same attending physician who was relying on a 15 year or so memory as to the exact year of his birth. My personal guess is that his eldest sister Corrine, who was almost a surrogate to Audie in his early years, and to whom he was most close, understandably wanted to keep him at home and out of the war. To protect/shield him she “invented” the 1925 birthdate and sold him a “bill of goods” in order to make him believe he was younger than he was thereby preventing his otherwise legal enlistment. She held to that until she could no longer “fib” (the war was still ongoing) and eventually had to give in to him and let him enlist. That is my best guess. Once she had “fibbed” knowing how badly he wanted to join the Army she couldn’t bear to set the record straight with Audie. It would have made him furious with her as he had wanted to enlist much earlier. Then the war came, the hero, and she just went along to get along so to speak and Audie was never the wiser. That is why she never corrected the historical record throughout her life in the interviews she gave following his demise. To do so at that point would have altered the historical record as to his age at the time he was in Europe..
    Again, No one ever assumed he would become a national hero…so there was no need to tell the truth. Once he did become a national hero, the story was already out there, so just let it remain that way.
    Again, excellent article otherwise! Thanks for listening!

Red Badge of Courage

Wednesday, March 20, AD 2013

He had been to touch the great death, and found that, after all, it was but the great death. He was a man.

The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane

I recently was watching The Red Badge of Courage, (1951) and I was struck yet again by what a forgotten masterpiece it is.  Filmed in stark black and white, the film has almost a documentary feel to it, as if a World War II era newsreel camera had magically transplanted itself to the Civil War.  The combat scenes are highly realistic depictions of Civil War combat, and the actors speak and act like Civil War soldiers and not like 1951 actors dressed up in Civil War costumes.

As one critic said at the time, watching the film is like watching a Matthew Brady photograph of the Civil War come to life.

It was a stroke of genius for director John Huston to have as star of his film Audie Murphy, as the youth who, in Stephen Crane’s unforgettable novel, has his first taste of combat in the Civil War.  Murphy looked like a typical Hollywood “pretty boy” but he was anything but.  From a family of 12 in Texas, Murphy had dropped out of school in the fifth grade to support his family after his father ran off.    His mother died in 1941.  In 1942 he enlisted in the Army at 16, lying about his birthday, partially to support his family and partially because he dreamed of a military career.  By the end of the war, before his 19th birthday, he was a second lieutenant and had earned in hellish combat a Medal of Honor, a Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, a Legion of Merit, a French Legion of Honor, a French Croix de Guerre, a Belgian Croix de Guerre, two Bronze Stars and three Purple Hearts.  He was the most decorated soldier of the US Army in World War 2.

Murphy’s co-star in the film was also an Army combat veteran, Bill Mauldin, the famed cartoonist who drew the Willie and Joe cartoons in Stars and Stripes, the Army newspaper, during World War II.

Continue reading...

2 Responses to Red Badge of Courage

5 Responses to Audie Murphy on What’s My Line

9 Responses to Dogface Soldier

  • Puleeze . . . they have re-written this song. It used to say, “On all the posters that I read it says the Army builds men,” not “be all that you can,” and the final line used to be “Your dog face solder boy’s ok,” not whatever it is now. This is historical revisionism in the name of political correctness. Audie would be appalled . . .

  • Here are the original lyrics to the song:

    I Wouldn’t Give A Bean
    To Be A Fancy Pants Marine,
    I’d rather Be A Dogface Soldier Like I Am.

    I Wouldn’t Trade My Old O.D.’s
    For All The Navy’s Dungarees
    For I’m The Walking Pride Of Uncle Sam;

    On All The Posters That I Read
    It Says The Army Builds Men
    So They’re Tearing Me Down To Build Me Over Again

    I’m Just A Dogface Soldier
    With A Rifle On My Shoulder
    And I Eat A Kraut For Breakfast Everyday.

    So Feed Me Ammunition,
    Keep Me In The Third Division,
    Your Dogfaced Soldier Boy’s Okay.

    The current lyrics have been in use in the Third Division since the eighties.

  • Start at 22:18 for a “spirited” rendition of Dogface Soldier in the movie To Hell and Back:

  • “be all you can be” was the Army’s recruting slogan in the 1980’s

  • “Greet them ever with grateful hearts.”

    As I sit here, three brave Afghan war veterans (still on active duty) sleep in the next room.

  • I also recall the winner Hank, “Today’s Army Wants to Join You!”

    Ah, military life bears as much relationship to most recruitment posters as spam does to a fine steak!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diWtQkJwLwE&feature=related

  • Don

    I alwas hated that one.

    In the 80’s the Army Reserve’s slogan was “soon you will wish it is more than one weekend a month” Times have changed.

  • I believe now Hank many a National Guard Armory has a sign saying “One weekend a month my a–” Military service, or servitude as one of my green wearing colleagues used to refer to it, always requires a well-developed sense of humor.

  • I’m sure that the men on the ground in the military have a much bawdier version than those we hear publicly, but – at the risk of being laughed at – I think the US soldiers songs are more gentlemanly than the Kiwi or ANZAC songs – there seems to be only the bawdy version down here, and that’s going back to WW1 !!

Audie Murphy: American Hero

Thursday, November 10, AD 2011

“I never liked being called the ‘most decorated’ soldier. There were so many guys who should have gotten medals and never did–
guys who were killed.”

Audie Murphy

In the Fifties actor Audie Murphy achieved stardom, mainly in Westerns.  Murphy looked like a typical Hollywood “pretty boy” but he was anything but.  From a family of 12 in Texas, he was the sixth child, Murphy had dropped out of school in the fifth grade to help support his dirt poor family after his worthless father ran off.    His mother died in 1941.  In 1942 he enlisted in the Army at 16, lying about his birthday, partially to help support his younger brothers and sister and partially because he dreamed of a military career.  He served with the Third Infantry Division in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and Germany.  By the end of the War, just after  his 19th birthday, he was a First Lieutenant and had earned, in hellish combat, a Medal of Honor, a Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, a Legion of Merit, a French Legion of Honor, a French Croix de Guerre, a Belgian Croix de Guerre, two Bronze Stars and three Purple Hearts.  He was the most decorated soldier of the US Army in World War 2.  Here is his Medal of Honor Citation  which helps explain why Murphy entitled his war memoir  To Hell and Back:

Second Lt. Murphy commanded Company B, which was attacked by six tanks and waves of infantry. 2d Lt. 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. 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 machine gun against the enemy. He was alone and exposed to 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 2d Lt. Murphy, but he continued to hold his position and wiped out a squad that 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 his single-handed fight until his ammunition was exhausted. He then made his way back 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.

Continue reading...

3 Responses to Audie Murphy: American Hero

  • “Greet them ever with grateful hearts.” All my uncles from “the war” have gone to their rewards. Come to think of it, my Korea uncles also have passed.

    An uncle (RIP) served in the same division in Italy with Audie Murphy. A unit in that division had the record for 56 straight days in the line (I think).

    Today is the 236th birthday of Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children. Here is the citation for G/Sgt. Daniel Daly’s second (1915) MoH. At Belleau Wood, Daly used a line in use since Hector (and Frederick the Great) , “Get up, you blankety-blanks! Do you want to live forever?”

    Rank and organization: Gunnery Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps. Born: Glen Cove, Long Island, N.Y., 11 November 1873. Accredited to: New York. Other Navy awards: Second Medal of Honor, Navy Cross.

    Citation:
    Serving with the 15th Company of Marines on 22 October 1915, G/Sgt. Daly was one of the company to leave Fort Liberte, Haiti, for a 6-day reconnaissance. After dark on the evening of 24 October, while crossing the river in a deep ravine, the detachment was suddenly fired upon from 3 sides by about 400 Cacos concealed in bushes about 100 yards from the fort. The marine detachment fought its way forward to a good position, which it maintained during the night, although subjected to a continuous fire from the Cacos. At daybreak the marines, in 3 squads, advanced in 3 different directions, surprising and scattering the Cacos in all directions. G/Sgt. Daly fought with exceptional gallantry against heavy odds throughout this action.

  • Pingback: Dogface Soldier | The American Catholic
  • Pingback: Audie Murphy on What’s My Line | The American Catholic