Audie Murphy, War hero/actor
June 20, 1924 - May 28, 1971
Audie Leon Murphy was born on June 20, 1924, in Hunt County, near Kingston, Texas. However, some accounts place his actual birth date in 1925. The son of sharecroppers, Emmett and Josie Murphy, Audie was the sixth of twelve children, only nine of whom survived to adulthood. Life in the Murphy household was poor and very hard. As a boy, he chopped cotton for $1 a day and was noted for his accuracy with a gun. With it, he would hunt small game to help feed the family. He had only five years of schooling. But by age 16, both of Audie's parents were dead, leaving him orphaned and needing to take care of his younger siblings.
When the United States declared war in December of 1941, Audie rushed to enlist. After being refused enlistment in both the Marines and the Paratroopers for being too small (5â€™5â€) and underweight (110 lbs.), he enlisted in the U.S. Army a few days after his eighteenth birthday. After basic training at Camp Wolters, Texas, and advanced training at Fort Meade, Maryland, Audie was sent overseas. He was assigned to the famous 15th Infantry with campaigns in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France, and Germany. He earned a battlefield commission for his courage and leadership ability. Audie spent some 400 days in the front lines and earned thirty-three military awards, citations, and decorations, including every medal for valour that America gives, as well as three French and one Belgian medal. Lieutenant Audie Murphy was the highest decorated soldier in American history.
Discharged from the Army on September 21, 1945, Audie went to Hollywood at the invitation of movie star James Cagney.Cagney not only taught Murphy acting, but let him live at his home for awhile. He remained in California for the rest of his life and was closely associated with the movie industry, both as an actor and as a producer. He acted in forty-four films, starring in thirty-nine of them. His best known film was â€œTo Hell and Backâ€ adapted from the best-selling book of his war experiences by the same name. This movie was the biggest box office money maker for Universal pictures from 1955 until 1975 when it was finally eclipsed by the movie â€œJawsâ€. Most of his movies, however, were westerns. Audie Murphy was voted the most popular western actor in America in 1955 by the motion picture exhibitors.
Murphy also wrote the lyrics to sixteen country & western songs, the most popular of which was "Shutters and Boards", written with Scott Turner in 1962. This song was recorded by over thirty popular singers, including Jerry Wallace, Eddy Arnold, Charley Pride, Roy Clark, Dean Martin and Porter Waggoner. He was an accomplished poet, though, unfortunately, only a few of his poems have survived. In 1950 Audie joined the 36th Infantry Division (â€œT-Patchersâ€) of the Texas National Guard and served with it until 1966. He was a Mason and a Shriner and belonged to several veteransâ€™ organizations. He was one of the first high profile veteran/actors to speak before Congress regularly on behalf of Veteranâ€™s rights and health issues. For years after the wars, Murphy himself suffered from insomnia, depression and "battle fatigue", what is now known as post traumatic stress syndrome. He appealed to the government to give more consideration and study to the emotional impact was has had on veterans.
Audie Murphy was killed when the private plane he was flying in, crashed into a mountaintop in heavy fog near Roanoke, Virginia, on May 28, 1971. Fittingly, his body was recovered 2 days later, on Memorial Day. He was 46. Murphy was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery, Washington D.C., June 7, 1971, with full military honours. His resting site is under a large black Oak tree just west of the Amphitheatre of the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, near Memorial Drive. After John F. Kennedy, the gravesite of Audie Murphy is the most visited year round.
Murphy is survived by his wife since 1951, Pamela and two sons, Terry Michael (B - 1952) and James Shannon "Skipper" (B - 1954).