Audie Murphy was one of the most decorated soldiers in the history of the American military. Murphy was born on June 20, 1925 in Hunt County, TX, the seventh of twelve children. Murphy’s father left the family when Audie was young, leading him to drop out of school and get a job picking cotton to support the family. His mother died when he was 16 and his three youngest siblings were kept at the Boles Children’s Home orphanage. Not long after, Murphy attempted to join the military, inspired by the attack on Pearl Harbor, but was turned down by the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps for being underage and underweight.
A few months later, using an affidavit with a false birth year provided by his sister, Murphy was accepted into the U.S. Army. He completed basic training at Camp Wolters, earning the Marksman Badge with Rifle Component Bar and the Expert Badge with the Bayonet Component Bar. On February 20, 1943 he was sent to Casablanca, Morocco as a member of Company B, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division under Major General Lucian Truscott. Murphy participated in several campaigns in the Mediterranean Theater including the invasions of Sicily and Salerno. Murphy served as a scout, earning promotions to private first class, then sergeant, and then staff sergeant for his heroics in battle.
In 1944 Murphy joined the efforts in the European Theater, landing on Yellow Beach during the first wave of the invasion of southern France. During his time in Europe, Murphy earned the Distinguished service cross, two Silver Star Medals, the Legion of Merit, two Bronze Stars, and three Purple Hearts, ultimately earning the promotion to first lieutenant. Most notably, Murphy earned the Medal of Honor for commandeering a German M10 tank destroyer, wounding or killing 50 German soldiers while also directing artillery fire.
After the war Murphy was awarded for his contributions by the United States, France, and Belgium. The U.S. gave him the American Campaign Medal, the European–African–Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with arrowhead device and 9 campaign stars, the World War II Victory Medal, and the Army of Occupation Medal with Germany Clasp. The French gave him the French Legion of Honor – Grade of Chevalier, the French Croix de guerre with Silver Star, the French Croix de guerre with Palm, the French Liberation Medal, and the French Fourragère in Colors of the Croix de guerre. Belgium gave him the Belgian Croix de guerre with 1940 Palm. He served as a member of the Texas Army National Guard, serving as a drill instructor for new recruits in preparation for the Korean War.
From 1948 to 1969 Murphy pursued a career in acting, starring in 40 feature films and one television series. Murphy was in several westerns and war films, most famously in The Red Badge of Courage. During this time Murphy struggled with PTSD, speaking out regularly in defense of returning veterans from Korea and Vietnam. He pushed for the government to give additional support to health care for veterans and to study the emotional impact of combat. Murphy died on May 28, 1971 in a plane crash. He was buried with military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. The Audie L. Murphy Memorial VA Hospital was dedicated in 1973 in San Antonio, TX.