He was only 5 feet, 5 inches tall. He was born to a sharecropper family in Texas in 1927 and from early on life was tough for him. But this young man would become one of the greatest heroes of WWII. His name was Audey Murphy.
Murphy’s father left the family when he was still a toddler. His mother died when he was still a child, so he would have to begin working early often as a cotton picker for farms near his place of birth. That early suffering and hard work made him tough and maybe more of a risk taker than most.
When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Murphy was 17. He wanted to join the military and to serve his country, but both the Navy and the Marine Corps would turn him down because of his height and his age. Undeterred, Murphy joined the Army and after boot camp and combat training he was deployed first to North Africa, then to Italy and finally to France.
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Murphy, then a private, would see his first combat in Sicily. He was quickly recognized as a real fighter. He would take risks that others would not, and he began to build a reputation for both a fierceness and a readiness to do whatever was necessary to take the battle straight to the enemy.
In France his platoon of about 19 soldiers encountered a German force of about 250 men. Murphy chose to stay behind to give his fellow soldiers time to get out of the kill zone. The tanks they were with had been disabled, but the machine guns on them were still in working order. Murphy climbed atop of them, one by one, manning the 50 cal. machine guns and pouring steady and intense fire on the Germans as they advance. He stayed there firing into the German ranks for about an hour. When reinforcements arrived and it was all over, it was recognized that Murphy had single-handedly killed 50 enemy soldiers and saved the lives of the other men in his unit.
After this battle, because of his consistent courage and his demonstrated ability to lead men, he was promoted to the rank of 2nd Lt. and he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Over the course of his time on the battlefields of Europe during WWII, Audey Murphy would receive 37 awards and decorations from the United States military and from the militaries of other countries.
He would come home and would become famous as a Hollywood actor as well.
Enjoy this brief video account of the life and times of this great American hero.
Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.