Audie Leon Murphy was the son of poor Texas sharecroppers. As a direct result of his extraordinary efforts, diligence, dedication and drive, he rose to national fame as the most decorated combat soldier of World War II and subsequently as star of stage and screen.
Murphy won 33 decorations and awards for bravery and gallantry during World War II. Included among these was the Medal of Honor, our nations highest military award. Given the dramatic changes in warfare since the second world war, Murphy’s extraordinary record will probably not be equaled.
Murphy began as an army private, excelled through the enlisted ranks and received battlefield promotions to 2d Lieutenant. He was wounded three times, fought in 9 major campaigns and survived the war.
After the war Murphy was befriended by actor James Cagney. After several lean years, their friendship culminated into a successful film career for Audie. A significant highlight was his portrayal of himself in the film adaptation of his best selling autobiography, “To Hell and Back.” This successful screen adaptation of his successful best-seller remained Universal’s highest grossing film for 20 years. The film was released in 1955 and was not knocked from the top spot until 1975.
Murphy’s success did not blind him to the needs of his compatriots. Audie, like many other veterans, suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. To assure veterans received the assistance they required for the service they provided, Murphy broke the prohibition on discussing mental problems inflicted by the horrors of combat. He publicly called for the US Government to address the significant emotional impact wrought by veteran’s service.
Murphy died in 1971 at the age of 46. While flying through blinding fog and rain, the private aircraft he was a passenger in flew into the side of a mountain near Roanoke, Virginia.
His nations didn’t forget him. He was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. In 1996 the Texas Legislature designated June 20, his birthday, as Audie Murphy Day. In 1999, Governor George W. Bush made it official. June 20 is Audie Murphy Day in the state of Texas.
Audie’s valor, his kindness, his courage, his loyalty to God, country, family and friends are an inspiration. His actions have driven an appreciation of Texas and her people extending far beyond our borders. For this, we are grateful.