Texas History May 12, 2018
|Audie Leon Murphy, war hero, Hollywood actor, and songwriter, was born near Kingston, Texas, on June 20, 1924. He was one of twelve children of Emmett Berry and Josie Bell (Killian) Murphy.
At the time of his death Murphy was the most decorated combat soldier of World War II. He enlisted in the United States Army at Greenville, Texas, in June 1942, around the date of his eighteenth birthday. After basic infantry training at Camp Wolters, Texas, and advanced training at Fort Meade, Maryland, he was assigned to North Africa as a private in Company B, Fifteenth Infantry Regiment, Third Infantry Division. He later served as the commander of Company B.
During his World War II career Murphy received thirty-three awards, citations, and decorations and won a battlefield promotion to second lieutenant. He received every medal that the United States gives for valor, two of them twice. On January 26, 1945, near Holtzwhir, France, he was personally credited with killing or wounding about fifty Germans and stopping an attack by enemy tanks. For this act of bravery he received the Medal of Honor. After the war’s end, Murphy also received several French and Belgian decorations for valor. He fought in eight campaigns in Sicily, Italy, France, and Germany; participated in two amphibious assaults, in Sicily and southern France; and was wounded three times. He was discharged from the United States Army at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, on August 17, 1945.
He subsequently pursued several careers—as a successful movie actor, a lyric writer for country and western songs, an author, and a poet. He appeared in forty-five motion pictures and starred in thirty-nine of them. His best-known films were The Red Badge of Courage (1951), To Hell and Back (1955), Night Passage (1957, with James Stewart), and The Unforgiven (1960, with Burt Lancaster). In 1955 Murphy was selected as one of the year’s most popular Western stars by United States theater owners, and in 1957 he was chosen as the most popular Western actor by British audiences.
He wrote the lyrics for fourteen songs and collaborated on three instrumentals. Two of his songs, “Shutters and Boards” and “When the Wind Blows in Chicago,” were recorded by such top-ranking vocalists as Dean Martin, Porter Wagoner, and Eddy Arnold. Both were in the Top 10 songs on the Hit Parade for several weeks. With David McClure, Murphy wrote the best-selling book To Hell and Back (1949), the story of his World War II exploits, which went through nine printings and was made into a successful motion picture by the same name, starring Murphy.