On this day in 1971, United States Army veteran, Medal of Honor recipient, actor, songwriter, Audie Murphy died in a private plane crash on Brush Mountain near Catawba, Virginia at the age of 46. Born Audie Leon Murphy on 20 June 1924 in Kingston, Texas. The most decorated American soldier of World War II. Murphy was awarded 33 U.S. medals, five medals by France and one from Belgium including; three Purple Hearts, two Bronze stars, the Legion of Merit, two Silver Stars, the Distinguised Service Cross and the Medal of Honor.
The official U.S. Army citation for Murphy’s Medal of Honor reads:
- Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army, Company B 15th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division.
- Place and date: Near Holtzwihr France, January 26, 1945.
- Entered service at: Dallas, Texas. Birth: Hunt County, near Kingston, Texas, G.O. No. 65, August 9, 1944.
- Citation: Second Lt. Murphy commanded Company B, which was attacked by six tanks and waves of infantry. 2d Lt. Murphy ordered his men to withdraw to a prepared position in a woods, while he remained forward at his command post and continued to give fire directions to the artillery by telephone. Behind him, to his right, one of our tank destroyers received a direct hit and began to burn. Its crew withdrew to the woods. 2d Lt. Murphy continued to direct artillery fire, which killed large numbers of the advancing enemy infantry. With the enemy tanks abreast of his position, 2d Lt. Murphy climbed on the burning tank destroyer, which was in danger of blowing up at any moment, and employed its .50 caliber machine gun against the enemy. He was alone and exposed to German fire from three sides, but his deadly fire killed dozens of Germans and caused their infantry attack to waver. The enemy tanks, losing infantry support, began to fall back. For an hour the Germans tried every available weapon to eliminate 2d Lt. Murphy, but he continued to hold his position and wiped out a squad that was trying to creep up unnoticed on his right flank. Germans reached as close as 10 yards, only to be mowed down by his fire. He received a leg wound, but ignored it and continued his single-handed fight until his ammunition was exhausted. He then made his way back to his company, refused medical attention, and organized the company in a counterattack, which forced the Germans to withdraw. His directing of artillery fire wiped out many of the enemy; he killed or wounded about 50. 2d Lt. Murphy’s indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground saved his company from possible encirclement and destruction, and enabled it to hold the woods which had been the enemy’s objective.
James Cagney invited Murphy to Hollywood in September 1945. Murphy’s 1949 autobiography To Hell and Back (became a national bestseller. He portrayed himself in the 1955 film version of his book. Murphy was married twice; Wanda Hendrix (1949-1950 divorce) and Pamela Archer. The Final Footprint – Murphy is interred in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. His grave is marked by an upright marble VA marker. Other notable Final Footprints at Arlington include; Space Shuttle Challenger, Space Shuttle Columbia, Medgar Evers, JFK, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, RFK, Edward Kennedy, Malcolm Kilduff, Jr., and Lee Marvin.
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