Audie Leon Murphy was a legend in his own time-- war hero, movie actor, writer of country western songs and poet. His biography reads more like fiction than fact. He lived only forty-six years, yet he made a lasting imprint on American history.
Audie was born on a sharecropper farm in north Texas on June 20, 1924. As a boy, he chopped cotton for $1 a day and was noted for his feats of derring-do and for his accuracy with a gun. He had only five years of schooling and was orphaned at sixteen. After being refused enlistment in both the marines and the paratroopers for being too small (5'5") and underweight (110lbs), he enlisted in the U.S. Army a few days after his eighteenth birthday. After basic training at Camp Wolters, Texas, and advanced training at Fort Meade, Maryland, Audie went overseas. He was assigned to the famous 15th Infantry in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France, and Germany. He earned a battlefield commission for his courage and leadership ability. Audie spent some 400 days on the front lines and earned thirty-three military awards, citations, and decorations, including every medal of valor that america gives as well as three French and one Belgian medal. Lieutenant Audie Murphy was the most highly decorated soldier in American history.
Discharged from the Army on September 21, 1945, Audie went to Hollywood at the invitation of movie star James Cagney. He remained in California for the rest of his life and was closely associated with the movie industry, both as an actor and as a producer. He acted in forty-four films, starring in thirty-nine of them. His best known film is "To Hell and Back" adapted from the best selling book of this war experience by the same name. Most of his movies, however, were westerns. Audie Murphy was voted the most popular western actor in America in 1955 by motion picture exhibitors.
In 1950, Audie joined the 36th Infantry Division ("T-Patcher") of the Texas National Guard and served with it until 1966. He was killed in a plane crash on a mountain top near Roanoke, Virginia, on May 28, 1971. Fittingly, his body was recovered two days later on Memorial Day.
On 7 June, Audie Murphy was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery. His gravesite is near the amphitheater and it is the 2nd most visited gravesite year round.
He was the greatest soldier in the 200 year history of the United States.