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70 Years Ago Today: Lt. Audie Murphy Holds the Line

Born in poverty and orphaned as a teenager in Hunt County, Texas, Audie Murphy lied about his age in order to try to get into the US Marine Corps. The Marines rejected him, saying that he was too small. Murphy went into the Army instead as an infantryman. He would prove to be an extraordinarily effective soldier and leader.

Time and time again, Murphy would distinguish himself in combat, eventually earning a field commission as a second lieutenant at the age of 19. Before the end of the war, Murphy would earn every combat award offered by the United States Army at the time.


(Photo: Smithsonian Institution)

Among those awards is the Medal of Honor. The Army bestowed that highest of laurels upon 2nd. Lt. Audie Murphy for the actions that he performed on January 26, 1945--70 years ago to this day. Though wounded and badly outnumbered, Murphy personally covered the retreat of his company from repeated German attacks outside of Holtzwihr, France. He did so for an hour with a machine gun on a disabled tank destroyer that was on fire at the time. From his Medal of Honor citation:

Lieutenant 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. It's crew withdrew to the woods. Lieutenant Murphy continued to direct artillery fire which killed large numbers of the advancing enemy infantry. With the enemy tanks abreast of his position, Lieutenant Murphy climbed on the burning tank destroyer which was in danger of blowing up any instant and employed its .50 caliber machine gun against the enemy. He was alone and exposed to the 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 eliminated Lieutenant Murphy, but he continued to hold his position and wiped out a squad which 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 the single-handed fight until his ammunition was exhausted. He then made his way 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 personally killed or wounded about 50. Lieutenant 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.


(Video Link)

By the time Germany surrendered later that May, Murphy was a First Lieutenant and not yet 21 years old. He was also tremendously famous (warning: auto-play). When he mustered out and returned home to the United States, he became an actor. He would also write To Hell and Back, his autobiography. When it was turned into a film in 1955, he played himself. You can watch several scenes from it in the video above.

-via American Digest


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Thinking about the whole American Sniper controversy.
Wonder if he'd be glorified or reviled if he killed so many men in an afternoon these days?
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