From Most Decorated US World War Two Soldier to Hollywood actor – Audie Murphy is Remembered

On the 70th anniversary of World War Two, Audie Murphy’s story is unique and a tale worth remembering. Audie Murphy was a 19 year-old second Lieutenant fighting with US troops on the Western Front. Because of his actions in 1945 he was awarded the US military’s highest honor – the Medal of Honor. He went on to star as a Hollywood actor in blockbuster movies with worldwide release.

Audie’s war experience peaked at the end of January 1945. He was fighting with and leading around 40 men on the French-Swiss border. It was a freezing cold in Europe and the wintery conditions were dire. Audie’s regiment was ordered to hold a critical road near the town of Holtzwihr. Already tired from the long and exhausting battles they had experienced, the regiment waited for back-up troops to arrive, but those had been delayed.

Suddenly the regiment was attacked by 250 German soldiers and six tanks. The men panicked since they could not think how they would hold off the enemy. Audie knew they would have to fight till the last.

They took defensive positions along a line of trees and Audie called for artillery support. The German tanks began to hit them hard as a flurry of Allied artillery fire responded to the German attack. In the middle of the advancing enemy, Audie jumped aboard a tank that was up in flames to get a hold of its machine gun turret and fight back. He fought off dozens of Nazi troopers and managed to keep their tanks at a distance with continued support from the friendly artillery fire, the History in the Headlines reports.

The smoke from the burning tank actually helped keep Audie maintain his cover from the advancing enemy, but the tank was a dangerous, ticking time-bomb just waiting to blow up.

The Germans pinpointed Audie’s position and attacked from several different angles but could not get to him. Audie was hit by shrapnel, wounded and bleeding, but he withdrew only when he ran out of ammunition. Audie’s regiment was in awe of him and thankful that their leader had such courage. Audie actually held the enemy off for a whole hour, killing or injuring more than 50 German soldiers. Rather than retreat, Audie then commanded his men to counterattack, pushing the Germans into retreat instead.

Audie returned home a hero in June of that year, and took a position as liaison officer rather than going back into the field. He was even featured on Life Magazine’s front cover. Audie’s good looks are what took him to Hollywood, where he made a career as an actor starring in over 40 movies including ‘To Hell and Back’, in which he played himself on the big screen.

Even though it was difficult for him to replay his war time experience, he used these emotions to his advantage in lobbying the US government to improve the mental healthcare offered to veterans upon their return from duty.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE