Some people are so amazing it is hard to believe they are real. One such man started out in the real world, moved on to be a legend, and then segued into fantasy for a while.
Audie Leon Murphy was born on June 20, 1925, in Kingston, Texas the seventh of twelve children. To help put food on the table, he began picking cotton when he was five. He also learned to shoot game.
In 1939 the 15-year-old Murphy quit school to work full time. Sadly, the following year his father abandoned the family, and his mother died the year after. His younger siblings were sent to an orphanage.
Then Pearl Harbor happened. Murphy unsuccessfully tried to join the military; he was 16 but looked younger, standing a mere 5’5” tall and weighing only 112 pounds. He put on weight, lied about his age, and finally got in on June 30, 1942.
Thanks to his years of hunting game, he earned the Marksman Badge and the Expert Badge during basic training. The following year he was in Casablanca in French Morocco.
There he trained for the Allied Landings in Sicily and became a private first class on May 7, 1943. During the invasion of Sicily, Murphy killed two Italian officers near Canicatti on July 10 and became a corporal five days later.
September found him with the landing team at Battipaglia, Salerno. Shortly after, he was part of a scouting party near the Volturno River when his party of three came under heavy fire which killed one of his men. Murphy and the other survivor retaliated by taking out five enemy soldiers – a taste of things to come.
In October, his company was near Mignano Monte Lungo Hill 193 as part of the Allied assault on the Volturno Line when they were attacked. His unit responded by killing three Germans and taking another four as prisoners, earning Murphy the rank of sergeant on December 13.
By January 1944, he was a staff sergeant but became ill due to malaria which kept him from the Allied landings on the Anzio beachhead. Later in January, he joined the First Battle of Cisterna where he became a platoon sergeant. It was with the 3rd Division in Anzio, however, that he got his first award.
It happened on March 2. The 3rd were holed up in a farmhouse when a German tank rolled past. Murphy crawled up to it and took out the entire crew with a rifle grenade, earning himself a Bronze Star with “V” Device.
He came down with a second bout of malaria eleven days later. Not that it stopped his team from getting the Combat Infantry Badge on May 8. Murphy also received the Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster. Fortunately, no sickness followed. Thus encouraged, he went on to make history.
On August 15, Murphy’s team was passing through a vineyard near Ramatuelle when German soldiers attacked them. Rather than take cover, Murphy ran toward the enemy to get a machine gun – killing two and wounding one.