WWII Hero Audie Murphy: 'How Come I'm Not Dead?'

WWII Hero Audie Murphy: 'How Come I'm Not Dead?'

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On January 26, 1945, Audie Murphy and some 40 U.S. troops sat shivering in a frigid, snow-covered clearing near the Alsatian town of Holtzwihr. The battle-weary soldiers had been ordered to hold a vital roadway until reinforcements arrived, but the operation was delayed and the promised relief was nowhere to be seen. Just after 2 p.m., the winter stillness was suddenly broken by the thunderclap of an enemy artillery barrage. In the distance, some 250 German troops and six tanks emerged from the woods.

As he watched the Germans line up for an attack, Murphy felt a wave of panic rise in his belly. It was a familiar feeling, one he’d learned to control during 18 months of bitter fighting across Italy and France. At just 19 years old, the baby-faced Texan had already won two Silver Stars and the Distinguished Service Cross, and he was leading men 10 years his senior into battle. Once the shooting began, he knew his instincts would take over. “The nerves will relax,” he later wrote, “the heart, stop its thumping. The brain will turn to animal cunning. The job is directly before us: destroy and survive.”

Murphy knew that his men stood no chance against so large a force, so he instructed most of them to withdraw to pre-prepared defensive positions along a nearby tree line. As they ran for cover, he stayed behind and used his field telephone to call in an artillery strike. He had just enough time to radio in his coordinates before salvos of German tank fire erupted around him. One shell immediately drilled a tree near a machine gun nest and showered its crew with deadly splinters of wood; another hit a nearby tank destroyer and set it ablaze.

Murphy’s command post was collapsing before his eyes, but he held his ground and continued calling in the Allied artillery. In seconds, a curtain of friendly fire rained down between him and the advancing German infantry, pitting the open field with craters and shrouding everything in a haze of smoke. After emptying his M-1 carbine at the enemy, Murphy grabbed his field telephone and took cover atop the burning tank destroyer. Over the radio, he could hear the artillery commander asking how close the Germans were to his position. “Just hold the phone and I’ll let you talk to one of the bastards!” he yelled back.

The tank destroyer was slowly being engulfed in flames, but Murphy saw that its .50-caliber machine gun turret was still operational. He quickly seized the gun and sprayed a withering fire against the German troops nearest his position. “My numbed brain is intent only on destroying,” Murphy later wrote in his autobiography. “I am conscious only that the smoke and the turret afford a good screen, and that, for the first time in three days, my feet are warm.” He continued firing burst after burst, mowing down Nazi troopers by the dozen and keeping the tanks at bay. All the while, he remained on the phone, directing artillery fire ever closer to his own position and dealing catastrophic damage to the advancing infantry.

From their cover on the edge of the tree line, most of Murphy’s troops could only watch in shock. “I expected to see the whole damn tank destroyer blow up under him any minute,” Private Anthony Abramski later wrote. In fact, the blaze may have saved Murphy’s life. Many of the German troops and tank commanders couldn’t see him behind the veil of smoke and flames, and those that did resisted getting too close out of fear that the vehicle was about to explode.

Despite the hail of Allied artillery shells, fresh waves of German infantrymen continued inching toward Murphy’s position. One squad tried to make a flanking maneuver on his right side, only to be cut down in a hail of pinpoint fire from his .50-caliber gun. As Murphy continued his one-man attack, German gunners riddled his smoldering tank destroyer with small arms and tank fire. One blast nearly threw him from the vehicle and sent razor sharp shrapnel flying into his leg, but he took no account of the wound and kept fighting. It was only when Murphy ran out of ammunition that he finally withdrew. Dazed and bloodied, he jumped from the still-burning tank destroyer and limped to his men. He later wrote that as he walked away, one thought in particular kept racing through his mind: “How come I’m not dead?”

Murphy’s men were no doubt wondering the same thing. It was the “greatest display of guts and courage I have ever seen,” a stunned Abramski later wrote. “For an hour he held off the enemy force singlehanded, fighting against impossible odds.” Murphy had personally killed or wounded some 50 enemy troops and directed artillery against dozens more. Even after reaching safety, he refused to be evacuated from the field and instead rallied his men in a counterattack that drove the Germans back into the woods.

Audie Murphy was hailed a national hero and awarded the Medal of Honor for his jaw dropping exploits at Holtzwihr. Not wanting to risk the life of its newest celebrity soldier, the Army reassigned him as a liaison officer and did its best to keep him out of combat until the war ended. By then, the battle-hardened G.I. had endured three wounds, a nasty case of malaria, gangrene and more dead friends than he cared to remember. “There is VE-Day without,” he wrote of his mixed feelings at the war’s end, “but no peace within.”

Murphy returned home in June 1945 to a hero’s welcome of parades, swarming reporters and his face on the cover of Life Magazine. On the advice of screen legend James Cagney, he later took his boyish good looks to Hollywood, where he forged a film career that included more than 40 credits, most of them in Westerns and war films. His most famous role came in 1955, when he played himself in “To Hell and Back,” a blockbuster adaptation of his own memoir about World War II. Reliving the horrors of combat in front of the camera proved difficult for Murphy, who had suffered from nightmares and flashbacks since returning home. He later spoke publicly about his decades-long struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, and urged the U.S. government to provide better mental healthcare for its veterans.

“To Hell and Back” was a smash hit—the film was Universal Studios’ most profitable release until “Jaws” in 1975—and it helped seal Murphy’s reputation as one of the most famous American veterans of World War II. But despite having won several dozen medals for valor, he always resisted attempts to label him a hero. “Bravery is just determination to do a job that you know has to be done,” he told reporters upon returning home in 1945. “I just fought to stay alive, like anyone else, I guess.”

A Great Lady Has Passed &mdash Pamela Murphy

Claim: Account describes Pamela Murphy’s efforts on behalf of patients at a Veterans
Administration hospital.

Example: [Collected via e-mail, July 2010]

Any soldier or Marine who came into the hospital got the same special treatment from her. She would walk the hallways with her clipboard in hand making sure her boys got to see the specialist they needed.

If they didn’t, watch out. Her boys weren’t Medal of Honor recipients or movie stars like Audie, but that didn’t matter to Pam. They had served their country. That was good enough for her. She never called a veteran by his first name. It was always “Mister.” Respect came with the job.

“Nobody could cut through VA red tape faster than said veteran Stephen Sherman, speaking for thousands of veterans she befriended over the years. “Many times I watched her march a veteran who had been waiting more than an hour right into the doctor’s office. She was even reprimanded a few times, but it didn’t matter to “Only her boys mattered. She was our angel.”

Origins: Audie Murphy was America’s most decorated World veteran, having received the Medal of Honor (the U.S. military’s highest award for valor), as well as another and citations from the U.S., France, and Belgium. Murphy’s post-war life included a successful career as an actor which encompassed appearances in over forty movies (including To Hell and Back, a film version of his World autobiography in which Murphy played himself).

In 1971 Audie Murphy died at the age of 45 in a plane crash, leaving behind his wife of Pamela. (Although the couple had separated in the early 1960s, they remained married until Murphy’s death.) In order to support herself after her husband’s death, Pamela Murphy took a job at the Sepulveda Veterans Administration (VA) hospital in California’s Valley and spent the next working at that facility, where she was widely known and praised for the level of care and concern she exhibited towards the veterans who sought treatment there.

Pamela Murphy passed away at the age of 90 in prompting Dennis McCarthy of the Daily News to pen the column about her referenced above, posthumously bringing Pamela Murphy a measure of the publicity recognition that she had always disdained while alive.

Critical Mass: Unassuming Audie Murphy a true American hero

Audie Murphy (left) and John Dierks star in John Huston’s 1951 film “The Red Badge of Courage.”

Audie Murphy was a small man, a touch over 5 feet, 5 inches tall. He came from a Texas sharecropper family after his mother took ill in 1936, and his father — who was "not lazy, but had a genius for not considering the future" — abandoned her and his 11 children. Audie became a breadwinner. He picked cotton and worked in a store and shot rabbits to go with the molasses and bread they ate. His mother, Josie, died in May 1941, when he was 15 years old.

"I can't ever remember being young in my life," he'd say much later.

He was 16 when he first tried to enlist in the Marines, immediately after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He was turned down for being underweight and underage.

He had his sister swear out a false affidavit to the effect that he was a year older than he was, and went on an eating binge that brought his weight all the way up to 112 pounds. The Army finally took him in June 1942, and during basic training he excelled as a marksman but passed out during a close order drill in the hot Texas sun.

His company commander thought he was too slightly built for combat and tried to have him transferred to cook and baker school. But Murphy had, according to his ghostwritten autobiography, always wanted to be a soldier.

They sent him overseas in 1943, when he was 18. By the end of the war, it was said he had killed 241 enemy soldiers. Inducted as a private, he would be rapidly promoted to corporal and sergeant, finally receiving a rare battlefield commission to second lieutenant and platoon leader.

At 19, he won the Medal of Honor for beating back a German tank and infantry attack literally alone — firing from the top of a stranded tank destroyer and calling in artillery fire on top of his own position. (Allegedly when he was asked how close the Germans were to his position, Murphy cracked, "Just hold the phone and I'll let you talk to one of the bastards.") Then, after the Germans retreated, Murphy rounded up the remaining 19 (out of an original 128) men in his company and organized a counter-attack.

He was awarded 36 other medals his foreign commendations included the French Forrager, Legion of Honor and Croix de Guerre with Palm and Silver Star and the Belgian Croix de Guerre 1940 with Palm. The Texas legislature also awarded him a Medal of Honor. He is commonly referred to as the most decorated soldier of World War II.

When he returned from Europe after V-E Day in June 1945, he was greeted as a hero, with parades and banquets. Life put him on the cover of its July 16, 1945, issue. It turned out Audie Murphy was a handsome kid, invariably described as "baby-faced" or "boyish." James Cagney saw the photo, called Murphy and invited him out to Hollywood.

Murphy came, somewhat reluctantly, painfully aware that he had no talent or affinity for the work but that he could only live so long on after-dinner speeches and his $113 a month Army pension. When Cagney met him in person, he was astonished that the war hero was "very thin," with a "bluish-gray complexion."

Cagney canceled the hotel room he'd booked for Murphy and took him into his own home. Cagney and his brother William signed Murphy as a $150 a week contract player for their production company and set him up with acting, voice and judo lessons.

But they never cast him in a movie, and in 1947, he moved into a room at Terry Hunt's Athletic Club in Hollywood where he met screenwriter David "Spec" McClure, who had served in the U.S. Army's Signal Corps during World War II. McClure encouraged Murphy to seek a book deal, and soon he signed with Henry Holt and Co. to write his memoir, with McClure serving as ghostwriter.

McClure also got Murphy his first screen role as a newspaper copy boy in "Texas, Brooklyn and Heaven." (A similarly small part, in the Alan Ladd feature "Beyond Glory," was filmed earlier but was released later. Murphy's girlfriend and later wife, Wanda Hendrix, helped him secure that role.)

As Murphy continued to act in increasingly larger roles in B pictures, he and McClure embarked on writing the promised memoir. They flew to Europe to retrace Murphy's steps through Sicily, and Salerno, Anzio, southern France and southern Germany to revisit the battlefields where he won his medals.

The process was laborious Murphy was likely a natural introvert and came back from the war with what we would now recognize as a classic case of post-traumatic stress syndrome. (He struggled with insomnia, bouts of depression, and nightmares related to numerous battles throughout his life. Hendrix was alarmed that he slept with a captured Walther beneath his pillow and claimed he once pulled it on her after she startled him. They divorced in 1951.)

Though he laboriously wrote some passages in longhand, he probably wrote less than 10% of the book. For the rest of it, McClure relied on Murphy's medal citations and Donald Taggart's classic "History of the Third Infantry Division in World War II" for his facts. Then he'd try to interview the taciturn Murphy about his experiences, type what he thought had happened, and send his copy to Murphy.

Murphy would often reject McClure's first and second attempts at rendering Murphy's memories. The writer would grow frustrated with his collaborator and demand that Murphy tell him exactly what had happened. Sometimes the broken young man would do just that.

After a year, they had a remarkable book, commonly known as "To Hell and Back." But if you look at the dust jacket of the first edition, you'll notice that the book is actually titled "Audie Murphy's To Hell and Back," which seems to infer a certain ambiguity of authorship. It's not exactly "by" Murphy, and McClure's name appears nowhere in the edition.

And while it is narrated in first-person, Murphy often seems to recede from the scene, giving it over to his fellow soldiers. In one instance, a song Murphy wrote (he would later on achieve some degree of success as a songwriter) is attributed to another soldier.

It begins in Sicily, with Murphy feeling disappointed that because of scheduling problems, his company had come ashore sometime after the initial assault and met only token resistance from Italian troops:

There was some big stuff smashing about and from various points came the rattle of small arms. But we soon got used to it.

But it doesn't take long for the horror to begin. The first death, of one of Murphy's fellow soldiers, occurs on page two:

The second shell is different. Something terrible and immediate about its whistle makes my scalp start prickling. I grab my helmet and flip over on my stomach. The explosion is thunderous. Steel fragments whine, and the ground seems to jump up and hit me in the face.

Silence again. I raise my head. The sour fumes of powder have caused an epidemic of coughing.

The voice snaps. We all see it. The redheaded soldier has tumbled from the rock. Blood trickles from his mouth and nose.

It takes eight more pages before Murphy records his first kill:

. I am ahead of the company with a group of scouts. We flush a couple of Italian officers. They should have surrendered. Instead, they mount two magnificent white horses and gallop madly away. My act is instinctive. Dropping to one knee, I fire twice. The men tumble from the horses, roll over and lie still.

It is difficult to know who to credit for the book's stately cadences and matter-of-fact tone. The humility is likely Murphy's — nowhere in the memoir are his medals mentioned, and while the book is full of carnage and gallantry, it seems uncommonly centered on the mundane daily terrors of life in a combat zone.

Aside from the reconstructed conversations among the soldiers, which sometimes seem stilted and broad (a problem not helped by the attempt to replicate regional accents), the book rings with the authority of a reluctant eyewitness.

It's been a while since I've read Norman Mailer's WWII novel "The Naked and the Dead," but "To Hell and Back" feels more direct and somehow more honest, though it's filtered through McClure's Hollywood sensibility as much as "The Naked and the Dead" is filtered through Mailer's writerly aspirations.

There is sometimes poetry in the Murphy/McClure collaboration, as when he recounts a childhood dream:

. I was on a faraway battlefield, where bugles blew, banners streamed and men charged gallantly across flaming hills where the temperature always stood at eighty and our side was always victorious where the dying were but impersonal shadows and the wounded never cried .

"To Hell and Back" is less than 300 pages long an easy read. A lot easier than "The Naked and the Dead." But it's never mentioned as one of the best books to come out of World War II, probably because it was obscured by the 1955 film version, in which Murphy starred as himself.

Murphy, despite his self-deprecating assessment of his own acting ability, had done all right as an actor, especially in 1951's "The Red Badge of Courage" and western roles like 1954's "Destry" and 1952's "Duel at Silver Creek," directed by Don Siegel. Still, he was reluctant to star as himself, in part because he was afraid he'd be seen as cashing in on his war experience.

He might also have been rightly afraid his story would be Hollywoodized, especially after McClure lost out on a chance to adapt the book for the screen to the journeyman Gil Doud, who was better known for his work in radio. While Doud worked with Murphy in much the same way McClure did, the movie seems, at least to modern audiences, a standard war film, though it is somewhat darker than most war films of the period: At the end, Murphy is the only member of his original unit remaining.

After the movie came out, Murphy gave an interview in which he reflected on the "strange jerking back and forth between make-believe and reality" the filming evoked in him, "between fighting for your life and the discovery that it's only a game and you have to do a retake because a tourist's dog ran across the field in the middle of the battle."

He recounted an incident where he re-enacted the death of one of his close friends in battle. In real life, his friend stood up too tall as they advanced up a hill and was hit by a burst of enemy machine gun fire. He fell back into Murphy's arms, gave a thin smile and said "I goofed, Murphy" as he died.

"When we shot the scene," Murphy remembered, "we changed the part where Brandon died in my arms. That was the way it had really happened, but it looked too corny, they said. I guess it did."

Probably because of the novelty of a war hero portraying himself on screen, contemporary reviews were almost uniformly positive. "Credibility burns in his mild face and gentle gestures as he moves through scenes of battle raptly, like a man reliving them with wonder and something of reverence," Time magazine wrote.

A better judgment might have been offered by The New Yorker's John McCarten, who wrote: "I am told that he is a modest man, and he behaves modestly here. However, the events described in the picture have a factitious air about them. Maybe the spontaneity of actual heroism just can't be duplicated in the movies."

The film ends with Murphy being presented the Medal of Honor, with his fallen comrades represented at the ceremony by ghostly apparitions. I prefer the last page of the book where, when Murphy hears that the war is finally over, he promises himself he will "find the kind of girl of whom I once dreamed. I will learn to look at life through uncynical eyes, to have faith, to know love. I will learn to work in peace as in war."

But Murphy's story didn't have a happy ending. He remarried and had two children, and had his songs recorded by the likes of Dean Martin and Harry Nilsson, but his nightmares led him to an addiction to sleeping pills. He never overcame his limitations as an actor, and the B-westerns he seemed to fit in were soon squeezed by TV series on one side and edgier, more violent spaghetti westerns on the other. A movie he envisioned making with McClure, "The Way Back," a sequel to his war memoir, never got financing.

By 1960, Murphy, who might have been one of the inspirations for Quentin Tarantino's character Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), was reduced to playing a western detective on TV in the largely forgotten series "Whispering Smith."

Interviewed in 1962, he spoke of his post-war experience: "War robs you mentally and physically, it drains you. Things don't thrill you anymore. it's a struggle every day to find something interesting to do."

A few years later, he retired from acting, developed a gambling problem, made bad investments, went broke and declared bankruptcy in 1968. He stood trial for attempted murder — his defense was basically that if he'd wanted to kill the man he would have

done it. The jury shook his hand after they acquitted him.

A year later, in 1971, he was dead. A plane he chartered crashed while on the way to check out a potential investment opportunity in a factory that made pre-fab homes. He was 45 years old.

When people think about American soldiers in WWII, a great number of them instantly recall John Wayne. People send me angry letters when I point out that Wayne, who was 34 years old the day Pearl Harbor was bombed, never spent a day in the armed forces, that he took measures to avoid service during the war.

They wishfully conceive of their hero carrying out secret missions for Wild Bill Donovan's O.S.S., or that he was ordered by FDR to make movies to keep up morale.

I have no brief against Wayne he was an actor, not a hero, and he did what many if not most people would have done in his situation.

But I think of Audie Murphy, who came puny and starved out of east Texas, an authentic hero who's forgotten in this time when authenticity allegedly means so much. And that great, forgotten book he once sort of wrote.

By Tom Huntington

A search party struggled through thick woods on Virginia’s Brush Mountain. Atop the 3,065-foot peak about 12 miles from Roanoke, the searchers came upon the plane wreckage a helicopter crew had spotted earlier. They found three bodies in the mangled fuselage and three others in the scattered debris. Among the dead was 46-year-old Audie Murphy, the most decorated veteran in US history.

Murphy, who had been flying to Virginia to check out an investment opportunity, had earned 21 medals in World War II, including the Congressional Medal of Honor. After the war he had appeared in many movies, some good, most mediocre. By the time the plane crashed on May 23, 1971, he seemed to be a man from another time. News of his death shared the front page of the New York Times with accounts of Memorial Day protests against the Vietnam War.

Murphy was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery as his wife and two sons looked on. Army Chief of Staff William Westmoreland attended the ceremony. President Richard Nixon’s White House issued the statement that Murphy had “not only won the admiration of millions for his own brave exploits, he also came to epitomize the gallantry in action of America’s fighting men.”

Sadly, Murphy just as thoroughly epitomized the dark corollary to “gallantry in action,” the psychological toll that war can inflict on even the most courageous warriors. Although he was wounded three times in battle, his deepest scars weren’t physical. He suffered from terrible nightmares, slept with the lights on and a gun under his pillow, gambled heavily, and found little to interest him after his high-stakes existence on the front lines. “Seems as though nothing can get me excited any more—you know, enthused?” he told director John Huston after being cast in The Red Badge of Courage. “Before the war, I’d get excited and enthused about a lot of things, but not any more.”

Born on June 20, 1924, near the Texas town of Kingston, Murphy was one of nine surviving children of parents who eked out a living from the land. “We were share-crop farmers,” he wrote. “And to say that the family was poor would be an understatement. Poverty dogged our every step.” When Murphy was 16, his father left. “He simply walked out of our lives, and we never heard from him again,” Murphy wrote. His mother died the next year, and Murphy took her death hard. The family had to break up, and Murphy’s three youngest siblings were sent to an orphanage.

The coming of war with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, seemed to promise a way out of a bad situation, although Murphy—short, freckle-faced, and slight—seemed an unlikely warrior. The marines wouldn’t take him. Neither would the paratroopers. When he finally managed to enlist in the infantry, he was 18, but he looked younger. His sergeant at training camp called him Baby, and Murphy passed out during his first close-order drill. Commanders tried to keep him from combat, suggesting they could get him posted as a clerk or a baker. But he wanted to fight.

The chance finally came when Murphy’s Company B of the 15th Regiment, 3rd Division, landed in Italy. He killed his first enemy soldiers in Sicily: two Italian officers who tried to gallop away on horseback. “I feel no qualms no pride no remorse,” he said in To Hell And Back, the 1949 autobiography he co-wrote with journalist and friend David McClure. “There is only a weary indifference that will follow me throughout the war.” Even at this early stage in his combat career, he was learning how to suppress his emotions.

From Sicily, Murphy’s company moved to the Italian mainland. A bout of malaria kept him from participating in the initial landings at Anzio, but he saw action enough. German resistance stiffened after the landings, and the Allied soldiers endured a miserable stalemate. One night, while under fire, Murphy crept up to a damaged German tank and put it permanently out of commission. The attack earned him his first medal, a Bronze Star.

Such a daring attack became typical of Murphy. He was a crack shot, his battlefield instincts were razor-sharp, and he seemed to be fearless. “If I discovered one valuable thing during my early combat days, it was audacity, which is often mistaken for courage or foolishness,” he said. “It is neither. Audacity is a tactical weapon. Nine times out of ten it will throw the enemy off balance and confuse him.”

Audacity or not, fear never completely disappeared. “In the heat of battle it may go away,” Murphy wrote. “Sometimes it vanishes in a blind, red rage that comes when you see a friend fall. Then again you get so tired that you become indifferent. But when you are moving into combat, why try fooling yourself? Fear is right there beside you.”

Company B left Italy on August 12, 1944, to fight in Operation Dragoon, the Allied invasion of Southern France. The Americans swarmed ashore almost unopposed. Murphy, now a sergeant, was heading inland with Company B when a German machine gun on a ridge above a vineyard pinned them down. Private Lattie Tipton, a lanky 33-year-old Tennessean who had become Murphy’s closest friend and a father figure of sorts, followed Murphy forward to take on the Germans. Murphy urged him to head back and get a wounded ear treated, but Tipton refused. “Come on Murphy,” he said, “let’s move up. They can kill us, but they can’t eat us. It’s against the law.” Minutes later Tipton was dead. The Germans waved a white flag, and Tipton, though an experienced infantryman, made the mistake of standing up. German machine guns treacherously shot him right back down.

Tipton’s death swept Murphy into a blur of fury. “I remember the experience as I do a nightmare,” he wrote. “A demon seems to have entered my body. My brain is coldly alert and logical. I do not think of the danger to myself. My whole being is concentrated on killing. Later the men pinned down in the vineyard tell me that I shout pleas and curses at them, because they do not come up and join me.” Using a captured German machine gun, Murphy methodically mowed down the Germans who had killed his friend. “As the lacerated bodies flop and squirm, I rake them again,” Murphy wrote “and I do not stop firing while there is a quiver of life left in them.” Murphy won the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions that day. He gave the medal to Tipton’s daughter.

To this point in the war, Murphy had somehow survived physically unscathed. He received his first wound as the Americans pushed northward through France, the German army retreating before them into the Vosges Mountains. During one fight, a mortar shell struck near him, killing two soldiers and knocking him unconscious. The blast shattered the stock of his lucky carbine (which he wired back together), but his own injuries were only minor.

Murphy’s battlefield prowess did not go unnoticed, and despite his protests that he wanted to remain among the rank and file, he was commissioned a second lieutenant on October 14, 1944. Less than two weeks later, as frosty weather hinted at the bitter winter to come, a hidden German rifleman shot him in the hip. Even wounded and on the ground, Murphy managed to kill the sniper before the sniper could finish him off. But his wound soon became infected, and surgeons had to remove a large chunk of flesh from his hip. Murphy rejoined Company B three months later, just in time for one of the unit’s most difficult actions: defeating the German troops in the Colmar Pocket, a bulging salient that extended into France on the west bank of the Rhine River.

On January 26, Murphy and Company B found themselves on the outskirts of woods facing the German village of Holtzwihr. The day dawned miserably cold and uncomfortable as the small American force waited tensely for an attack. Finally, six German tanks supported by infantry began moving toward them from the village and quickly put two American tank destroyers near Murphy’s company out of action. Murphy sent his men back, but he stayed put with his field telephone. He was only 20 years old, and it did not look like he would live to see 21.

With his phone, Murphy called in artillery fire on the advancing German infantry. German tanks were approaching on his sides, but Murphy climbed onto a burning tank destroyer—which could have exploded at any second—and began firing its .50-caliber machine gun. He killed dozens of German soldiers, forcing the tanks to fall back due to lack of infantry protection. One German squad sneaking up on Murphy’s right got as close as 10 yards from him before he detected the threat. He shot the whole squad down. Somewhere along the way, Murphy got hit in the leg, but he kept fighting until he ran out of ammunition. Having killed about 50 Germans, he returned to his company, where he refused medical help and instead rallied his men to make a counterattack. The Germans were forced to retreat.

Later, Murphy heard that the enemy had stayed away from his burning tank destroyer because it looked ready to blow up. “I do not know about that,” he answered in his memoir, putting himself back into the scene. “I am conscious only that the smoke and the turret afford a good screen, and that, for the first time in three days, my feet are warm.”

Murphy’s heroics at Holtzwihr earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award. The citation read, “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.” When the army found out Murphy was going to receive the medal, it pulled him off the front lines too many of these medals had ended up being awarded posthumously. Still, Murphy found a way into combat. On one occasion he went in to rescue his company when it was pinned down by German fire along the Siegfried Line in western Germany.

In June 1945, Murphy finally returned. He was a national hero. Life magazine put him on its cover, identifying him simply as “America’s Most Decorated Soldier.” The story inside told of his return to Farmville, Texas. One photograph showed him with his “special girl,” 19-year-old Mary Lee. “Audie hopes she is his own girl,” the caption read, “but he isn’t quite sure yet because he usually blushes when he gets within ten feet of any girl.” The Murphy Life portrayed could hardly have been more different from the Murphy that McClure came to know. While the two men worked together on To Hell And Back, Murphy told McClure about an Italian family in Rome that had invited him to dinner one day. Murphy said that before dinner he seduced the two daughters, and afterward, for good measure, he seduced the mother. “Audie seduced more girls than any man I ever knew with the possible exception of Errol Flynn,” McClure said. “He might even have topped Flynn.”

The Life story opened an unexpected door for Murphy. Actor James Cagney saw it and invited the young veteran to Hollywood. “All I saw him as was a typical fighting Irishman,” Cagney said. “Perhaps I imagined there was a little bit of me in Audie.” Cagney put Murphy up for a time in his Hollywood home and provided him with acting classes, but after two years, the country’s most decorated soldier was broke and living above a gymnasium.

It was around this time that McClure met Murphy. McClure was a fellow Texan and ex-army man, now working as an assistant to Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. He heard of Murphy’s plight and began to champion him. The two men became friends and started working on To Hell And Back, with McClure prodding the reluctant Murphy to provide material he could use in the book. “Audie had been burned out by the war,” McClure said later. “He reacted intensely to the death of his friends in combat. I supposed in order to keep from going insane he buried his emotions so deeply that getting them back was difficult if not impossible.” But McClure persevered, making up the material that Murphy couldn’t—or wouldn’t—supply, and the book came out in 1949 to favorable reviews.

McClure also used his Hollywood connections to help Murphy get movie roles. The first was in 1949’s Bad Boy. Murphy remained clear-eyed about his abilities. “You must remember I’m working under a handicap,” Murphy told the director in his self-deprecating way. “No talent.”

For the most part, Murphy acted in Western B-movies. One exception was The Red Badge of Courage, director John Huston’s 1951 adaptation of Stephen Crane’s story about a Civil War soldier who flees from battle. MGM didn’t want Murphy, but Huston fought for him, realizing he had the right qualities for the role. “They just don’t see Audie the way I do,” he said. “This little, gentle-eyed creature. Why, in the war he’d literally go out of his way to find Germans to kill. He’s a gentle little killer.”

There was another famous WWII veteran in Red Badge: Bill Mauldin, whose cartoons about the inanities of army life entertained GIs in the army publication Stars and Stripes. He had some sharp recollections of Murphy. “He was a scrappy little sonofabitch,” Mauldin said. “He would get into bare-knuckle fistfights just for fun with stuntmen. He was five foot four and he’d beat these guys up. They were tangling with a wildcat. That’s why Huston really liked him.”

Murphy delivered a fine low-key performance, but the movie never found an audience. After two disastrous previews, MGM cut the running time to less than 70 minutes and the film flopped. Red Badge was probably Murphy’s best shot at stardom now he slowly slipped back into the grind of forgettable B-movies. “I’m grateful to the movie business,” he said. “The only trouble is the type-casting. You make a success in Westerns, they milk it dry—until you are dry. That’s why Hollywood has just about dried up for somebody like me.” Murphy categorized himself as “a middle-sized failure.”

Murphy had one undeniable film success: playing himself in Universal’s 1955 adaptation of To Hell And Back. He re-created his combat experiences—even though they were layered over with Hollywood gloss—with an understated dignity that helped lift the movie above its otherwise pedestrian treatment of the war. The movie remained Universal’s biggest moneymaker until Jaws in 1975.

On the personal front, Murphy’s life maintained a slow downward slide. He married starlet Wanda Hendrix in 1949, but the marriage lasted only 15 months. Four days after his divorce, in 1951, he married Pamela Archer. That marriage, too, was strained. Murphy was a haunted man, tortured by insomnia, his nights interrupted by a recurring nightmare in which an army of faceless men attacked him on a hill. Murphy fought back in the dream with his trusty M-1 Garand rifle, but pieces of the gun kept flying off until he had only the trigger guard left.

Plagued by nightmares and sounds he thought he heard, Murphy began sleeping in a bedroom made up in his converted garage, with the lights on and with a pistol under his pillow. He tried using tranquilizers but got addicted to them, finally throwing away the pills and locking himself in a hotel room until the withdrawal symptoms ceased. He acted in more and more forgettable movies, invested in real estate, bred horses, and gambled. “I didn’t care if I won or lost,” he said “it was as if I wanted to destroy everything I had built up.” In 1968 he went bankrupt. Two years later, he was in the headlines again, when he and a friend were charged with beating up a dog trainer. In every news story, he was invariably identified as “America’s most decorated soldier.”

The experiences that had earned Murphy his decorations had taken their toll. Today, his symptoms would be diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder, but that term didn’t exist during his lifetime. He had emerged from the crucible of war, but he had not emerged unchanged. He had seen men die—ripped apart by machine guns, run over by tanks, obliterated by mortar fire. He had killed many men himself, supposedly accounting for 240 Germans single-handedly. “To become an executioner, somebody cold and analytical, to be trained to kill, and then to come back into civilian life and be alone in the crowd—it takes an awful long time to get over it,” he told journalist Thomas Morgan in 1967. “Fear and depression come over you.”

When Morgan visited Murphy at his house in California to interview him, he saw a small glass display box with some of his medals inside. The display was in disarray. The Medal of Honor looked “tacky,” Morgan noted, while the first of Murphy’s three Purple Hearts had fallen and lay face down at the bottom of the case. Like Murphy himself, the medals were ignored, forgotten. At the time of Morgan’s visit, Murphy, America’s most decorated soldier, had four more years to live. But part of him had already died, long before his airplane crashed into the top of Brush Mountain.

Tom Huntington, a contributing editor to America in WWII, has written for Smithsonian, American Heritage, Yankee, and other publications. This article appeared in the February 2007 issue of America in WWII. Find out how to order a copy of this issue here. To get more articles like this one, subscribe to America in WWII magazine.

Photos: Audie Murphy after the war, in 1945, at age 21 Murphy (right) with siblings Murphy playing himself in the 1955 movie To Hell and Back.

Military Career

A few months later, Murphy&aposs division moved to invade Sicily. His actions on the ground impressed his superior officers and they quickly promoted him to corporal. While fighting in the wet mountains of Italy, Murphy contracted malaria. Despite such setbacks, he continually distinguished himself in battle.

In August 1944, Murphy&aposs division moved to southern France as part of Operation Dragoon. It was there that his best friend, Lattie Tipton, was lured into the open and killed by a German soldier pretending to surrender. Enraged by this act, Murphy charged and killed the Germans that had just killed his friend. He then commandeered the German machine gun and grenades and attacked several more nearby positions, killing all of the German soldiers there. Murphy was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions.

Over the course of World War II, Murphy witnessed the deaths of hundreds of fellow and enemy soldiers. Endowed with great courage in the face of these horrors, he was awarded 33 U.S. military medals, including three Purple Hearts and one Medal of Honor.

In June 1945, Murphy returned home from Europe a hero and was greeted with parades and elaborate banquets. LIFE magazine honored the brave, baby-faced soldier by putting him on the cover of its July 16, 1945 issue. That photograph inspired actor James Cagney to call Murphy and invite him to Hollywood to begin an acting career. Despite his celebrity, however, Murphy struggled for years to gain recognition.

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The Incredible Story of How I Came to Possess the Gun Audie Murphy Learned to Shoot With

In 1966, I was a young boy of nine years old, and my father took me to Renner Road, a section of of land near Dallas, Texas that was once a rural community of about 10 square miles. There he let me shoot a Winchester single shot .22 caliber rifle for the first time.

But it wasn’t just any Winchester single shot .22 caliber rifle.

After a few hours had passed, and my dad was placing the rifle back into its leather gun sleeve, he turned and looked at me and said, “Don’t ever let go of this gun. Audie Murphy used it.”

I looked at him in bewilderment, and being only a young boy then, replied, “Who is Audie Murphy?” My father just smiled and said, “Someone we grew up with in Farmersville.”

Reminiscing Leads to Researching
This Winchester has been in my possession for many, many years. But as a young man attending college, then married with children and working, etc., I had no time to hunt or think about what I had in my possession up through adulthood.

After my parents passed, I started to reminisce about the days I had spent with my father in my youth. Then the thought hit me about shooting the rifle, and I remembered I had a gun my dad told me never to get rid of. One that Audie Murphy had used to hunt when he and my dad were both young boys.

According to research records, the rifle was manufactured sometime between 1935-37, and was most likely shared back and forth between the boys until they enlisted in 1942. Although I can’t say how many times Audie may have shot the rifle, my father’s words, along with the dates, make me confident it was more than just a few times.

Now, several years later, I was an educated adult and acutely aware of who Audie Murphy was and the legacy he left behind. Since most of his generation has now passed on, I went into a state of mild panic, because I apparently had an irreplaceable piece of history in my possession, but just an oral statement from my father many years ago attesting that it was used by Audie Murphy.

I had by now obtained a bachelors and a masters degree, and I went into student research mode and began my personal project on the rifle in 2014. I didn’t know at that time what a daunting task I was about to face…

Discouraged but Not Defeated
My first thought was to discover if there were any direct living relatives of Audie Murphy. To my surprise, Nadine, one of Audie’s sisters, was alive, and I was given her phone number by the Audie Murphy Museum in Greenville, Texas.

My first contact did not go as well as I wanted it to. Given that she was 79 years old, I had no idea how healthy Nadine would be. I quickly learned that not only was she healthy, but she also had the old spark of an Irish woman. Once I had spoken to her about the rifle and its history, she really didn't have much to say about the rifle, and added in a stern voice, “I don't remember your family!”

I thanked her for taking my call and also thanked her for Audie's heroism during WWII. Nadine replied firmly that, “He wasn't my only brother I had who was a hero.” A bit taken aback by that, I simply told her I agreed! Nadine had a brother who worked as a Deputy Sherriff and who was tragically killed on duty. With apologies and gratitude, I said my goodbyes.

Being so discouraged from that initial conversation, I nearly gave up hope that I could ever learn the real history of the rifle my dad left me. It seemed everything about Audie Murphy had already been told, found, sold, displayed on websites, available for view in museums or in pictures hung on walls in his honor across the nation.

But there I sat with the gun that was used by Audie and my father as young boys hunting to put food on the table. Moreover, this was the rifle that created the marksman who went on the become the most decorated soldier of WWII, and whose sharpshooting skills during the frontline battles with German soldiers saved countless American lives.

With these thoughts in my mind, I was once again energized to seek out more details to substantiate my father’s words and the rifle he passed down to me.

A Modern Key to the Past
Both sides of my family lived within close proximity of the Murphys while in the Farmersville area. Because they were all sharecroppers picking cotton, planting onions, and the like, they would travel to where there was work to be had. This would include not only Farmersville, but other rural communities, namely: Princeton, Celeste, Floyd, all the way to Emory – where my parents were married. Nothing between these towns but old Texas black clay dirt and row after row of cotton… not much different from today.

My next quest was to see if there were pictures on the internet with Audie holding the Winchester. I had low expectations going in, but to my surprise, I came across one picture showing Audie after a squirrel hunt holding a rifle and standing next to an old car, and yes, may dead squirrels.

I researched Audie’s height, weight, and physical characteristics, which I found online. I also used the picture to estimate some of the dimensions of the rifle. I then considered who would be a perfect match for these measurements of Audie for comparison purposes? I turned to ask my wife, and behold! I had Audie standing in front of me – at least the female version.

My first thought was, “Wow! How did a young man this small cause so much damage in WWII?” I had my wife position herself with the gun just like Audie in the picture. It matched perfectly. I also had her move her hands up the barrel and made more comparisons to the picture. Still a perfect match. Lastly, I had a professional authenticator successfully examine the picture along with my gun to confirm it was a Winchester rifle like my father’s.

Connecting the Dots
So now I have my dad’s word, some family history connecting us to the Murphys, and a childhood picture of Audie holding a rifle matching the one I have in my possession.
Backtracking a bit for a moment – many years ago I was sifting through some family pictures my mother handed down to me. I came across a picture of a small group of women standing together by an old white house (it was more like a shack) with the solemn background of a cotton field.

My mother – thank goodness! – could always be relied upon to put the names of people who were pictured on the back of photos for future reference. When I flipped the card over, I was elated to find that she had written “Audie’s sister” as one of the ladies in the picture!

Now I have a dated rifle, a picture of Audie with a very similar looking rifle, and a picture showing that our families did intertwine with each other. I wished there had been more pictures like this, but I'm sure they were hard to come by during the Depression era. I was ecstatic to have at least this one, almost conclusive, piece of evidence.

The Light at the End of a Very Long Tunnel
Pushing forward about five years, I finally saw the light at the end of a very long tunnel.

I thought it would be a good time to reach back out to Audie’s last, surviving, immediate family member, Nadine. Some years had passed since we first spoke, and I wasn’t sure she was even still alive or would accept any contact.

Again, I reached out to the museum, and they gave me the good news that she was still alive, but aging. The people at the museum told me she would only accept mail as communication. I set out to write her an update on what I had discovered and requested that we meet so I could show her the rifle.

I waited for her response for several weeks to point that I assumed she wasn't going to respond at all. Then, one day, to my surprise, I received a letter back from her. Again, in her persistent Irish way wrote, she said she did not know of me or the gun and that it was so long ago.

Well, being a stubborn Irishman myself, I googled her phone number and found a match. Before I called her, I looked at my wife and exclaimed, “I am a sixty-one-year-old male, and I am terrified to call this lady!”

But I did call her. An older female answered the phone: “Hello?” I thought, “So far, so good!” I asked her, “Are you Nadine, Audie's sister?” Her reply was, “Yes I am…”
All of a sudden, I couldn't speak. A lump developed in my throat, and I was afraid she was going to hang up on me if I told her who I was. I finally untied my tongue and took a deep swallow before I told her I was William Trammell, the man who mailed her the letter about the rifle.

Then the clouds parted, and sunshine filled the room. Nadine said she was so sorry about the brash letter response, and that she had been thinking of me ever since she had mailed it.

Thereafter, I had the most wonderful conversation from the loveliest lady since my own mother was alive. It turned out that Nadine had worked at Texas Instruments, where my mother worked as well. We discussed many things that night, and by the end of our conversation, I thought I was actually talking to my mother. She said that she thought I was an “good honest young man,” and added she was sorry that so many people have tried to approach her who deceived her family. She had just been protecting herself. I told her, “I don't blame you one bit for that. I would do the same if my brother were Audie Murphy!”

We ended a long, fruitful conversation, and at the end, I let slip quickly, as though I were talking on the phone with my own mother, "I love you.” She replied, "I love you, too.”

What a sweet woman to have had the time to spend with – even if were only by phone. I hope we get to meet each other in person at the Audie Murphy Day celebration in June 2019. That is our plan.

My wife overheard our conversation, and I was so excited that I wanted to keep talking about it. That's when I realized I have an Uncle John Smith (my mother's brother) who would be the same age as Nadine. Maybe he knew the Murphys?

I contacted Uncle John and asked if he ever remembered the Murphy family. He said, “Of course. One of them lived directly behind us at one time.”

Really? Now living “directly behind” someone then does not mean what it means now. The house my uncle referred to was on the other side of a cotton field, probably.
My Uncle John was born in 1934, as was Nadine. So they were much younger than Audie and my parents. Audie was born the same year as my mother – in 1925, not in 1924! He had to “exaggerate” his age to enter the service. Although Audie was born in Kingston, Texas, it was soon after that his family moved to Farmersville, where my family had already been established.

I told my uncle about the Winchester, and he said he remembered my father (Dub) showing it to him. My wife and I just recently returned from a trip to see my uncle. Once I showed him the gun, he remarked, “That’s it.”

The last piece of the puzzle is a snippet I found in a television documentary in which Nadine is interviewed. At the very end she talks about how great a shooter Audie was, and that they would have starved had it not been for his hunting skills. She goes on to say that, “He used a little old .22, but I’m not sure where he got it from.”

Well, I think I can safely say where he got it. It was my father’s Winchester rifle that he shared with Audie Murphy, and which is still in my possession today.

Audie Murphy, From World War II Hero to Hollywood Hitmaker

Audie Murphy was a bona fide World War II hero, a term which, in these days of endless American conflicts, seems both antiquated and slightly offensive even. But in his time, Murphy — maybe the greatest war hero the country ever has seen — was an out-and-out superstar. He fashioned a grateful country's unbridled adulation into a career as one of Hollywood's biggest draws, most famously playing the lead role in his own film autobiography, "To Hell and Back."

Yet the war that made him famous, as is the case with many who fight, never left him.

"A hero is somebody who takes an abstract virtue and embodies it for a short time," says David A. Smith, the author of "The Price of Valor: The Life of Audie Murphy, America's Most Decorated Hero of World War II." Smith teaches history at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. "As human beings, we're not comfortable with abstractions. But if you show me what honor looks like, even a glimpse, I'll know. If you show me what valor looks like, then I'll know what it means.

"Audie Murphy fit the role of a hero. Being a hero is great for the society. But it's really hard on the person who, for a moment, becomes a hero."

The Roots of a Legend

Born in Hunt County, Texas, in 1925, the son of Irish sharecroppers, Audie Leon Murphy grew up in extreme poverty — the Great Depression began in 1929 — inside a family in turmoil. Murphy's father deserted the family when he was just a kid. When Murphy was 16, as World War II broke out in Europe, his mother died. Some of his younger siblings were placed in an orphanage.

"[T]o say that the family was poor would be an understatement. Poverty dogged our every step," Murphy wrote in "To Hell and Back," his 1949 memoir. "Year after year the babies had come until there were nine of us children living, and two dead. Getting food for our stomachs and clothes for our back was an ever-present problem. As soon as we were old enough to handle a plow, an ax, or a hoe, we were thrown into the struggle for existence," he wrote.

Just 5-foot-5 (1.6 meters) and barely 100 pounds (45 kilograms), Murphy dreamed of the service as a way out. After his mother died, he tried to join the Marines but was turned down for being too small and too young. He was finally accepted into the U.S. Army, with some tweaked documentation, in June 1942. He was just 17.

After his training in the States, Murphy was shipped to North Africa with the 3rd Infantry Division, the beginning of a short but unparalleled career in which he was awarded every medal for valor that the Army could confer. (Some of the original commendations are here.) One of his battlefield exploits, in particular, became legendary.

During a firefight in France on Jan. 26, 1945, an American tank destroyer was hit by German fire, setting it ablaze and forcing the crew to abandon. Murphy ordered artillery fire on the German positions and called for his men to retreat to nearby woods. But Murphy did not fall back. Instead, he mounted the burning tank, grabbed control of its .50-caliber machine gun, and faced with hostile fire from three sides for more than an hour, kept the Germans at bay, killing scores of them. Murphy was wounded in both legs in the fight.

He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions. From the his citation (via the Smithsonian Institution):

Murphy returned home to parades — some 300,000 people in San Antonio — more awards (from France and Belgium, too), and rewards that enabled him to buy a house for his older sister, where his younger siblings came to live for some time. On July 16, 1945, a smiling Murphy was featured on the cover of Life Magazine with the words "Most Decorated Soldier."

6. Unbroken (2014)

After crashing their plane in WWII, Olympian Louis Zamperini spends 47 days on a life raft with two fellow crewmen. Eventually, he’s caught by the Japanese and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp where he’s tortured and forced to endure hard labor — but he never gives up.

(Image via Universal Pictures)

North Korea threatens pre-emptive strikes after ‘madcap joint military drills’

Posted On February 04, 2020 17:24:11

North Korea has threatened its own pre-emptive strikes in response to recent drills for “decapitation” strikes by U.S. and South Korean special operations forces aimed at taking out the leadership in Pyongyang.

The simulated strikes reportedly targeted the upper echelons of the North Korean regime, including leader Kim Jong Un, as well as key nuclear sites.

They also involved the participation of the U.S. Navy’s SEAL Team 6 — the outfit famed for killing al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011, the Asahi Shimbun reported earlier this month. Media reports said a number of U.S. special operations forces also participated, including U.S. Army Rangers, Delta Force and Green Berets.

North Korea recently launched satellite-carrying Unha rockets, which is the same delivery system as North Korea’s Taepodong-2 ballistic missile, which was tested successfully in December 2012 and January 2016. (Photo: Reuters/KNCA)

In a statement released March 26 by the Korean People’s Army (KPA), a spokesman said the “madcap joint military drills” would be met with the North’s “own style of special operation and pre-emptive attack,” which it said could come “without prior warning any time.”

The statement, published by the official Korean Central News Agency, said the U.S. and South Korea “should think twice about the catastrophic consequences to be entailed by their outrageous military actions.

“The KPA’s warning is not hot air,” the statement added.

In mid-March, several U.S. Marine F-35B stealth fighter jets conducted bombing practice runs over the Korean Peninsula as a part of the joint exercises, the South’s Yonhap news agency reported Saturday.

The dispatch of the fighters, based at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture, was the first time they had been sent to the Korean Peninsula. The fighters returned to Japan after the drills wrapped up.

Pyongyang has stepped up efforts to mount a nuclear warhead on a long-range missile over the last year and a half, conducting two atomic explosions and more than 25 missile launches — including an apparent simulated nuclear strike on the U.S. base at Iwakuni.

In the event of conflict on the Korean Peninsula, U.S. troops and equipment from Iwakuni would likely be among the first deployed.

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump is in the midst of a policy review on North Korea, and has said all options, including military action, remain on the table.

But this review could be bumped up Trump’s list of priorities in the near future.

U.S. and South Korean intelligence sources, as well as recent satellite imagery, has shown that the North is apparently ready to conduct its sixth nuclear test at any time, media reports have said.


Audie Murphy received every combat award which the United States Army could offer, as well as awards from its European Allies France and Belgium, for his heroism as an infantryman during the Second World War. He wrote memoirs of his combat days entitled To Hell and Back and appeared as himself in a film made of the book under the same name.

Murphy enjoyed a film career of just over twenty years, in war films and westerns, and eventually branched into television. Murphy became an accomplished horse breeder and though not a performing musician wrote several songs which were recorded by artists such as Harry Nilsson, Roy Clark, Bobby Dare, Dean Martin, and many others.

In late May of 1971, Murphy was killed in a private airplane crash near Roanoke, Virginia. He was buried with military honors at Arlington National Cemetery, and his widow began what became a 35-year career with the Veteran&rsquos Administration as a clerk, living in a small apartment in Los Angeles. Given that the war hero had enjoyed a lengthy and successful career in entertainment, with a best-selling book, numerous successful films, and television and music success, questions arose over his finances. What happened to Murphy&rsquos money?

Most of his money was lost in poor investments with his horses. Murphy made many bad business decisions regarding his horse breeding investments and the losses contributed to a depression that originated in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) resulting from his combat experiences. He developed a gambling habit that put greater strain on his available funds. He tried to make business deals in areas in which he had little expertise &ndash looking for a quick return &ndash and lost still more money.

In the late 1960s, an oil deal in Algeria collapsed costing Murphy over a quarter of a million, and unpaid taxes to the IRS were troubling him too. Murphy, a child of the depression, had come from a virtually destitute family and sadly died in similar circumstances. After his death, a lawsuit over the causes of the plane crash in which he died eventually afforded his family some financial relief.

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