Audie Leon Murphy was the most decorated American soldier of World War II and a celebrated movie star for over two decades in the post-war era, appearing in 44 films. He also found some success as a country music composer.
Murphy became the most decorated United States soldier of the war during twenty-seven months in action in the European Theatre. He received the Medal of Honor, the U.S. military’s highest award for valor, along with 32 additional U.S. and foreign medals and citations, including five from France and one from Belgium.
Murphy’s successful movie career included To Hell and Back, based on his book of the same title. He also starred in 39 Hollywood films. He died in a plane crash in 1971 and was interred, with full military honors, in Arlington National Cemetery.
Murphy was born in Kingston, Hunt County, Texas, to Emmett Berry Murphy and Josie Bell Killian who was of Irish descent, poor sharecroppers, and grew up on farms between Farmersville and Greenville, as well as near Celeste, Texas. Murphy was the sixth of twelve children, two of whom died prior to reaching adulthood. The Murphy children included, in order: Corinne, Charles Emmett “Buck”, Vernon, June, Oneta, Audie Leon, J.W., Richard, Eugene, Nadine, Billie, and Joseph Murphy. He attended elementary school in Celeste until the fifth grade, at which he dropped out to help support his family after his father abandoned them in 1936. He worked for one dollar per day, plowing and picking cotton on any farm that would hire him. He became very skilled with a rifle, hunting small game to help feed the family. One of his favorite hunting companions was neighbor Dial Henley. When he commented that Murphy never missed when he shot at squirrels, rabbits, and birds, Murphy replied, “Well, Dial, if I don’t hit what I shoot at, my family won’t eat today.” During the late 1930s, Murphy worked at a combination general store/garage and gas station in Greenville, Texas. At fifteen he was working in a radio repair shop, and his mother died on May 23, 1941. Later that year, in agreement with his older sister, Corrinne, Murphy placed his three youngest siblings in an orphanage to ensure their care .