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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 809

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This is the grave of Audie Murphy.

Despite his gravestone, Murphy was almost certainly born in 1925 in Kingston, Texas. He probably lied about his age to enlist in the military before he was eligible. He grew up poor. His parents were sharecroppers. He was known for a hot temper and was a troublesome kid. His father deserted the family and his mother died. By that time he was old enough to work but his younger siblings were in orphanages.

After Pearl Harbor, Murphy volunteered for the military, but was turned down by all three branches because he was 16 years old. His sister lied and said he was actually 17 and then he was able to enlist. A superb shooter, he already was winning marksman badges in basic training. In 1943, he was sent to the North Africa campaign. Murphy became famous for his uncanny ability for killing. Obviously there was a lot of luck involved, largely in him not being killed himself. But over and over again, he took out 2, 3, 5 Germans in incredibly difficult conditions. This was noticed, and Private Murphy became Corporal and then Sargent Murphy. He received a Bronze Star for crawling up to a German tank and destroying it with rifle grenades.

Reading about Murphy’s career is kind of ridiculous because it reads like a movie script. The guy was indestructible. He just kept killing Germans. His most famous moment came toward the end of the war. Like a scene from a Peckinpah film, when the Germans hit the tank he was commanding, he told his troops to hide in the woods. Then he took control of the machine gun on the tank and blew away somewhere around 50 Nazis. He got the Medal of Honor for that one. He also got promoted to First Lieutenant. Some talked about sending him to West Point. A soldier this skilled, or lucky perhaps, was not usual. But he simply had nowhere near the schooling to handle that and it never happened. He was wounded a couple of times, but never anything life-threatening.

Here’s the thing though: people aren’t meant for killing. He suffered the PTSD you would expect for a guy who had personally killed somewhere around 240 enemy soldiers. I mean…that’s a ridiculous total. He was doing painkillers to deal with it. He was violent toward his wife, at least once holding her at gunpoint. He tried to move beyond these horrors in a few ways. He wrote poetry. He actually talked about what he was facing, which was quite unusual at the time. And the military gave him structure. He became a captain in the Texas National Guard and got to train troops. He wanted to fight in Korea, but never actually did.

The reason he didn’t fight in Korea is that he was so famous for his soldering abilities that Hollywood came a’callin’ for the insatiable desire of Americans to watch World War II films just a few years after the war ended. I’ve always found this a little bit weird. You have these soldiers–including, say, Jimmy Stewart–who fought in the war and suffered through it and then immediately go home and make movies about it. At least Stewart was an actor. Murphy was just a guy. But between 1948 and 1969, he appeared in 20 movies and also on TV. It was Jimmy Cagney’s project to bring him to Hollywood and train him not only in acting, but dancing and singing. He never really rose beyond the B level actor, but in the studio system that still meant decent roles in relatively well-funded if largely forgotten films. This included a couple of John Huston films–The Red Badge of Courage (1951) and The Unforgiven (1960). Joseph Mankiewicz cast him in the lead role for the disastrous 1958 adaptation of The Quiet American, which Graham Greene denounced for erasing his anti-war message. He also starred in a movie about himself, which made him distinctly uncomfortable.

Murphy got rich, blew most of it playing the ponies, got busted for tax evasion, and was even charged in 1970 with assault with intent to commit murder, though the charges were dropped. In 1971, he was on a private plane in Virginia. It crashed and everyone died. He was 45 years old. At his funeral, among the attendees were George Bush and William Westmoreland. That’s what a big deal Murphy was to the military establishment.

Audie Murphy is buried in the confiscated grounds of the traitor Lee, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.

This grave visit was sponsored by LGM reader donations. Thanks!! If you would like this series to visit other so-called “war heroes,” something I basically reject, but whatever, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Alvin York is in Pall Mall, Tennessee and Daniel Daly is in Brooklyn. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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