Throughout the course of conflicts, there are soldiers who go above and beyond, putting their lives at risk protecting their country and brothers-in-arms. They’re the true definition of a hero, earning accolades from their superiors and the gratitude of their country.
Whether or not they survive the battle, these gallant figures are awarded a variety of medals. Depending on their actions, they may earn a medal or if their valor warrants it, a series of honors. During the Second World War, many stepped up as heroes, but there were a select few who did so in such a way that they became some of America’s most-decorated servicemen.
Among these World War II veterans was Audie Murphy, an American soldier who made great sacrifices serving in the United States Army. At the war’s conclusion, Murphy became known as one of the country’s most-decorated veterans, earning praise not just from the United States, but also from France and Belgium.
Murphy’s Military Career
Like many Americans after the Japanese bombarded Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, young Audi Murphy was able to fulfill his childhood dream of joining the military. Unfortunately, he was underage and underweight, but an affidavit from his sister that falsified his date of birth by a year gained him entry into the US Army.
After basic training, Murphy’s first stop was the Mediterranean Theater, where he was assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. After repelling German forces near Mignano Monte Lungo, Murphy received a promotion to sergeant. A month later, he was again promoted—to staff sergeant—for his actions at the First Battle of Cisterna. Despite the battle being a German victory, Murphy was made platoon sergeant of Company B. His first medal, a Bronze Star with “V” Device, was earned when he singlehandedly destroyed a German tank using rifle grenades. By the end of July 1944, Murphy received the Combat Infantryman Badge and Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster for his Bronze Star.
Murphy moved to the European Theater and received the Distinguished Service Cross for his part in the Allied invasion of southern France. Under fire from German forces near Ramatuelle, Murphy returned fire on the Germans and advanced alone on their position, killing six, wounding two, and taking 11 Germans prisoner.
By October of 1944, Murphy received a Purple Heart for a wound received in northern France, a Silver Star for taking down a German machine gun post at L’Omet quarry, a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster for his Silver Star, and was elevated to platoon leader as second lieutenant. Within the next four months, he was given two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters for his Purple Heart
Murphy’s most heroic effort, the one that earned him his Medal of Honor, came after Germans destroyed an American M10 tank destroyer. Ordering a retreat, Murphy remained at his post, mounted the destroyed tank, and manned the .50 caliber machine gun, firing on the advancing Germans. The onslaught continued for an hour, ceasing only when the young soldier ran out of ammunition, upon which he returned to his platoon with a leg injury.
By the end of the war, Murphy had received 25 decorations, including the Belgian Croix de Guerre, French Fourragere, Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Badge, Good Conduct Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, multiple Bronze Oak Leaf clusters, and the distinguished Medal of Honor for his actions on January 26th, 1945.