Audie Murphy Mans The Gun …

Hunger Pangs Yield Unexpected Treasure
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After the war, Audie Murphy went on to star in 44 different movies.

My wife and I were driving through Greenville, Texas, and found ourselves peckish. As we poked around for a fast food joint, we came across a fairly non-descript building situated in a wide grassy space. What caught my eye was the enormous statue out front wielding a German MG42 belt-fed machinegun like he meant it.

American presidents get sprawling libraries erected in their honor. Vapid media personalities who contribute little more than chaos find themselves ensconced in palatial digs suitable for the sultans of old. CEOs who risk nothing more than their reputations are paid enough to support a small West African nation state. And then — there was Audie Murphy.

Audie Murphy was the most highly decorated American soldier who ever drew breath. He contributed more to the cause of freedom than every movie star, social media influencer, captain of industry, General, Admiral and politician combined. This was his museum.

The facility is of modest size but is beautifully executed. Half of the place is dedicated to local history, while the other half orbits around Greenville’s favorite son. If ever you are in the neighborhood you’ll regret not checking it out.

I arrived about an hour before closing and, aside from a single museum staff member, had the place to myself. My bride broke out her oils and set up outside for a quick plein air landscape. I soon lost myself in the story of a truly great American.


The Audie Murphy Museum in Greenville, Texas, is full of cool-guy
stuff like this WWI-vintage MG08 Maxim machinegun.

It is a timeless drive for young warriors to take mementos of their military service.
Audie Murphy brought this German helmet home from the war in Europe.

Origin Story

The seventh of 12 children born to a sharecropper family, Audie Leon Murphy was a small man with a big heart. Abandoned by his father as a child, Audie’s mother died when he was 16. Murphy dropped out of school in fifth grade to pick cotton and keep his family from starving. Along the way he ran a rifle to help keep meat on the table.

Incensed by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Audie tried to enlist only to be rejected by the Army, Navy and Marines. The boy’s older sister falsified his birthdate so he could try again. On his enlistment physical, Murphy stood 5’5″ tall and weighed 112 lbs.

During infantry training, Audie passed out in the heat and his commander tried to have him reclassified as a cook. Private Murphy was having none of it. Through sheer force of will the young man survived his training and found himself deployed to North Africa for Operation Torch.


Audie Murphy was ultimately recognized as the most highly decorated American soldier in history.

This big guy with a big gun is what caught Doc Dabb’s eye as
he was passing through Greenville, Texas, enroute to Dallas.

War Ages A Man

Murphy helped take Sicily as part of Patton’s Seventh Army. It was here Audie Murphy took his first life. He later observed, “I have seen war as it actually is, and I do not like it. But I will go on fighting.”

Once on the Italian mainland, Murphy’s unit was moving along the Volturno River. Murphy along with two comrades unexpectedly came under fire from a German machinegun. One of his buddies died on the spot. Enraged, Murphy charged the enemy machinegun nest armed with a Thompson submachine gun and killed all five Germans manning the gun.

By September of 1944, Murphy was one of only three survivors of his original Infantry company not killed or removed due to wounds. Along the way, Murphy was shot in the hip and caught a piece of shrapnel in his heel. He was also wracked with malaria throughout.

By late January 1945, Murphy had been awarded a battlefield commission. While recovering from fresh wounds to both legs, his decimated unit was attacked by half a dozen German panzers and hundreds of dismounted troops. The young officer sent his soldiers to safety and advanced alone to a burning American tank destroyer.

Lt. Murphy mounted the flaming vehicle and fired his carbine until he ran out of ammunition. He then got behind the 50-caliber machinegun. Between running the Big Fifty and adjusting artillery, he singlehandedly kept the enemy tanks and infantry at bay for more than an hour. When finally he left the field, he did so at a slow walk. He later claimed he was so exhausted he didn’t care if they killed him or not. For this action, Lt. Murphy earned the Medal of Honor. He was 19 years old.

Audie Murphy received every award for valor the U.S. Army offered along with decorations from both France and Belgium. After he came home, Murphy slept with a loaded handgun under his pillow. Like so many of those old heroes, he struggled to leave the horrors of war behind. However, his fame did translate into a 21-year career as an actor, poet and a song writer. Toward the end, he fell upon hard times but steadfastly refused to appear in cigarette or alcohol commercials so as not to set a poor example for young people.

In May of 1971, Murphy was a passenger in a twin-engine Aero Commander 680 when it slammed into the side of a mountain Near Roanoke, Va., in foul weather. He was 46 at the time of his death. Murphy’s grave is the second-most visited at Arlington National Cemetery after JFK. Where most Medal of Honor gravestones are embellished with gold leaf, Murphy insisted his be left unadorned like that of a common soldier. It still lists his birth year as 1924 in keeping with the prevarication originally attested to by his sister. What a stud.

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