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Man Rejected by the Marine Corps and Navy Is the Most Decorated Soldier in US History

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Audie Murphy on a horse
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Audie Murphy is a renowned name in both the US Army and Hollywood, but things were not always like that. Murphy rose to fame thanks to his service during the Second World War. Today, the world remembers him as the most decorated soldier in American history. 

His story begins after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. At the time, Audie Murphy felt compelled to join the US military. But despite his determination, his initial attempts to enlist with the Marine Corps, Navy, and Army failed. The reasons were his age and being underweight.

Like Thomas Edison, Murphy remained undaunted in the face of failure. He got his sister to help him alter his documents to make himself appear older than he was. Then, he once more sought to join the US Army and succeeded this time.

Murphy’s military journey started at Camp Wolters, Texas. He underwent Basic Training there, earning distinctions such as the Expert Badge with Bayonet Component Bar and Marksman Badge with Rifle Component Bar. Subsequently, he proceeded to Advanced Infantry Training at Fort Meade, Maryland.

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In February 1943, Audie Murphy’s deployment took him to the Mediterranean. He saw some action there before his move to the European Theater – the setting of most of his wartime service. One particularly unforgettable incident during this period was what won him the Medal of Honor.

By January 1945, Murphy was stationed in the Colmar Pocket with his platoon. Later, they relocated to Holtzwihr with the 3rd Infantry Division. And there, they faced a German counterattack. Despite his injuries, Murphy assumed command of Company B, prioritizing the safety of his men over his well-being.

When the Germans ignited an M10 tank destroyer, Murphy had his soldiers retreat to the woods while he stayed behind. He had only his M1 Carbine and radio for artillery coordination. Still, he climbed onto the armored vehicle and manned its .50-caliber machine gun, firing at the advancing troops for an hour and inflicting 50 casualties.

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Murphy sustained another injury to one of his legs while he was firing, but this did not stop him from returning to his men and leading a full-man charge against the German forces. On the topic of Murphy’s bravery, Pvt. Charles Owen said, “He saved our lives.

If he hadn’t done what he did, the Germans would have annihilated us.” Murphy is famous for being the most decorated soldier in American history but he deserved every one of the medals he got. 

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Along with the Medal of Honor, Murphy also got the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star with bronze oak leaf cluster, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star with “V” Device, the Purple Heart with two bronze oak leaf clusters, the Presidential Unit Citation with First Oak Leaf Cluster, the Army Outstanding Civilian Service Medal and the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor.

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He also received a number of campaign medals and several badges, including the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Marksman Badge with Rifle Component Bar, and the Expert Badge with Bayonet Component Bar.

Those are only awards presented to him by the US military! From the French and Belgians, he got the French Legion of Honor – Grade of Chevalier (Knight), the French Croix de Guerre with Silver Star, the French Croix de Guerre with Palm, the Medal of a Liberated France, the Belgian Croix de Guerre with 1940 Palm and the French Fourragère in Colors of the Croix de Guerre.

Following the end of his military tenure, Murphy effortlessly transitioned into the film industry, where he enjoyed a successful career. He secured many prominent roles in several acclaimed movies, including one that depicted his wartime heroics.

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Murphy passed away on May 28, 1971, while traveling to a business deal. He died when the private plane he was in crashed into the side of a mountain in Roanoke, Virginia. Because of his prior military service, he got a plot in Arlington National Cemetery, where he was buried with full military honors on June 7.

His grave is the second-most visited at Arlington, after that of President John F. Kennedy. The traffic prompted the construction of a flagstone walkway. Those who wish to visit the grave can find it in Section 46, across from the Memorial Amphitheater.

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