Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Brandon. Brandon Wonders, “Who was Audie Murphy” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Brandon!

The Medal of Honor. The Silver Star Medal. The Purple Heart. The Distinguished Service Cross. If you know much about the United States military, you may have heard of these awards. They’re some of the highest honors soldiers can receive. And they’re just a few of those earned by the person at the center of this Wonder of the Day. That’s right, today we’re talking about Audie Murphy!

Audie Murphy was born on June 20, 1925 in Kingston, Texas. One of 12 siblings, he often hunted to help feed his family. By age 16, Murphy was effectively orphaned after his father left and his mother passed away. A year later, 17-year-old Murphy lied about his age to join the US Army. He was soon off to fight in World War II.

At five feet, five inches tall, Murphy had been turned away from two branches of the military. As an Army soldier, though, he would more than prove himself. He was promoted to corporal after his division’s 1943 invasion of Sicily. Later, he became a staff sergeant and led other soldiers in battle.

Murphy’s bravery in World War II became legendary. He was wounded three times during the war. He also overcame both malaria and gangrene. In one battle, Murphy’s best friend was killed by a German soldier who had pretended to surrender. Grief-stricken, Murphy courageously continued to fight. He took over the Germans’ heavy machine gun and turned it on them, defeating all the German soldiers in the area.

At the end of the war, Murphy was America’s most decorated soldier, having earned 33 awards and medals. But his life was really just beginning. At 21 years old, he was an American hero. Murphy appeared on the cover of LIFE magazine in July 1945 and caught the eye of people in Hollywood. Soon, he moved to California and began a career in acting.

Over the years, Audie Murphy was involved with 44 feature films. He even starred as himself in a Universal Studios movie based on his own memoir. Murphy also wrote country music songs and poetry. He co-wrote the Jerry Wallace song “Shutters and Boards,” which told the story of a failed relationship. 

Murphy married Pamela Archer in 1951. She was a former Army nurse. They went on to have two children. However, he had some rough years ahead. Murphy dealt with insomnia and nightmares related to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Later, he also battled addiction.

On May 28, 1971, Audie Murphy boarded a private jet with several friends. Later that day, it crashed near Catawba, Virginia. Everyone on board died. Murphy was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Today, Murphy’s is one of the most-visited graves in Arlington.

The Army honored Murphy by naming a new award after him. The Sergeant Audie Murphy Award is given to soldiers who demonstrate leadership and concern for other soldiers and their families. Those honored with this award become members of the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club.

Audie Murphy accomplished a great deal in his short life. What other war heroes can you think of? Will you join the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club yourself one day? Maybe you’ll even have an award named after you!

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.9, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2

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