As Sergeant York would be a hero of World War I so Audie Murphy would become a hero of the war in Europe. The child of a poor share cropper following Pearl Harbor Murphy had a struggle to enlist in the Army because of his modest height, he then had to push to be posted to the infantry.
However by 1945 he had received a battlefield commission and won the Medal of Honour in fighting. The citation for his Medal of Honour reads:
"Second Lt. Murphy commanded Company B, which was attacked by six tanks and waves of infantry. 2d Lt. Murphy ordered his men to withdraw to a prepared position in a woods, while he remained forward at his command post and continued to give fire directions to the artillery by telephone. Behind him, to his right, one of our tank destroyers received a direct hit and began to burn. Its crew withdrew to the woods. 2d Lt. Murphy continued to direct artillery fire, which killed large numbers of the advancing enemy infantry. With the enemy tanks abreast of his position, 2d Lt. Murphy climbed on the burning tank destroyer, which was in danger of blowing up at any moment, and employed its .50 caliber machine gun against the enemy.
He was alone and exposed to German fire from three sides, but his deadly fire killed dozens of Germans and caused their infantry attack to waver. The enemy tanks, losing infantry support, began to fall back. For an hour the Germans tried every available weapon to eliminate 2d Lt. Murphy, but he continued to hold his position and wiped out a squad that was trying to creep up unnoticed on his right flank. Germans reached as close as 10 yards, only to be mowed down by his fire.
He received a leg wound, but ignored it and continued his single-handed fight until his ammunition was exhausted. He then made his way back to his company, refused medical attention, and organized the company in a counterattack, which forced the Germans to withdraw. His directing of artillery fire wiped out many of the enemy; he killed or wounded about 50. 2d Lt. Murphy's indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground saved his company from possible encirclement and destruction, and enabled it to hold the woods which had been the enemy's objective"
When asked after the war why he had seized the machine gun and taken on an entire company of German infantry, he replied simply, "They were killing my friends." His picture appeared on the cover of LIFE magazine's July 16, 1945 issue as the "Most Decorated Soldier", and so he became one the most famous and widely regarded as the most decorated American soldier of the war. After the war he became a successful film actor for over two decades, appearing in 44 films. He later had some success as a country music composer. He died in a plane crash in 1971 and was interred, with full military honours in Arlington National Cemetery. His grave is now the second most visited grave in Arlington after President Kennedy.
His full awards: Medal of Honor; Distinguished Service Cross; Silver Star with First Oak Leaf Cluster; Bronze Star Medal with "V" Device and First Oak Leaf Cluster; Purple Heart with Second Oak Leaf Cluster; Legion of Merit; Good Conduct Medal; Distinguished Unit Emblem with First Oak Leaf Cluster; American Campaign Medal; European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one silver service star, three bronze service stars and one bronze service arrowhead; World War II Victory Medal; Combat Infantry Badge; Marksman Badge with Rifle Bar; Expert Badge with Bayonet Bar; French Fourragere in Colors of the Croix de Guerre; French Legion of Honor, Grade of Chevalier; French Croix de Guerre with silver star, the Belgian Croix de Guerre 1940 with Palm, and the Outstanding Civilian Service Medal.