Posts made in September, 2015

John Basilone

Posted on Sep 23, 2015

John Basilon Medal of Honor 1943.png

John Basilone in his US Marine uniform wearing his Medal of Honor

John Basilone (November 4, 1916 – February 19, 1945) was a United States Marine Gunnery Sergeant who received the nation’s highest military award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for heroism during the Battle of Guadalcanal in World War II. He was the only Marine enlisted man to receive both the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross in World War II.

He served three years in the United States Army with duty in the Philippines. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1940 and was deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and then to Guadalcanal where he held off 3,000 Japanese troops after his 15-member unit was reduced to two other men. On the first day of the Battle of Iwo Jima, he was killed in action, after which he was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism. He has received many honors including being the namesake for streets, military locations, and a United States Navy destroyer.


Basilone was born in his parents’ home on November 4, 1916 in Buffalo, New York, the sixth of 10 children. His father, Salvatore Basilone, emigrated from Colle Sannita, in the province of Benevento, Italy in 1903 and settled in Raritan, New Jersey. His mother, Dora Bencivenga, was born in 1889 and grew up in Manville, but her parents, Carlo and Catrina, also came from Benevento. His parents met at a church gathering and married three years later. Basilone grew up in the nearby Raritan Town (now Borough of Raritan) where he attended St. Bernard Parochial School. After completing middle school at the age of 15, he dropped out prior to attending high school.


US Army

Basilone worked as a golf caddy for the local country club before joining the military. He enlisted in the United States Army in July 1934 and completed his three-year enlistment with service in the Philippines, where he was a champion boxer. In the Army, Basilone was initially assigned to the 16th Infantry at Fort Jay, before being discharged for a day and reenlisting and being assigned to the 31st Infantry.

After he was released from active duty, he returned home and worked as a truck driver in Reisterstown, Maryland. After driving trucks for a few months, he wanted to go back to Manila, and believed he could get there faster in the Marines than in the Army.

US Marine Corps

He enlisted in the Marine Corps in July 1940 from Baltimore, Maryland. He went to recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, followed by training at Marine Corps Base Quantico and New River. The Marines sent him to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for his next assignment, and then to Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands as a member of Dog Company 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment 1st Marine Division.


During the Battle for Henderson Field, his unit came under attack by a regiment of approximately 3,000 soldiers from the Japanese Sendai Division. On October 24, 1942, Japanese forces began a frontal attack using machine guns, grenades, and mortars against the American heavy machine guns. Basilone commanded two sections of machine guns that fought for the next two days until only Basilone and two other Marines were left standing. Basilone moved an extra gun into position and maintained continual fire against the incoming Japanese forces. He then repaired and manned another machine gun, holding the defensive line until replacements arrived. As the battle went on, ammunition became critically low. Despite their supply lines having been cut off by enemies in the rear, Basilone fought through hostile ground to resupply his heavy machine gunners with urgently needed ammunition. When the last of it ran out shortly before dawn on the second day, Basilone held off the Japanese soldiers attacking his position using his pistol. By the end of the engagement, Japanese forces opposite their section of the line were virtually annihilated. For his actions during the battle, he received the United States military’s highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor.

Afterwards, Private First Class Nash W. Phillips, of Fayetteville, North Carolina, recalled from the battle for Guadalcanal:

Basilone had a machine gun on the go for three days and nights without sleep, rest, or food. He was in a good emplacement, and causing the Japanese lots of trouble, not only firing his machine gun, but also using his pistol.

War bond tours and marriage

In 1943, after receiving the Medal of Honor, he returned to the United States and participated in a war bond tours. His arrival was highly publicized and his hometown held a parade in his honor when he returned. The homecoming parade occurred on Sunday, September 19 and drew a huge crowd with thousands of people, including politicians, celebrities and the national press. The parade made national news in Life magazine and Fox Movietone News. After the parade, he toured the country raising money for the war effort and achieved celebrity status. Although he appreciated the admiration, he felt out of place and requested to return to the operating forces fighting the war. The Marine Corps denied his request and told him he was needed more on the home front. He was offered a commission, which he turned down, and was later offered an assignment as an instructor, but refused this as well. He requested again to return to the war and this time the request was approved. He left for Camp Pendleton, California, for training on December 27.

While stationed at Camp Pendleton, he met his future wife, Lena Mae Riggi, who was a Sergeant in the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve. They were married at St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Church in Oceanside, on July 10, 1944, with a reception at the Carlsbad Hotel. They honeymooned at an onion farm near Portland.

Iwo Jima

After his request to return to the fleet was approved, he was assigned to Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Marine Regiment, 5th Marine Division during the invasion of Iwo Jima. On February 19, 1945, he was serving as a machine gun section leader in action against Japanese forces on Red Beach II. During the battle, the Japanese concentrated their fire at the incoming Marines from heavily fortified blockhouses staged throughout the island. With his unit pinned down, Basilone made his way around the side of the Japanese positions until he was directly on top of the blockhouse. He then attacked with grenades and demolitions, single-handedly destroying the entire strong point and its defending garrison. He then fought his way toward Airfield Number 1 and aided a Marine tank that was trapped in an enemy mine field under intense mortar and artillery barrages. He guided the heavy vehicle over the hazardous terrain to safety, despite heavy weapons fire from the Japanese. As he moved along the edge of the airfield, he was killed by Japanese mortar shrapnel. His actions helped Marines penetrate the Japanese defense and get off the landing beach during the critical early stages of the invasion. He was posthumously awarded the Marine Corps’ second-highest decoration for valor, the Navy Cross, for extraordinary heroism during the battle of Iwo Jima

Based on his research for the book and mini-series The Pacific, author Hugh Ambrose suggested that Basilone was not killed by a mortar, but by small arms fire that hit him in the right groin, the neck and nearly took off his left arm.


He was interred in Arlington National Cemetery in Section 12, Grave 384, grid Y/Z 23.5. Lena M. Basilone died June 11, 1999, at the age of 86, and was buried at Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, California. Lena’s obituary notes that she never remarried, and she was buried still wearing her wedding ring.


GySgt. Basilione’s military awards include:

Medal of Honor citation

Basilone’s Medal of Honor citation reads as follows:

The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to



for service as set forth in the following CITATION:

For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry in action against enemy Japanese forces, above and beyond the call of duty, while serving with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division in the Lunga Area, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, on 24 and 25 October 1942. While the enemy was hammering at the Marines’ defensive positions, Sgt. BASILONE, in charge of 2 sections of heavy machine guns, fought valiantly to check the savage and determined assault. In a fierce frontal attack with the Japanese blasting his guns with grenades and mortar fire, one of Sgt. BASILONE’S sections, with its gun crews, was put out of action, leaving only 2 men able to carry on. Moving an extra gun into position, he placed it in action, then, under continual fire, repaired another and personally manned it, gallantly holding his line until replacements arrived. A little later, with ammunition critically low and the supply lines cut off, Sgt. BASILONE, at great risk of his life and in the face of continued enemy attack, battled his way through hostile lines with urgently needed shells for his gunners, thereby contributing in large measure to the virtual annihilation of a Japanese regiment. His great personal valor and courageous initiative were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.


Navy Cross

Basilone’s Navy Cross citation reads as follows:

The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the NAVY CROSS posthumously to



for service as set forth in the following CITATION:

For extraordinary heroism while serving as a Leader of a Machine-Gun Section, Company C, 1st Battalion, 27th Marines, 5th Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima in the Volcano Islands, 19 February 1945. Shrewdly gauging the tactical situation shortly after landing when his company’s advance was held up by the concentrated fire of a heavily fortified Japanese blockhouse, Gunnery Sergeant BASILONE boldly defied the smashing bombardment of heavy caliber fire to work his way around the flank and up to a position directly on top of the blockhouse and then, attacking with grenades and demolitions, single handedly destroyed the entire hostile strong point and its defending garrison. Consistently daring and aggressive as he fought his way over the battle-torn beach and up the sloping, gun-studded terraces toward Airfield Number 1, he repeatedly exposed himself to the blasting fury of exploding shells and later in the day coolly proceeded to the aid of a friendly tank which had been trapped in an enemy mine fields under intense mortar and artillery barrages, skillfully guiding the heavy vehicle over the hazardous terrain to safety, despite the overwhelming volume of hostile fire. In the forefront of the assault at all times, he pushed forward with dauntless courage and iron determination until, moving upon the edge of the airfield, he fell, instantly killed by a bursting mortar shell. Stouthearted and indomitable, Gunnery Sergeant BASILONE, by his intrepid initiative, outstanding skill, and valiant spirit of self-sacrifice in the face of the fanatic opposition, contributed materially to the advance of his company during the early critical period of the assault, and his unwavering devotion to duty throughout the bitter conflict was an inspiration to his comrades and reflects the highest credit upon Gunnery Sergeant BASILONE and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.

For the President,

Secretary of the Navy


Basilone has received numerous honors, including the namesake of a United States Navy destroyer, a postage stamp and several plaques, monuments, geographical landmarks, a bust in San Diego’s Little Italy in a piazza named for him, Piazza Basilone, and a residential building at Montclair State University. In 2011, Basilone was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.

USS Basilone

The United States Navy commissioned USS Basilone, a Gearing-class destroyer, in 1949. The ship’s keel was laid down on July 7, 1945, in Orange, Texas, and launched on December 21, 1945. His widow, Sergeant Lena Mae Basilone, sponsored the ship.
Marine Corps buildings and landmarks

The Marine Corps has named infrastructure after him on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, including an entry point onto the base from Interstate 5 called “Basilone Road”; a section of U.S. Interstate 5 running through the base called “Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone Memorial Highway”; and a parachute landing zone called “Basilone Drop Zone”.

Namesakes from outside the Marine Corps

In addition to the honors bestowed from the Marine Corps, a wide variety of non-military institutions have also chosen their name based on Basilone. Some of these include: the football field at Bridgewater-Raritan High School is called “Basilone Field”, and on the wall of the fieldhouse next to the field is a mural honoring Basilone; the Knights of Columbus Council #13264 in his hometown is named in his honor;an overpass at the Somerville Circle in Somerville, New Jersey on U.S. Highway 202 and 206 that goes under it; the New Jersey Turnpike bridge across the Raritan River is named the “Basilone Bridge”; the new Bridge that crosses the Raritan River in Raritan at First Avenue and Canal Street; a memorial statue featuring him holding a water-cooled Browning machine gun is located at the intersections of Old York Road and Canal Street in Raritan (childhood friend Phillip Orlando sculpted the statue); a plaque at the United States Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C.; a bust in Little Italy San Diego at Fir and India Streets (the war memorial is dedicated to residents of Little Italy who served in World War II and Korea, and the area is called Piazza Basilone); the Order of the Sons of Italy In America Lodge #2442 in Bohemia, New York is named in his honor; and the Raritan Public Library has the Basilone Room where memorabilia about him is kept. In 1944, Army Barracks from Washington State were moved to a site in front of Hansen Dam in Pacoima, California and rebuilt as 1,500 apartments for returning GIs. This development was named the Basilone Homes and was used until about 1955. The site is now a golf course.


The memorial parade for Basilone along Somerset Street in his hometown of Raritan has been held since 1981 and became a celebration of the close-knit community.

In media

On November 10, 2005, the U.S. Postal Service issued the “Distinguished Marines” stamps honoring four Marine Corps heroes including Basilone.

The 1967 film First to Fight features Chad Everett as “Shanghai Jack” Connell, a character based on “Manila John” Basilone.

The Pacific (2010 miniseries): Basilone along with two other Marines became the basis of a 10-part HBO miniseries The Pacific. Actor Jon Seda stars as Basilone.

Read More

Audie Murphy

Posted on Sep 19, 2015

audiemurphyAudie Leon Murphy (20 June 1925 – 28 May 1971) was one of the most decorated American combat soldiers of World War II, receiving every military combat award for valor available from the U.S. Army, as well as French and Belgian awards for heroism. At the age of 19, Murphy received the Medal of Honor after single-handedly holding off an entire company of German soldiers for an hour at the Colmar Pocket in France in January 1945, then leading a successful counterattack while wounded and out of ammunition.

Murphy was born into a large sharecropper family in Hunt County, Texas. His father abandoned them, and his mother died when he was a teenager. Murphy left school in fifth grade to pick cotton and find other work to help support his family; his skill with a hunting rifle was a necessity for putting food on the table. Murphy’s older sister helped him to falsify documentation about his birth date to meet the minimum-age requirement for enlisting in the military, and after being turned down by the Navy and the Marine Corps he enlisted in the Army. He first saw action in the Allied invasion of Sicily and the Battle of Anzio, and in 1944 was part of the liberation of Rome and invasion of southern France. Murphy fought at Montélimar, and led his men on a successful assault at the L’Omet quarry near Cleurie in northeastern France in October.

After the war Murphy enjoyed a 21-year acting career. He played himself in the 1955 autobiographical To Hell and Back based on his 1949 memoirs of the same name, but most of his films were Westerns. He made guest appearances on celebrity television shows and starred in the series Whispering Smith. Murphy was a fairly accomplished songwriter, and bred quarter horses in California and Arizona, becoming a regular participant in horse racing.

Suffering from what would today be termed post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), he slept with a loaded handgun under his pillow and looked for solace in addictive sleeping pills. In the last few years of his life he was plagued by money problems, but refused offers to appear in alcohol and cigarette commercials because he did not want to set a bad example. Murphy died in a plane crash in Virginia in 1971 shortly before his 46th birthday, and was interred with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

Audie Leon Murphy was born the seventh of twelve children to Emmett Berry Murphy and his wife Josie Bell Killian on 20 June 1925, in Kingston, Hunt County , Texas. The Murphys were sharecroppers of Irish descent.

As a child, Murphy was a loner with mood swings and an explosive temper. He grew up in Texas , around Farmersville, Greenville, and Celeste, where he attended elementary school. His father drifted in and out of the family’s life and eventually deserted them. Murphy dropped out of school in fifth grade and got a job picking cotton for a dollar a day to help support his family; he also became skilled with a rifle, hunting small game to help feed them. After his mother died of endocarditis and pneumonia in 1941, he worked at a radio repair shop and at a combination general store, garage and gas station in Greenville. Hunt County authorities placed his three youngest siblings in Boles Children’s Home, a Christian orphanage in Quinlan. After the war, he bought a house in Farmersville for his oldest sister Corrine and her husband Poland Burns. His other siblings briefly shared the home.

The loss of his mother stayed with Murphy throughout his life. He later stated:

“She died when I was sixteen. She had the most beautiful hair I’ve ever seen. It reached almost to the floor. She rarely talked; and always seemed to be searching for something. What it was I don’t know. We didn’t discuss our feelings. But when she passed away, she took something of me with her. It seems I’ve been searching for it ever since.”

World War II service

Murphy had always wanted to be a soldier, and after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, he tried to enlist, but the Army, Navy and Marine Corps all turned him down for being underweight and underage. After his sister provided an affidavit falsifying his birth date by a year, he was accepted by the U.S. Army on 30 June 1942. After basic training at Camp Wolters, he was sent to Fort Meade for advanced infantry training. During basic training he earned the Marksman Badge with Rifle Component Bar and Expert Badge with Bayonet Component Br.

Mediterranean Theater

Murphy was shipped to Casablanca in French Morocco on 20 February 1943. He was assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, which trained under the command of Major General Lucian Truscott. He participated as a platoon messenger with his division at Arzew in Algeria in rigorous training for the Allied assault landings in Sicily, and was promoted to private first class on 7 May and corporal on 15 July.

When the 3rd Infantry landed at Licata, Sicily, on 10 July, Murphy was a division runner. On a scouting patrol, he killed two fleeing Italian officers near Canicattì. Sidelined with illness for a week when Company B arrived in Palermo on 20 July, he rejoined them when they were assigned to a hillside location protecting a machine-gun emplacement, while the rest of the 3rd Infantry Division fought at San Fratello en route to the Allied capture of the transit port of Messina.

Murphy participated in the September 1943 mainland Salerno landing at Battipaglia. While on a scouting party along the Volturno River, he and two other soldiers were ambushed by German machine-gun fire, which killed one of the Americans. Murphy and the other survivor of his group responded by killing five German soldiers with hand grenades and machine-gun fire. While taking part in the October Allied assault on the Volturno Line, near Mignano Monte Lungo Hill 193, he and his company repelled an attack by seven German soldiers, killing three and taking four prisoner. Murphy was promoted to sergeant on 13 December.

In January 1944 Murphy was promoted to staff sergeant. He was hospitalized in Naples with malaria on 21 January, and was unable to participate in the initial landing at the Anzio beachhead. He returned on 29 January and participated in the First Battle of Cisterna, and was made platoon sergeant of Company B platoon following the battle. He returned with the 3rd Division to Anzio , where they remained for months. Taking shelter from the weather in an abandoned farmhouse on 2 March, Murphy and his platoon killed the crew of a passing German tank. He then crawled out alone close enough to destroy the tank with rifle grenades, for which he received the Bronze Star with “V” Device. Murphy continued to make scouting patrols to take German prisoners before being hospitalized for a week on 13 March with a second bout of malaria. Sixty-one infantry officers and enlisted men of Company B, 15th Infantry, including Murphy, were awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge on 8 May. Murphy was also awarded a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster for his Bronze Star American forces liberated Rome on 4 June, and Murphy remained bivouacked in Rome with his platoon throughout July.

European Theater

Murphy received the Distinguished Service Cross for action taken on 15 August 1944, during the first wave of the Allied invasion of Southern France. After landing on Yellow Beach near Ramatuelle, Murphy’s platoon was attacked by German soldiers while making their way through a vineyard. He retrieved a machine gun that had been detached from the squad and returned fire at the German soldiers, killing two and wounding one. Two Germans exited a house about 100 yards (91 m) away and appeared to surrender; Murphy’s best friend responded to them, and they shot and killed him. Murphy advanced alone on the house under direct fire. He wounded two, killed six, and took eleven prisoner.

Murphy was with the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment during the 27-8 August offensive at Montélimar that secured the area from the Germans. Along with the other soldiers who took part in the action, he received the Presidential Unit Citation.

Murphy’s first Purple Heart was for a heel wound received in a mortar shell blast on 15 September 1944 in Northeastern France . His first Silver Star came after he killed four and wounded three at a German machine gun position on 2 October at L’Omet quarry in the Cleurie river valley. Three days later, Murphy crawled alone towards the Germans at L’Omet, carrying an SCR-536 radio and directing his men for an hour while the Germans fired directly at him. When his men finally took the hill, 15 Germans had been killed and 35 wounded. Murphy’s actions earned him a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster for his Silver Star. He was awarded a battlefield commission to second lieutenant on 14 October, which elevated him to platoon leader. While en route to Brouvelieures on 26 October, the 3rd Platoon of Company B was attacked by a German sniper group. Murphy captured two before being shot in the hip by a sniper; he returned fire and shot the sniper between the eyes. At the 3rd General Hospital at Aix-en-Provence, the removal of gangrene from the wound caused partial loss of his hip muscle and kept him out of combat until January. Murphy received his first Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster for his Purple Heart for this injury.

The Colmar Pocket, 850 square miles (2,200 km2) in the Vosges Mountains, had been held by German troops since November 1944. On 14 January 1945, Murphy rejoined his platoon, which had been moved to the Colmar area in December. He moved with the 3rd Division on 24 January to the town of Holtzwihr, where they met with a strong German counterattack. He was wounded in both legs, for which he received a second Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster for his Purple Heart. As the company awaited reinforcements on 26 January, he was made commander of Company B.

The Germans scored a direct hit on an M10 tank destroyer, setting it alight, forcing the crew to abandon it. Murphy ordered his men to retreat to positions in the woods, remaining alone at his post shooting his M1 carbine and directing artillery fire via his field telephone while the Germans aimed fire directly at his position. Murphy mounted the abandoned, burning tank destroyer and began firing its .50 caliber machine gun at the advancing Germans, killing a squad crawling through a ditch towards him. For an hour, Murphy stood on the tank destroyer returning German fire from foot soldiers and advancing tanks, killing or wounding 50 Germans. He sustained a leg wound during his stand, and stopped only after he ran out of ammunition. Murphy rejoined his men, disregarding his own wound, and led them back to repel the Germans. He insisted on remaining with his men while his wounds were treated. For his actions that day he was awarded the Medal of Honor. The 3rd Infantry Division was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for its actions at the Colmar Pocket, giving Murphy a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster for the emblem.

On 16 February, Murphy was promoted to first lieutenant and was awarded the Legion of Merit for his service 22 January 1944 -18 February 1945. He was moved from the front lines to Regimental Headquarters and made a liaison officer.


The United States additionally honored Murphy’s war contributions with the American Campaign Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with arrowhead device and campaign stars, the World War II Victory Medal, and the Army of Occupation Medal with Germany Clasp. France recognized his service with the French Legion of Honor ‘s Grade of Chevalier, the French Croix de guerre with Silver Star, the French Croix de Guerre with Palm, the French Liberation Medal and the French Fourragère in Colors of the Croix de Guerre, which was authorized for all members of the 3rd Infantry Division who fought in France during World War II. Belgium awarded Murphy the Belgian Croix de Guerre with 1940 Palm.

Brigadier General Ralph B. Lovett and Lieutenant Colonel Hallet D. Edson recommended Murphy for the Medal of Honor. Near Salzburg, Austria on 2 June 1945, Lieutenant General A.M. Patch presented Murphy with the Medal of Honor and Legion of Merit for his actions at Holtzwihr. When asked after the war why he had seized the machine gun and taken on an entire company of German infantry, he replied, “They were killing my friends.” Murphy received every U.S. military combat award for valor available from the U.S. Army for his World War II service.

Postwar military service

Inquiries were made through official channels about the prospect of Murphy attending West Point upon his return to the United States, but he never enrolled. Author Don Graham wrote that Murphy suggested the idea and then dropped it, possibly when he realized the extent of academic preparation needed to pass the entrance exam. Murphy was one of several military personnel who received orders on 8 June 1945 to report to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, for temporary duty and reassignment. Upon arrival on 13 June, he was one of four assigned to Fort Sam Houston Army Ground and Services Redistribution Station and sent home for 30 days of recuperation, with permission to travel anywhere within the United States during that period. While on leave, Murphy was feted with parades, banquets, and speeches. He received a belated Good Conduct Medal on 21 August. He was discharged with the rank of first lieutenant at a 50 percent disability classification on 21 September and transferred to the Officers’ Reserve Corps.

Post-traumatic stress

Murphy had been plagued since his military service with insomnia and bouts of depression, and slept with a loaded pistol under his pillow. A post-service medical examination on 17 June 1947 revealed symptoms of headaches, vomiting, and nightmares about war. His medical records indicated that he took sleeping pills to help prevent nightmares. During the mid-1960s, he recognized his dependence on Placidyl, and locked himself alone in a hotel room for a week to break the addiction successfully. Post-traumatic stress levels exacerbated his innate moodiness, and surfaced in episodes that friends and professional colleagues found alarming. His first wife, Wanda Hendrix, stated that he once held her at gunpoint. She witnessed her husband being guilt-ridden and tearful over newsreel footage of German war orphans. Murphy briefly found a creative stress outlet in writing poetry after his Army discharge. His poem “The Crosses Grow on Anzio ” appeared in his book To Hell and Back, but was attributed to the fictitious character Kerrigan.

In an effort to draw attention to the problems of returning Korean War and Vietnam War veterans, Murphy spoke out candidly about his own problems with post traumatic stress disorder. It was known during Murphy’s lifetime as “battle fatigue” and “shell shock”, terminology that dated back to World War I. He called on the government to give increased consideration and study to the emotional impact of combat experiences, and to extend health care benefits to war veterans. As a result of legislation introduced by U.S. Congressman Olin Teague five months after Murphy’s death in 1971, the Audie L. Murphy Memorial VA Hospital in San Antonio, now a part of the South Texas Veterans Health Care System, was dedicated in 1973.

Texas Army National Guard

At the end of World War II, the 36th Infantry Division reverted to state control as part of the Texas Army National Guard, and Murphy’s friends Major General H. Miller Ainsworth and Brigadier General Carl L. Phinney were the 36th’s commander and deputy commander respectively. After the 25 June 1950 commencement of the Korean War, Murphy began a second military career and was commissioned as a Captain in the 36th Infantry Division of the Texas Army National Guard. During his service he drilled new recruits in the summer training camps, and granted the Guard permission to use his name and image in recruiting materials. Although he wanted to join the fighting and juggled training activities with his film career, the 36th Infantry Division was never sent to Korea. At his request he transferred to inactive status on 1 October 1951, because of his film commitments with MGM Studios, and returned to active status in 1955. Murphy was promoted to the rank of major by the Texas Army National Guard in 1956 and returned to inactive status in 1957. In 1969, his official separation from the Guard transferred him to the United States Army Reserve. He remained with the USAR until his transfer to the Retired Reserve in 1969.

Film career

Throughout an acting career spanning from 1948 to 1969, Murphy made more than 40 feature films and one television series. When actor and producer James Cagney saw 16 July 1945 issue of Life magazine depicting Murphy as the “most decorated soldier”, he brought him to Hollywood. Cagney and his brother William signed him as a contract player for their production company and gave him training in acting, voice and dance. They never cast Murphy in a movie and a personal disagreement ended the association in 1947. Murphy later worked with acting coach Estelle Harman, and honed his diction by reciting dialogue from William Shakespeare and William Saroyan.

Murphy moved into Terry Hunt’s Athletic Club in Hollywood where he lived until 1948. Hollywood writer David “Spec” McClure befriended Murphy, collaborating with him on Murphy’s 1949 book To Hell and Back. McClure used his connections to get Murphy a $500 bit part in Texas, Brooklyn, and Heaven. The agent of Wanda Hendrix, whom he had been dating since 1946, got him a bit part in the 1948 Alan Ladd film Beyond Glory directed by John Farrow. His 1949 film Bad Boy gave him his first leading role. The film’s financial backers refused to bankroll the project unless Murphy was given the lead; thus, Allied Artists put aside their reservations about using an inexperienced actor and gave him the starring role.

Universal Studios signed Murphy to a seven-year studio contract at $2,500 a week. His first film for them was as Billy the Kid in The Kid from Texas in 1950. He wrapped up that year making Sierra starring Wanda Hendrix, who by that time had become his wife, and Kansas Raiders as outlaw Jesse James. Universal lent him to MGM in 1951 at a salary of $25,000 to play the lead of The Youth in The Red Badge of Courage directed by John Huston. Murphy and Huston worked together again in the 1960 film The Unforgiven.

The only film Murphy made in 1952 was The Duel at Silver Creek with director Don Siegel. Murphy worked with Siegel one more time in 1958 for The Gun Runners. In 1953, he starred in Frederick de Cordova’s Column South, and played Jim Harvey in Nathan Juran’s Tumbleweed, an adaptation of the Kenneth Perkins novel Three Were Renegades. Director Nathan Juran also directed Gunsmoke and Drums Across the River. George Marshall directed Murphy in the 1954 Destry, a remake of Destry Rides Again, based on a character created by author Max Brand.

Although Murphy was initially reluctant to appear as himself in To Hell and Back, the 1955 adaptation of his book directed by Jesse Hibbs, he eventually agreed; it became the biggest hit in the history of Universal Studios at the time. To help publicize the release of the film, he made guest appearances on television shows such as “What’s My Line?”, “Toast of the Town”, and “The Colgate Comedy Hour”. The Hibbs-Murphy team proved so successful in To Hell and Back that the two worked together on five subsequent films. The partnership resulted in the 1956 Western Walk the Proud Land, and the non-Westerns Joe Butterfly and World in My Corner. They worked together for the last time in the 1958 western Ride a Crooked Trail.

Joseph L. Mankiewicz hired Murphy to play the titular role in the 1958 film The Quiet American. Murphy formed a partnership with Harry Joe Brown to make three films, starting with The Guns of Fort Petticoat (1957). The partnership fell into disagreement over the remaining two projects, and Brown filed suit against Murphy. Murphy featured in three Westerns in 1959: he starred opposite Sandra Dee in The Wild and the Innocent, collaborated as an uncredited co-producer with Walter Mirisch on the black and white Cast a Long Shadow, and performed as a hired killer in No Name on the Bullet, a film that was well received by critics. Thelma Ritter was his costar in the 1960 Startime telvision episode “The Man”.

Personal life

Murphy married actress Wanda Hendrix on 8 January 1949, and their divorce became final on 19 April 1951. Four days later he married former airline stewardess Pamela Archer. He had two sons with Archer: Terry Michael Murphy, born in 1952, and James Shannon “Skipper” Murphy, born in 1954.

Murphy bred quarter horses at the Audie Murphy Ranch in what is now Menifee, California, and the Murphy Ranch in Pima County, Arizona. His horses raced at the Del Mar Racetrack and he invested large sums of money in the hobby. Murphy had a gambling habit that left his finances in a poor state. In 1968, he stated that he had lost $260,000 in an Algerian oil deal and was dealing with the Internal Revenue Service over unpaid taxes. In spite of his financial difficulties, Murphy refused to appear in commercials for alcohol and cigarettes, mindful of the influence he would have on the youth market.

Death and commemorations

On 28 May 1971, Murphy was killed when the private plane in which he was a passenger crashed into Brush Mountain, near Catawba, Virginia, 20 miles (32 km) west of Roanoke in conditions of rain, clouds, fog and zero visibility. The pilot and four other passengers were also killed. The aircraft was a twin-engine Aero Commander 680 flown by a pilot who had a private-pilot license and a reported 8,000 hours of flying time, but who held no instrument rating. The aircraft was recovered on 3 May. After her husband died, Pamela Murphy moved into a small apartment and got a clerk position at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Los Angeles, where she remained employed for 35 years. In 1975, a court awarded Murphy’s widow and two children $2.5 million in damages because of the accident.

On 7 June 1971, Murphy was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. In attendance were Ambassador to the U.N. George H.W. Bush, Army Chief of Staff William Westmoreland, and many of the 3rd Infantry Division. Murphy’s grave site is in Section 46, headstone number 46-366-11, located across Memorial Drive from the Amphitheater. A special flagstone walkway was later constructed to accommodate the large number of people who visit to pay their respects. It is the cemetery’s second most-visited grave site, after that of President John F. Kennedy.

Audie Murphy marker off Appalachian Trail

The marker off the Appalachian Trail near the site of the plane crash that claimed Audie Murphy’s life

The headstones of Medal of Honor recipients buried at Arlington National Cemetery are normally decorated in gold leaf. Murphy previously requested that his stone remain plain and inconspicuous, like that of an ordinary soldier. The headstone contains the incorrect birth year 1924, based upon the falsified materials among his military records. In 1974, a large granite marker was erected just off the Appalachian Trail near the site of the plane crash that claimed Murphy’s life.

Civilian honors were bestowed on Murphy during his lifetime and posthumously, including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2013, Murphy was honored by his home state with the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor.

Swedish power metal band Sabaton wrote a song on their 2014 studio album, Heroes, also named “To Hell and Back”, commemorating and recognizing Audie Murphy as one of the most decorated American veterans of World War II.

Read More

William David Halyburton, Jr.

Posted on Sep 15, 2015

Halyburton_WDThe United States Marine Corps is one of the big four independent services in the US armed forces; Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Army. However, the Marine Corps is a Department of the Navy. The Navy provides the Marine Corps with religious and medical needs. In other words, the Marine Corps has no Chaplins or Doctors.

William David Halyburton, Jr., (October 2, 1924 – May 10, 1945) was a United States Navy sailor and a recipient of the U.S. military’s highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his actions in World War II. He earned the medal while serving as a hospital corpsman attached to a U.S. Marine Corps unit in the Battle of Okinawa.

Read More

John F. Mackie

Posted on Sep 15, 2015

The First Marine to Receive the Medal of Honor


On 24 April 1861, John F. Mackie, the first U.S. Marine to be awarded the Medal of Honor, enlisted in the Marine Corps for a period of four years. He was twenty-five years of age when he took the oath for enlistment at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York.

Born in New York City, New York, on 1 October 1835, John Freeman Mackie was a silversmith by profession prior to joining the Corps. In 1861 he served aboard the USS Savannah, but on 1 April 1862 he was transferred to the USS Galena as corporal of the Marine Guard. He served aboard that vessel until 10 November 1862, and it was while a member of that detachment that he displayed his gallantry which earned for him the nation?s highest military decoration.

During the attack on the Confederate Fort Darling on the James River at Drurys Bluff (near Richmond, Virginia) on 15 May 1862, Cpl Mackie rallied the Marine Guard after the entire Third Division of the four IX-inch Dahlgren Guns and 100 Pound Rifle was killed or wounded. He cleared the deck and resumed the action without awaiting orders. Capt John Rodgers, commander of the USS Galena recommended Cpl Mackie to the Secretary of the Navy during a visit he made to the ship in November 1862.

Upon recommendation to Marine Headquarters in Washington, D.C., Col John Harris, Commandant of the Marine Corps, authorized Capt Rodgers to advance Cpl Mackie to the rank of sergeant, to rank from 1 November 1862.

He was then transferred to the Norfolk Navy Yard, Virginia, and in June 1863, he was ordered to the USS Seminole as Orderly Sergeant in Charge of the Marine Guard. It was while serving aboard this ship as part of the West Gulf Squadron in the fall of 1863 that he was presented the Medal of Honor by Commander Henry Rolando. During the presentation Commodore Percival Drayton stated, ?Sergeant I would give a stripe off my sleeves to get one of those in the manner as you got that.?

In January 1864, Sgt Mackie narrowly escaped death when helping to suppress a riot at Sabine Pass, Texas, when a rioting fireman hit him in the head with a chain hook and fractured his skill.

Sergeant Mackie was discharged from the Marine Corps, after having served four years and four months, at the Navy Yard in Boston, Massachusetts, on 23 August 1865. He later became active in the Grand Army of the Republic, while residing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He passed away on 18 June 1910 and was buried in Arlington Cemetery in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania.

Read More