You don't appear to have any favorites yet, or your cookies may be disabled.
Last Updated: 9:00 PM GMT on April 06, 2013
— Last Comment: 1:44 PM GMT on May 23, 2013
|Posted by: Alleyoops, 1:24 PM GMT on August 27, 2012
There were many great battles faught in the Pacific in WWII but perhaps one of the most decisive was the Battle for Midway. Here is a brief account of that fateful day. To learn more about ths battle, please take the time to look it up. It is well worth the effort.
The Battle of Midway, fought in June 1942, must be considered one of the most decisive battles of World War Two. The Battle of Midway effectively destroyed Japan’s naval strength when the Americans destroyed four of its aircraft carriers. Japan’s navy never recovered from its mauling at Midway and it was on the defensive after this battle.
The Battle of Midway, fought over and near the tiny U.S. mid-Pacific base at Midway atoll, represents the strategic high water mark of Japan's Pacific Ocean war. Prior to this action, Japan possessed general naval superiority over the United States and could usually choose where and when to attack. After Midway, the two opposing fleets were essentially equals, and the United States soon took the offensive.
The end of May saw intense activity in the port of Pearl Harbor. The carriers 'Enterprise' and 'Hornet' had moored there and were shortly joined by the battle-damaged 'Yorktown' - damage sustained at the recent Battle of Coral Sea. On May 28th, Task Force 16 sailed led by the 'Enterprise'. This force was commanded by Rear Admiral Raymond Spruance. The 'USS Enterprise' was accompanied by six cruisers, nine destroyers and two tankers. On May 30th, the newly repaired 'Yorktown' also left Pearl Harbor to rendezvous with the 'Enterprise' at 'Point Luck' some 350 miles from Midway Island.
The Commander-in-Chief Pacific, Admiral Chester Nimitz, had received intelligence that the Japanese, after what could be deemed the failure at Coral Sea, was out for a decisive battle against the American Navy. Nimitz knew that they wanted to capture Midway Island, on the western extremity of the Hawaiian islands, to further extend their control of the Pacific.
Japanese Combined Fleet commander Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto moved on Midway in an effort to draw out and destroy the U.S. Pacific Fleet's aircraft carrier striking forces, which had embarassed the Japanese Navy in the mid-April Doolittle Raid on Japan's home islands and at the Battle of Coral Sea in early May. He planned to quickly knock down Midway's defenses, follow up with an invasion of the atoll's two small islands and establish a Japanese air base there. He expected the U.S. carriers to come out and fight, but to arrive too late to save Midway and in insufficient strength to avoid defeat by his own well-tested carrier air power.
Yamamoto also believed, correctly as it turned out, that Nimitz would not avoid a major naval battle with the Japanese.
Yamamoto's plan for the attack on Midway was complex and relied on perfect timing and diversionary tactics to lure parts of the American force away from Yamamoto's main battle fleet. It also required that four out of Japan's eight aircraft carriers were in the vicinity. The Japanese fleet also included the biggest battleship in the world, the 'Yamato' the smaller battleships 'Nagato' and 'Mutsu', and numerous cruisers and destroyers. Yamamoto's plan was ingenious but too intricate. It also contained two defects:
1) Yamamoto believed in the supremacy of the battleship. He failed to realise that an aircraft carrier could deliver a massive blow to the enemy but at a much greater distance than a battleship could. Yamamoto saw the aircraft carrier as supporting the battleship rather than the other way round. His huge battleships were also slower than any other warship he had and the rest of his fleet had to sail at a pace that suited the battleships.
2) Far more fatal to Yamamoto was the fact that the Americans knew his course of action. Admirals Spruance and Fletcher had their ships waiting for an attack and Yamamoto's plan to lure American ships away from their main body clearly would not work if the Americans knew that this was his intent.
Yamamoto's intended surprise was thwarted by superior American communications intelligence, which deduced his scheme well before battle was joined. This allowed Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander, to establish an ambush by having his carriers ready and waiting for the Japanese. On 4 June 1942, in the second of the Pacific War's great carrier battles, the trap was sprung. The perserverance, sacrifice and skill of U.S. Navy aviators, plus a great deal of good luck on the American side, cost Japan four irreplaceable fleet carriers, while only one of the three U.S. carriers present was lost. The base at Midway, though damaged by Japanese air attack, remained operational and later became a vital component in the American trans-Pacific offensive.
Spruance and Fletcher had rendezvoused on June 2nd with Fletcher taking control of the two task forces. It is believed that Yamamoto had no idea that he was sailing towards such a large force and his diversionary attacks on Dutch Harbour had failed to lure any part of Task Forces 16 and 17 away from where they were.
The first US attacks took place after a Catalina flying boat, on patrol, spotted the Japanese main fleet. Land based B-17 bombers attacked the fleet and claimed to have sunk two battleships. In fact, the ships that were spotted were transport ships and tankers and no hits were scored by the B-17's. This occurred 800 miles from Fletcher's task force and he realised from the intelligence reports he had that, that such incidents were peripheral to the main task he had. Fletcher knew that the Japanese carriers were just 400 miles from his force. During the night of June 3rd, Fletcher moved the two task forces 200 miles north of Midway - something the Japanese would not know about - thus setting up his scouting force for "one of the great decisive battles in history". (Captain D Macintyre)
Early on June 4th, both fleets launched some of their planes primarily for scouting missions. The Japanese also prepared a number of dive-bombers and escort Zero fighters for an actual attack on Midway. At 05.34, the Americans received a report from their scout planes that the Japanese main fleet, including the carriers, was 200 miles west-south-west of the 'Yorktown'. Fletcher ordered Spruance to sail in a south-westerly direction with Task Force 16. The American carriers 'Enterprise' and 'Hornet' steamed away with their escorts.
Midway was attacked by Japanese planes at 06.16 with power plants and oil installations being the main target. Ten torpedo-bombers had taken off from Midway to attack the Japanese carriers. However, the defence of these ships was such that none scored a hit and only three planes returned to Midway. Another attack by B-17's from 20,000 feet and Vindicator scout-bombers also failed to find their target - though this attack had achieved one result as many Zero fighters were put into the air to protect the fleet. Now they needed to be re-fuelled and re-armed which left the Japanese fleet commanded by Nagumo very vulnerable as it had neither fighter cover nor were his carriers in a position to do a great deal other than re-equip the planes.
It was at this moment, when his carriers were all-but defenceless against an air attack, that Nagumo received news of an incoming aerial attack from planes from both the 'Hornet' and 'Enterprise'. All that Spruance had left behind were sufficient planes to give his ships aerial cover - the rest were sent to attack the Japanese fleet. Spruance's planes first left the fleet at 07.52 led by Lieutenant-Commander McClusky. In all, 67 Dauntless dive- bombers, 29 Devastator torpedo-bombers and 20 Wildcat fighters were involved. However, they were spread out over a large area and communication between the flight leaders was difficult. In essence, four separate squadrons advanced on the Japanese. Unknown to them, Nagumo had changed course and when the planes arrived at the point that they believed the Japanese would be at - they found nothing. Some planes searched in vain; a lot of the fighters had to ditch as they simply ran out of fuel. However, the torpedo squadrons, flying low over the water, did find the Japanese carriers - but they had no fighter cover for the attack.
Regardless of this, the attack went ahead despite the extreme danger of it. Lieutenant-Commander Waldron, in his final message to his squadron, had written:
"My greatest hope is that we encounter a favourable tactical situation, but if we don't, I want each of us to do our utmost to destroy the enemies. If there is only one plane to make a final run in, I want that man to go in and get a hit. May God be with us."
The attack was met with fearsome fire from the carriers escort ships and over 50 Zeros attacked. Very few torpedoes were fired and none hit their target. Only one pilot survived the onslaught.
Another attack also failed but it served a purpose of concentrating the focus of the Japanese on these torpedo squadrons. The Japanese defenders failed to notice dive-bombers flying at a much higher altitude. With their decks crammed with planes about to take off, the Japanese carriers were tempting targets. The first attack took out the flight deck of the flagship 'Akagi' detonating a store of torpedoes. The flames soon reached fuel supplies and within minutes the 'Akagi' was doomed, though it was another seven hours before the ship was abandoned. Other dive bombers attacked the 'Kaga'. Here again, fuel was soon ignited and the ship suffered severe damage, even if it took two hours to sink. More dive-bombers attacked the 'Soryu' with the same deadly impact. Only three bombs actually hit the 'Soryu' but they did enough damage for the captain, Yanaginoto, to order that the ship be abandoned. Like the 'Kaga' it continued afloat for some hours but was doomed. The 'Soryu' went down at 19.13 along with her captain, Yanaginoto and 718 of her crew.
In the space of five minutes, the Japanese Navy had lost half of its carrier force, ships that were deemed to be crewed by the Navy's elite.
However, one carrier was left - the 'Hiryu'. This was found and attacked with the same devastating consequences as the other three carriers. However, it was planes from the 'Hiryu' that had attacked the 'Yorktown' and disabled it so badly that at 15.00 the order was given to abandon ship. This order may well have been premature because the carrier was still afloat on June 7th and there were high hopes that she could be towed in for repairs. However, a Japanese submarine, I-168, managed to penetrate the American fleet and with two torpedoes sunk the 'Yorktown' at 06.00 on June 7th.
The consequences of the Battle of Midway for the Japanese were huge. At a stroke they had lost four vital aircraft carriers that were considered to be vital for the Pacific campaign. Whereas the Americans could replace the 'Yorktown', the Japanese would have found it very difficult to replace one carrier, let alone four. Regardless of finding new carriers, experienced crew would also be needed and the Japanese had lost many experienced crewmen during the battle.
MIDWAY, not very big is she? Yet she was so important to the war.
The Yorkton after she was hit.
The Japanese destroyer Hiryu as she sinks.
Comments For This Post
|Posted by: Alleyoops, 12:51 AM GMT on August 19, 2012
The Indianapolis was laid down 31 March 1930 by the New York Shipbuilding Corp., Camden, New Jersey; launched 7 November 1931; sponsored by Miss Lucy Taggert, daughter of the late Senator Thomas Taggert, former mayor of the city of Indianapolis; and commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard 15 November 1932, Captain John M. Smeallie commanding.
When Japanese bombs struck Pearl Harbor, Indianapolis, then making a simulated bombardment of Johnson Island, immediately joined Task Force 12 and searched for Japanese carriers reportedly still in the vicinity. She arrived Pearl Harbor 13 December and entered Task Force 11 for operations against the enemy.
Her first action came in the South Pacific deep in enemy dominated waters about 350 miles south of Rabaul, New Britain. Late in the afternoon of 20 February 1942, the American ships were attacked by 18 twin engine bombers, flying in two waves. In the battle that followed, 16 of the planes were shot down by accurate antiaircraft fire of the ship and fighter planes from Lexington. All ships escaped damage and they splashed two trailing Japanese seaplanes.
Throughout the spring and summer of 1943, Indianapolis operated in Aleutian waters escorting American convoys and covering amphibious assaults. In May the Navy took Attu, the first territory stolen by the Japanese to be reconquered by the United States. After Attu was proclaimed secure, the U.S. forces focused their attention on Kiska, the last enemy stronghold in the Aleutians.
She also was involved in fighting in the Pacific before she was commissioned for that fateful voyage.
The world's first operational atomic bomb was delivered by the Indianapolis, (CA-35) to the island of Tinian on 26 July 1945. The Indianapolis then reported to CINCPAC (Commander-In-Chief, Pacific) Headquarters at Guam for further orders. She was directed to join the battleship USS Idaho (BB-42) at Leyte Gulf in the Philippines to prepare for the invasion of Japan. The Indianapolis, unescorted, departed Guam on a course of 262 degrees making about 17 knots.
At 14 minutes past midnight, on 30 July 1945, midway between Guam and Leyte Gulf, she was hit by two torpedoes out of six fired by the I-58, a Japanese submarine. The first blew away the bow, the second struck near midship on the starboard side adjacent to a fuel tank and a powder magazine. The resulting explosion split the ship to the keel, knocking out all electric power. Within minutes she went down rapidly by the bow, rolling to starboard.
Of the 1,196 aboard, about 900 made it into the water in the twelve minutes before she sank. Few life rafts were released. Most survivors wore the standard kapok life jacket. Shark attacks began with sunrise of the first day and continued until the men were physically removed from the water, almost five days later.
Early in the morning, 12:15 A.M., 30 July 1945, two heavy explosions occurred against her starboard side forward, she capsized and sank in 12 minutes, at 12 degrees 02 minutes N., 134 degrees 48 minutes E. Indianapolis had been hit by two torpedoes from the Imperial Japanese Navy submarine I-58, Commander Machitsura Hashimoto commanding. The seas had been moderate; the visibility, limited, Indianapolis had been steaming at 17 knots. When the ship did not reach Leyte on the 31st, as scheduled, no report was made that she was overdue. This omission was due to a misunderstanding of the Movement Report System. Thus it was not until 1025 on 2 August that the survivors were sighted, mostly held afloat by life jackets, although there were a few rafts which had been cut loose before the ship went down. they were sighted by an aircraft on routine patrol; the pilot, Lieutenant Wilbur C. Gwinn, immediately dropped a life raft and a radio transmitter. All air and surface units capable of rescue operations were dispatched to the scene at once, and the surrounding waters were thoroughly searched for survivors.
Shortly after 11:00 A.M. of the fourth day, the survivors were accidentally discovered by LT. (jg) Wilbur C. Gwinn, piloting his PV-1 Ventura Bomber on routine antisubmarine patrol. Radioing his base at Peleiu, he alerted, "many men in the water". A PBY (seaplane) under the command of LT. R. Adrian Marks was dispatched to lend assistance and report. Enroute to the scene, Marks overflew the destroyer USS Cecil Doyle (DD-368), and alerted her captain, of the emergency. The captain of the Doyle, on his own authority, decided to divert to the scene.
Arriving hours ahead of the Doyle, Marks' crew began dropping rubber rafts and supplies. While so engaged, they observed men being attacked by sharks. Disregarding standing orders not to land at sea, Marks landed and began taxiing to pick up the stragglers and lone swimmers who were at greatest risk of shark attack. Learning the men were the crew of the Indianapolis, he radioed the news, requesting immediate assistance. The Doyle responded she was enroute.
Upon completion of rescue operations, 8 August, a radius of 100 miles had been combed by day and night, saving 316 of the crew of 1,199 men. Captain Charles Butler McVay III, commanding officer of the Indianapolis at the time of her sinking, was court marshaled for the loss of his ship. He was the only American captain to be court marshaled for the loss of his vessel due to enemy action during WW2.
Traditionally the flagship of the powerful 5th Fleet, she had served with honor from Pearl harbor through the last campaign of the war and had gone down in action a scant two weeks before wars end.
Indianapolis earned 10 Battle Stars for World War II service.
It is important to note at the outset that vital information pertinent to determining responsibility for the loss of the Indianapolis was not made public until long after the subsequent court-martial and conviction of Captain McVay. U.S. intelligence using a top secret operation labeled ULTRA had broken the Japanese code and was aware that two Japanese submarines, including the I-58, were operating in the path of the Indianapolis.
This information was classified and not made available to either the court-martial board or to Captain McVay's defense counsel. It did not become known until the early 1990s that - despite knowledge of the danger in its path - naval authorities at Guam had sent the Indianapolis into harm's way without any warning, refusing her captain's request for a destroyer escort, and leading him to believe his route was safe.
Captain McVay's request for a destroyer escort was denied despite the fact that no capital ship lacking anti-submarine detection equipment, such as the Indianapolis, had made this transit across the Philippine Sea without an escort during the entire war.
Captain McVay was not told that shortly before his departure from Guam a Japanese submarine within range of his path had sunk a destroyer escort, the USS Underhill.
Shortly after the Indianapolis was sunk, naval intelligence decoded a message from the I-58 to its headquarters in Japan that it had sunk an American battleship along the route of the Indianapolis. The message was ignored.
Naval authorities then and now have maintained that the Indianapolis sank too quickly to send out a distress signal. A radioman aboard the Indianapolis testified at the September 1999 Senate hearing, however, that he watched the "needle jump" on the ship's transmitter, indicating that a distress signal was transmitted minutes before the ship sank, and sources at three separate locations have indicated that they were aware of a distress signal being received from the sinking ship. Its very likely that these distress signals were received but ignored as a Japanese trick to lure rescue vessels to the area.
Confusion on the part of Navy communications and a faulty directive caused the failure of the Indianapolis to arrive on schedule to go unnoticed, leaving as many as 900 men at the mercy of a shark-infested sea. (The faulty directive - which required only reporting the arrival of non-combatant ships - was corrected days after the Indianapolis survivors were discovered to require reporting the arrival of combatant ships as well.)
The Court of Inquiry
A hastily convened closed-door court of inquiry had been convened in Guam on August 13 with the Judge Advocate (prosecutor), Captain William Hilbert, stating that they were "starting the proceedings without having available all the necessary data." Little was done to add to such data prior to the court's decision.
he Surface Operations officer at Guam who had sent the Indianapolis across the Philippine Sea without a destroyer escort and who was responsible for advising Captain McVay of any perils in his path testified that the danger was "practically negligible." (It is very likely that the Surface Operations officer was indeed aware of the dangers in the path of the Indianapolis revealed by the ULTRA code-breaking but not known to the court-martial board. Thus, his testimony that the dangers were "practically negligible" had the self-serving impact of diverting attention from his own culpability for not heeding Captain McVay's request for a destroyer escort.)
The court of inquiry ultimately recommended that Captain McVay be court-martialed on two vague charges: (1) culpable inefficiency in the performance of his duties and (2) negligently endangering the lives of others.
Over 350 Navy warships had been lost in combat during World War II, but none of their captains had been court-martialed. Both Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz and Vice Admiral Raymond Spruance for whom the Indianapolis served as Fifth Fleet flagship opposed court-martialing Captain McVay, and never had an officer been court-martialed over the objection of his superiors, much less such prominent flag officers.
With the war ended, the scene then shifted to Washington. When orders were given to proceed with the court-martial of Captain McVay, only days before the trial actually began on December 3 at the Wastington Navy Yard, he and his defense counsel learned for the first time of the charges against him.
The Navy finally had decided on two charges against Captain McVay. There was no evidence to substantiate the first charge which was failure to issue timely orders to abandon ship. The fact that it was even lodged against him was curious. Well before the trial began, the Navy was aware that the torpedo attack had knocked out the ship's electrical system and that orders to abandon ship could only be shouted by word of mouth in the din and confusion aboard the sinking ship.
The second charge against Captain McVay was that he had hazarded his ship by failing to zigzag in good visibility. Here are the facts which made this charge shamefully unjust.
The orders which Captain McVay received in Guam directed him to zigzag at his discretion.
No Navy directive in existence then or now requires zigzagging at night in limited visibility.
The charge against Captain McVay stated that the visibility was good on the night of the sinking (a fact never contested by the inexperienced defense counsel who was assigned to Captain McVay).
When Captain McVay issued orders to cease zigzagging shortly before midnight, the visibility, according to all eyewitnesses aboard the ship, was and remained very poor up to the time of the torpedoes struck, so bad that crew members could not identify their shipmates several yards away.
Statements taken by survivors immediately after rescue that the visibility was severely limited were not made available as evidence at the court-martial. And only recently surfaced as the result of research into old Navy records.
The commander of the Japanese submarine which sank the Indianapolis and who testified at the court-martial said that he could have sunk the ship whether it had been zigzagging or not.
A decorated U.S. submarine commander testified at the court-martial that, given the identical circumstances which faced the Japanese submarine that night, he could have sunk the Indianapolis whether it had been zigzagging or not.
As so the Navy court-martial found Captain Charles Butler McVay III guilty of hazarding his ship by failure to zigzag in good visibility, thus diverting attention from so many others whose negligence and misjudgments were the real cause of this tragedy, humiliating Captain McVay and damaging his promising naval career beyond repair.
In early 2000, only months before his death at the age of 91 in Kyoto, Japan, the commander of the Japanese submarine which sank the Indianapolis gave an interview and, referring to Captain McVay's court-martial at which he had been a witness, said, "I had a feeling it was contrived from the beginning."
That is the story. It remains a tarnish on the reputation of the United States Navy more than a half a century later. And it will remain a stain on the conscience of the Navy.
Comments For This Post
Updated: 12:55 AM GMT on August 19, 2012
A A A
|Posted by: Alleyoops, 4:44 PM GMT on August 10, 2012
Audie Leon Murphy was a legend in his own time. A war hero, movie actor, writer of country and western songs, and poet. His biography reads more like fiction than fact. He lived only 46 years, but he made a lasting imprint on American history.
Audie was born on a sharecropper's farm in North Texas on June 20, 1924. As a boy, he chopped cotton for one dollar a day and was noted for his feats of derring-do and his accuracy with a gun. He had only 5 years of schooling and was orphaned at age 16.
After being refused enlistment during World War II in both the Marines and Paratroopers for being too small (5'5") and underweight (110 lbs), he enlisted in the U.S. Army a few days after his 18th birthday. After basic training at Camp Wolters, Texas, and advanced training at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, Audie was sent overseas.
He was assigned to the famous 15th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division where he fought in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France, and Germany. He earned a battlefields commission for his courage and leadership ability as well as citations and decorations including every medal for valor that America gives. He was also awarded three French and one Belgian medal. Lieutenant Audie Murphy was the highest decorated soldier in American history.
Murphy still had to "fight the system" to get overseas and into action. His persistence paid off, and in early 1943 he was shipped out to Casablanca, Morocco as a replacement in 3rd Platoon, Baker Company, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. Murphy saw no action in Africa, but instead participated in extensive training maneuvers along with the rest of the 3rd Division. His combat initiation finally came when he took part in the invasion of Sicily on July 10, 1943. Shortly after arriving, Murphy was promoted to corporal after killing two Italian officers as they tried to escape on horseback. He contracted malaria while in Sicily, an illness which put him in the hospital several times during his Army years.
After Sicily was secured from Axis forces, the 3rd Division invaded the Italian mainland, landing near Salerno in September 1943. While leading a night patrol, Murphy and his men ran into German soldiers but fought their way out of an ambush, taking cover in a quarry. The German command sent a squad of soldiers in, but they were stopped by intense machine-gun and rifle fire. Three German soldiers were killed and several others captured. As a result of his actions at Salerno, Murphy was promoted to sergeant.
He distinguished himself in action on many occasions while in Italy, fighting at the Volturno River, at the Anzio beachhead, and in the cold, wet Italian mountains. While in Italy, his skills as a combat infantryman earned him promotions and decorations for valor. Following its participation in the Italian campaign, the 3rd Division landed in Southern France on August 15, 1944 as part of Operation Dragoon. Shortly thereafter, Murphy's best friend, Lattie Tipton (referred to as "Brandon" in Murphy's book To Hell and Back), was killed by a German soldier in a machine gun nest who was feigning surrender. Murphy went into a rage and single-handedly wiped out the German machine gun crew which had just killed his friend. He then used the German machine gun and grenades to destroy several other nearby enemy positions. For this act, Murphy received the Distinguished Service Cross (second in precedence only to the Medal of Honor).
During seven weeks of fighting in that campaign in France, Murphy's division suffered 4,500 casualties. Just weeks later, he received two Silver Stars for further heroic actions. Murphy, by now a staff sergeant and holding the position of platoon sergeant, was eventually awarded a battlefield commission to second lieutenant, which elevated him to platoon leader. He was wounded in the hip by a sniper's ricocheting bullet 12 days after the promotion and spent ten weeks recuperating. Within days of returning to his unit, and still bandaged, he became company commander on January 25, 1945 and suffered further wounds from a mortar round which killed two others nearby.
Medal of Honor action
The next day, January 26 (the temperature was 14 °F (−10 °C) with 24 inches (61 cm) of snow on the ground), his unit participated in the battle at Holtzwihr, France. After fighting for some time, Murphy's unit was reduced to an effective strength of 19 out of 128. Murphy sent all of the remaining men to the rear while he shot at the Germans with his M1 carbine until he ran out of ammunition. He then climbed aboard an abandoned, burning M10 tank destroyer and used its .50 caliber machine gun to cut down the German infantry, including one full squad of German infantry who crawled in a ditch to within 100 feet (30 m) of his position. He was able to call in artillery fire using a land-line telephone and, under heavy fire, was wounded in the leg. He nonetheless continued his nearly single-handed battle for almost an hour. He only stopped fighting when his telephone line to the artillery fire direction center was cut by enemy artillery. As his remaining men moved forward, he quickly organized them into a counter-attack which ultimately drove the enemy from Holtzwihr. For these actions, Murphy was awarded the Medal of Honor.Awards
Audie Murphy on the cover of Life for July 16, 1945, got him seen in Hollywood.
Murphy was credited with destroying six tanks in addition to killing over 240 German soldiers and wounding and capturing many others. His principal U.S. decorations included the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, the Legion of Merit, two Bronze Stars with Valor device, and three Purple Hearts. Murphy participated in campaigns in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and Germany, as denoted by his European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one silver battle star (denoting five campaigns), four bronze battle stars, plus a bronze arrowhead representing his two amphibious assault landings at Sicily and southern France. During the French Campaign, Murphy was awarded two Presidential Citations, one from the 3rd Inf, Division, and one from the 15th Inf. Regiment during the Holtzwihr action.
Audie's award for the Légion d'honneur.
The French government awarded Murphy its Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. He also received two Croix de guerre medals from France and the Croix de guerre 1940 Palm from Belgium. Murphy was also awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge. (A complete list of his awards and decorations appears later in this article.) He spent 29 months overseas and just under two years in combat with the 3rd Infantry Division, all before he turned 21.
In early June 1945, one month after Germany's surrender, he returned from Europe to a hero's welcome in his home state of Texas, where he was feted with parades, banquets, and speeches. Murphy was discharged from active duty with the U.S. Army as a First Lieutenant, at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio on August 17, 1945,and discharged from the U.S. Army on September 21, 1945.
He garnered nationwide recognition, appearing on the cover of Life magazine for July 16, 1945 as the "most decorated soldier". After the Korean War broke out in June 1950, Murphy joined the 36th Infantry Division of the Texas National Guard; however, that division was not called up for combat duty. By the time he left the Guard in 1966, he had attained the rank of Major.
His medals and awards are on display at the Dallas Scottish Rite Temple Museum and the China Room of the 15th Infantry Regiment (Kelley Hill, Fort Benning, Georgia).
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."
Discharged from the Army on September 21, 1945, Audie went to Hollywood at the invitation of movie star James Cagney. He remained in California for the rest of his life and was closely associated with the movie industry, both as an actor and a producer. He acted in 44 films, starring in 39 of them. His best known film was "To Hell and Back," adopted from the best selling book of his war experiences by the same name.
He died in a plane crash in 1971, at age 46, and was interred, with full military honors, in Arlington National Cemetery.
Awards and decorations
Medal of Honor
Distinguished Service Cross
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Silver Star (with oak leaf cluster)
Legion of Merit
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze Star (with Valor device and oak leaf cluster)
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Purple Heart (with two oak leaf clusters)
UArmy Outstanding Civilian Service Medal Ribbon.jpg Department of the Army Outstanding Civilian Service Award
U.S. Army Good Conduct Medal
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Presidential Unit Citation (with oak leaf cluster)
American Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal (with one silver service star & four bronze service stars, representing nine campaigns, and one bronze arrowhead, representing assault landing at Sicily and Southern France)
World War II Victory Medal
Army of Occupation Medal (with Germany Clasp)
Armed Forces Reserve Medal
French Legion of Honor - Grade of Chevalier
French Croix de guerre (with Silver Star)
French Croix de guerre (with Palm)
Medal of Liberated France
Belgian Croix de guerre (with 1940 Palm)
French Fourragère in Colors of the Croix de guerre
Combat Infantryman Badge
Marksman Badge with Rifle Component Bar
Expert Badge with Bayonet Component Bar
After seeing the young hero's photo on the cover of the July 16 edition of Life Magazine and sensing star potential, actor James Cagney invited Murphy to Hollywood in September 1945. Despite Cagney's expectations, the next few years in California were difficult for Murphy. He became disillusioned by the lack of work, was frequently broke, and slept on the floor of a gymnasium owned by his friend Terry Hunt. He eventually received token acting parts in the 1948 films Beyond Glory and Texas, Brooklyn and Heaven. His third movie, Bad Boy, gave him his first leading role.
He also starred in the 1951 adaptation of Stephen Crane's Civil War novel, The Red Badge of Courage, which earned critical success. Murphy expressed great discomfort in playing himself in To Hell and Back. In 1959, he starred in the western No Name on the Bullet, in which his performance was well-received despite being cast as the villain, a professional killer who managed to stay within the law.
Murphy's 1949 autobiography To Hell and Back became a national bestseller. The book was ghostwritten by his friend David "Spec" McClure, already a professional writer. Murphy modestly described some of his most heroic actions—without portraying himself as a hero. He did not mention any of the many decorations he received, but praised the skills, bravery, and dedication of the other members of his platoon. Murphy even attributed a song he had written to "Kerrigan".
Murphy portrayed himself in the 1955 film version of his book with the same title, To Hell and Back. Murphy was initially reluctant to star in To Hell and Back, fearing it would appear he was cashing in on his war experience. He suggested Tony Curtis for the role. In To Hell and Back, unlike most Hollywood films, where the same soldiers serve throughout the movie, Murphy's comrades are killed or wounded as they were in real life. At the film's end, Murphy is the only member of his original unit remaining. At the ceremony where Murphy is awarded the Medal of Honor, the ghostly images of his dead friends are depicted. This insistence on reality has been attributed to Murphy and his desire to honor his fallen friends.
The film grossed almost US$10 million during its initial theatrical release, and at the time became Universal Studios's biggest hit of the studio's 43-year history. The movie held the record as the company's highest-grossing motion picture until 1975, when it was surpassed by Steven Spielberg's Jaws.
In addition to acting, Murphy also became successful as a country music songwriter. He teamed up with musicians and composers including Guy Mitchell, Jimmy Bryant, Scott Turner, Coy Ziegler, Ray and Terri Eddlemon. Murphy's songs were recorded and released by well-known artists including Dean Martin, Eddy Arnold, Charley Pride, Jimmy Bryant, Porter Waggoner, Jerry Wallace, Roy Clark, and Harry Nilsson. His two biggest hits were "Shutters and Boards" and "When the Wind Blows in Chicago".
Comments For This Post
Copyright © 2013 Weather Underground, Inc.
Copyright © 2013 Weather Underground, Inc.