Audie Murphy was just about everything but a cowboy. Born in Texas, Murphy left school after the fifth grade and home at the age of 15. He enlisted in the army just shy of his 18th birthday and became the most decorated soldier of World War II. In fact, Murphy earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for standing down a German attack in France in January of 1945.
The war in Europe ended in the spring of 1945, and Murphy returned home a national celebrity, his bright freckled face on the cover of Life magazine. Thanks to Jimmy Cagney, Murphy was given a screen test and cast as a juvenile delinquent in Bad Boy (1949). Murphy found his acting niche in western films with his portrayal as Billy the Kid in The Kid from Texas (1950).
Murphy acted in a variety of films in the 1950s and 1960s including John Huston’s The Red Badge of Courage (1951) and the film version of his autobiography, To Hell and Back (1955). Most of his 45 films during those years, however, were westerns.
Murphy had a penchant for high living that often got him into trouble. Nightmares and other symptoms of what is now called post-traumatic stress disorder also plagued him. He died in a plane crash in 1971 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, remembered more for his service as a soldier than his career as an actor.
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