A man carrying a single machine gun stalled a German attack 77 years ago against six tanks while his leg was wounded

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Audie Murphy was too short to join the United States Marines, and the paratroopers rejected him. Determined, he signed up for the infantry, becoming one of World War II's most decorated heroes. A true farmboy, Murphy became an American Legend. [i]

Murphy was raised on a sharecropper's farm and helped raise his 11 brothers and sisters. He dropped out of school in the fifth grade. A year after his mother died when he was 16, Murphy falsified his birth certificate to appear 18, one year older than he was. He then enlisted in the Army in 1942. [ii]

After several years of enlistment, on Jan. 26, 1945, 2nd Lieutenant Murphy commanded a company near the French village of Holtzwihr. Six German tanks, accompanied by several hundred infantrymen, began to attack Murphy's company. Murphy immediately vaulted into action, ordering that his men "fall back to defensive positions in nearby woods." [iii]

The Audie Leon Murphy Hunt County War Memorial.Photo byMichael Barera/Wikimedia Commons

Murphy covered the men's withdrawal and,

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. [iv]

Although Murphy was exposed atop the burning tank destroyer, he took out more than 20 German soldiers, successfully repelling their attack. Murphy held on for over an hour, despite becoming wounded in the leg. His company would follow with a counterattack. [v]

"A" Company, 612th Tank Destroyer Batallion, carrying troops of the 2nd Infantry Division, 9th Infantry Regiment during WWII.Photo byUS Army Photo/Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

A tank destroyer is an exceptionally mobile, lightly armored vehicle used to fight tanks during World War II. They are similar to tanks and are known to have pretty thin rear and side armor. Additionally, the tank destroyer's gun was "mounted in an open turret," or tower. As a result, they were lighter, faster, and much simpler to manufacture. Consequently, this also made them more vulnerable to enemy fire. [vi]

Watch the video below for more on the tank destroyer.

Murphy was awarded the Medal of Honor on Apr. 23, 2945. Murphy had previously received the Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Star medals, and two Bronze Star medals. Following the war, Murphy became a creative country music songwriter and actor. He starred in 44 feature films, passing away on May 28, 1971, after a plane crash. [vii]

The Medal of Honor is "our nation's highest recognition of valor in combat. The prestigious honor commemorates those who were willing to risk their lives to protect and serve our country and the ideals we hold most dear." [viii]

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[i] Arlington National Cemetery, Audie Murphy Section 46, Grave 366-11 (2022)

[ii] Id.

[iii] The National WWII Museum New Orleans, Audie Murphy Single-handedly Stopped a German Attack (Jan. 26, 2020)

[iv] Id.

[v] Id.

[vi] Britannica, tank destroyer (May 5, 2010)

[vii] The National WWII Museum New Orleans, Audie Murphy Single-handedly Stopped a German Attack (Jan. 26, 2020)

[viii] National Medal of Honor Museum, The Medal of Honor (2022)

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