What Great War Hero Are You?
What famous war hero are you most like? Here is a list of great war heroes and their stories.
BY: Rob Kerby
Audie Murphy of Texas
The most decorated soldier in World War II was Audie Murphy with 1 Belgian medal, five French and 33 U.S. medals earned in 27 months of combat. After the war, Murphy went on to star in 44 movies. After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, 17-year-old Murphy tried to enlist in the military, but was too young. Upon turning 18, he was declined by the Marines, Navy and the Army paratroopers as too short and underweight at 5 feet 5 and 110 pounds. The U.S. Army finally accepted him, but at boot camp while learning how to march, he passed out. His company commander tried to have him transferred to a cook and bakers' school but Murphy insisted on becoming a combat soldier.
In 1943 he was shipped out to Africa and he took part in the invasion of Sicily on July 10, 1943. Shortly after arriving, Murphy was promoted to corporal after killing two escaping prisoners of war. On the Italian mainland, while leading a night patrol, Murphy and his men fought their way out of a German ambush, killed a squad of Nazi soldiers in and brought in several prisoners.
In France, Murphy's best friend, Lattie Tipton, was killed by a German machine gunner who feigned surrender. Murphy went into a rage and single-handedly wiped out the German machine gun crew, then used the German machine gun and grenades to destroy several other nearby enemy positions. During seven weeks of fighting in that campaign in France, Murphy's division suffered 4,500 casualties. He received two Silver Stars for heroic actions and was awarded a battlefield commission to second lieutenant, which elevated him to platoon leader, then company commander.
On January 26, Murphy's 128-man unit was reduced to 19. Murphy sent all of the survivors to the rear while he held off 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 one full squad of German infantry. 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 and only stopped fighting when his telephone line to the artillery fire direction center was cut by enemy artillery. He then organized a counter-attack which drove the enemy from Holtzwihr. 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." He received every U.S. decoration for valor available to Army ground personnel at the time. He earned the Silver Star twice in three days, two Bronze Star Medals, three Purple Hearts, the Distinguished Service Cross, and the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Sgt. Alvin York of Tennessee
“Alvin York was born in 1887 into a Tennessee farming family that didn't have much, but nobody else did, so it wasn't so bad,” writes author Peggy Noonan. “He was the third of 11 children and had an average life for that time and place. Then World War I came. He experienced a crisis of conscience over whether to fight. His mother's Evangelical church tugged him toward more or less pacifist thinking, but he got a draft notice in 1917, joined the Army, went overseas, read and reread his Bible, and concluded that warfare was sometimes justified.”
During the battle of the Argonne in October 1918, the allies were attempting to break German lines when York and his men came upon well-hidden machine guns on high ground. As he later put it, "The Germans got us, and they got us right smart . . . and I'm telling you they were shooting straight." American soldiers "just went down like the long grass before the mowing machine at home."
York and his men flanked the Germans, overran a unit, and captured the enemy. Suddenly he came under fire from a different machine gun on a nearby ridge and six Americans around him were killed. York, the Tennessee farmboy who had grown up hunting dinner for his family, remained cool and began to shoot. "All I could do was touch the Germans off just as fast as I could. I was sharp shooting. All the time I kept yelling at them to come down. I didn't want to kill any more than I had to." The Germans surrendered and York marched 132 German prisoners back to the American lines.
His Congressional Medal of Honor citation called him fearless, daring and heroic.
“Warriors are funny people,” writes Noonan. “They're often naturally peaceable and often do great good when they return. York went home to Tennessee, married, founded an agricultural institute (it's still operating as an award-winning public high school) and a Bible school. They made a movie about him in 1941, the great Howard Hawks film "Sergeant York." If you are in Manhattan, walk down York Avenue on the Upper East Side. It was named for him. He died in Nashville in 1964 at 77.