|Bronze Star With V Device|
and Oak Leaf Cluster
On March 2, 1944 Staff Sergeant Audie Murphy earned his first medal of valor, the Bronze Star. The "V" device designated that the award was earned for "participation in (an act) of heroism involving conflict with an armed enemy" (Army Regulation 600-8-2, paragraph 6-5). The V-device distinguished the award from other Bronze Stars earned for service in combat not necessarilly characterized by individual acts of valor.
The event that led to the first award of the Bronze Star was the destruction of an enemy tank during action near Anzio, Italy. At the time, Murphy was a platoon sergeant. He and his men occupied a partially destroyed farmhouse built on slightly elevated terrain which overlooked the surrounding soft, muddy farmland.
From the vantage point of the farmhouse, anyone who occupied it not only had a small degree of protection, they also were able to observe a key road. The road was strategic because it offered the only reliable avenue of approach for armor and other heavy equipment given the constant rain and the impassable condition of surounding fields.
On the morning of March 2, Murphy observed a column of approximately 20 German tanks moving down the road. The tanks were apparently probing for weaknesses in the American defenses. Murphy and his men had mined the road the night before.
Not waiting to see if the mines would destroy the German tank column, Murphy used an Army landline an telephoned for indirect fire support from a nearby artillery unit.
When the initial set of rounds impacted short of the moving targets, Murphy observed the distance and direction between the explosions and then adjusted the second barrage by giving the corrections to the artillery unit.
The second set of explosions were on target and the lead German tank was disabled blocking the road. Its crew fled the tank. Staff Sergeant Murphy shot one crewman dead but decided not to reveal his position with more gun fire.
Unable to move off the road and go around the damaged tank, the other tanks reversed their direction and retreated. Later, the battalion commander gave Staff Sergeant Murphy and his men the mission of destroying the tank before a returning German crew could clear the road by repairing or moving the tank.
At night, Staff Sergeant Murphy with a few hand-picked soldiers armed with rifles, grenades, Molotov cocktails, and a grenade launcher carefully approached the damaged tank. When the soldiers were about 200 yards away, Murphy ordered the men to stay in place. Murphy then low-crawled along a muddy ditch until he was about 15 to 20 yards from the tank. The tank was easy to spot because of a crew-light that radiated out of an open hatch. The light had earlier been left on when the German tank crew abandoned the vehicle during the morning battle.
Sergeant Murphy threw two Molotov cocktails. Both failed to ignite. Murphy then moved closer to the tank and probably climbed on top of it because he threw a grenade into its open hatch. When the grenade exploded, it failed to kill the light inside. Nearby, alerted Germans were heard as they began to talk and move around.
Quickly Murphy fired six grenades from his grenade launcher and managed to destroy both tank treads. As he did, Germans open up with heavy rifle fire marked with tracers. Murphy retreated as quickly as he could back by "sprinting" down the muddy ditch.
The second Bronze Star (the first oak leaf cluster) was awarded by Special Orders, number 39, dated May 8, 1944. According to Simpson's biography, the second award was not earned for any specific act of valor but probably was to recognize the many patrols and actions that Murphy organized, led, and partcipated in while engaged in combat at Anzio. These same orders also authorized Audie Murphy the Combat Infantry Badge which, for reasons unknown, should have been awarded much earlier (Simpson, page 102). These special orders were later replaced and updated with another set of orders issued by letter December 11, 1954, while Murphy was a captain in the Texas National Guard.