|Purple Heart With|
2 Oak Leaf Clusters
Medal and Ribbon Set
Audie Murphy as a Staff Sergeant earned his first Purple Heart during the Vosges campaign in France on September 15, 1944. The 15th Infantry Regiment was on the 3rd Infantry Division's left flank. The 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment and its B Company were in the vicinity of the town Genevreuville. Murphy and his platoon were located in the rear area of the Company B's sector as the company advanced toward Genevreuville.
Sergeant Murphy decided to go back to the Battalion Headquarters area to update their situation. As he travelled toward the rear, he encountered a group of new soldiers who were nervously moving forward under the lead of another sergeant.
Sergeant Murphy decided to talk to the replacements. As he did, an enemy mortar round impacted and exploded directly between Murphy's feet. Murphy was knocked unconscious with the heel of one boot torn off and the stock of his M1 Carbine broken.
Sergeant Murphy also received a laceration on one of his feet requiring several stitches. Unfortunately two of the other soldiers were killed and three were badly wounded. Murphy probably survived because of the physics characterizing exploding mortar rounds.
Exploding mortars throw shrapnel and force outward and upward in a cone shape with the point of the cone at the place of impact. Because the impact was directly between Murphy's feet, the shrapnel was at its lowest point as it began spreading outward beyond him. By the time the shrapnel reached the other soldiers, it had elevated to a much more lethal height (Simpson, page 128).
Audie Murphy earned his second Purple Heart on October 26, 1944 while Company B fought its way through the Montagne Forest as it approached the Muerthe River near St. Die, France. Less than two weeks earlier, he had been promoted to 2nd Lieutenant when he received a battlefield commission on October 14, 1944.
After spending a night in a foxhole in a part of the forest that was bombarded with German artillery, Lieutenant Murphy and his platoon moved out at daybreak behind a rolling barrage of friendly artillery.
Unfortunately, camoflauged German snipers were hiding throughout the forest. Shortly after Murphy and his men moved out, a rifle shot was heard and Murphy's radio operator, who was directly behind him, was shot above his left eye.
As Lieutenant Murphy jumped for cover behind a tree, a second sniper shot bounced off the tree trunk and ricocheted through Murphy's right hip exiting through his buttock. Murphy partially spun around as he fell to the ground. As he did his helmet fell off and rolled a short distance away when he struck the forest floor.
The sniper then made a fatal error as he pushed his camoflauge to the side, probably to get a better view of the wounded Lieutenant Murphy. Despite his wound Murphy spotted the German.
The sniper aimed at Murphy's unoccupied helmet, which was probably partially concealed in brush or foliage, and fired a third shot into it. Murphy then raised and pointed his carbine as if it were a "pistol" and shot his adversary "between the eyes".
Lieutenant Murphy was then evacuated to a nearby aid station but was forced to wait several days before he could be transported to the 3rd Infantry Division's hospital which was farther away. Because of the delay, Murphy developed gangrene and was forced to recuperate for several months while "several pounds of dead flesh" were eventually carved away from his wounded buttock. Murphy was released from the hospital on December 28, 1944. After several weeks of convalescent leave, he rejoined his unit on January 14, 1945 (Simpson, page 137).
The third and final Purple Heart was earned by Audie Murphy on 25 January 1945 in the Riedwihr Woods near the town of Holtzwihr, France. The wound was received the day before he was to earn the Medal of Honor.
On that day, the woods erupted with small arms and machine gun fire supported by mortars and German tank fire as the enemy made a push to retake lost ground that had been seized by the 3rd Infantry Division.
Murphy witnessed two other lieutenants who had received battlefield commissions with him several months earlier get killed by an exploding mortar round during a heavy barrage.
In the same barrage a mortar blew up near Lieutenant Murphy throwing him to the ground. The shrapnel, which normally consists of large jagged pieces of razor sharp metal, splintered into fine slivers and only superficially wounded Murphy in the left leg. Murphy examined his bloodied leg through torn trousers and applied first aid to the bleeding leg. He extracted as as many splinters as possible and then continued on with his mission.
The same wound was aggravated a day later during Murphy's famous Medal of Honor action. Many people still incorrectly assume that the wound was received on top of the burning tank destroyer when in fact it had been received the day before
(Simpson, page 153).