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 Post subject: Audie's Shooting Skills
PostPosted: Sat Jul 03, 2010 4:59 pm 
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While there is little doubt that Audie Murphy was an excellent shot, I can see how a question might come up, considering that he was only awarded the Marksman level of badge, which is the lowest qualification. The intermediate level is Sharpshooter, and the highest is Expert. It does seem a bit odd that he only qualified at the lowest level, considering he was shooting from a young age to put food on the table, and certainly displayed serious skills later in life.

In the 60s, when I went through Basic Training, most guys got either Expert or Sharpshooter – probably over half, as I recall. All I got was Marksman, myself.

However, the Army being what it is, sometimes the way they judge “skill” can be a bit inflexible and unrealistic, which I suspect was the case with Audie. It would be interesting if someone had asked him about this peculiar indicator of his shooting skills.

In my case, I was a fairly skilled shooter when I enlisted, having been raised in a small town in the middle of the woods, but there were certain “required positions” you had to shoot from as part of the rifle qualification. Being a weightlifter, I could not, physically, “sit on my heels” to shoot from what was called the Squatting Position -- my joints never have worked that way; the thigh and calf muscles were just too overdeveloped. The Army, always rather stuck on literal rules, had a solution. The drill sergeant pushed down on my shoulders as I was shooting in that position, though I was mostly shooting up in the air (or who knows where) during this extremely painful (for me) process – which of course got me a zero score for that particular part. The rest I did fine on, but only totaled enough for Marksman, overall. Once I got past Basic Training, the qualification rules were quite liberal, so I always shot Expert on the Carbine & other weapons.

I doubt whether this particular lack of joint limberness was Audie’s reason for scoring so poorly on the rifle range, but no doubt others fell victim to the Army’s occasionally silly interpretation of rules.

Also, most of us knew that what was called “pencil qualification” existed. Basically it was just fudging by the drill sergeants, who “qualified someone with their pencil.” Sometimes it was done when a recruit just kept missing the minimum Marksman score by one, so the sergeant faked the score rather than have to drag the kid back another day and do it over again. Sometimes it was done when a recruit was in the hospital or on Sick Call the day of the test, or doing some other duty. The NCO would just “qualify him on paper” (often with a minimum score), especially if he knew the kid could shoot, or if he knew the kid had enlisted for cook’s school or chaplain’s assistant, figuring his rifle skills were unlikely to be very important. Not a commendable approach, perhaps, but it did happen.

Generally, the Army’s rifle evaluation is a pretty good indicator of someone’s skill with the weapon, but obviously something went quite haywire when they tested Audie Murphy.


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 03, 2010 5:48 pm 
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Most Esteemed Researcher, Trustworthy Scholar, and Devote Audie Fan
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Joined: Fri Jul 14, 2006 11:17 pm
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Location: Texas
Welcome to the board MSgt White. We hope you will come back and post often. While I can't answer your question about Audie's Marksmanship medal, I'm sure someone will be able to help you. Our webmaster is in the process of updating the website, and there will be a section on Audie's medals.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for volunteering to serve in the armed forces of the USA. Our country is blessed to have patriots such as you, and as we're about to celebrate July 4th, I realize that it is our military that gives us the ability to do so. I am forever grateful. :)

_________________
Betty


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 03, 2010 6:45 pm 
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Welcome, MSgt White. We are looking forward to your posts. You have a clear insight into the experiences that brought our hero into WWII.

You have mentioned his low marksmanship score, and have proffered several sound reasons. They remind me of Murph's words to Thomas B. Morgan in 1967 which Morgan reported in Esquire Magazine in December 0f 1983:

Quote:
He fainted during his first attempt at close order drill under the summer sun at Camp Wolters, outside Mineral Wells, Texas. He had a series of bloody noses because he was too light to control the Army's standard bolt action .03 rifle. "It kept kicking me in the face," he said; "and 1 barely qualified with it"


We have a running discussion here about his age that summer. Most reports say that he was about 17 years old, 5' 6" and somewhere between 115 and 125 lbs. Murphy was used to hunting wit a .22 rifle, so his explanation seems very plausible, don't you think?

Ann

_________________
"He endured the shame of being sent home a living trophy to the blood and death of too many friends"
A Myth in Action: The Heroic Life of Audie Murphy
http://www.annjoiner.com


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 03, 2010 10:47 pm 
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Welcome to the board Sgt. White. I would like to say THANK YOU for your service to our Country and Happy 4th of July! I hope that you will post often especially with your expertise in the military conversation. I was just thinking about maybe Audie had also just been given his "vaccinations" or such and wasn't feeling too well on the days of testing. He commented that he'd never had any shots before. Also, as you said, it could have been in the way he was tested. I believe everyone agrees that Audie COULD shoot and hit his target and VERY WELL!

Thank you again for your service, stay safe and God Bless!

***Teri


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 05, 2010 1:25 pm 
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Thanks to all for your gracious welcome. I will try to drop in to the message board from time to time, but if any questions come up about uniforms, weapons, or general Army-type stuff where I might be of use, please feel free to contact me by email -- I assume the moderators or other members can do that. I was active duty from 1964 to 1985, a bit later than Audie, but in the Army things often change with the speed of a glacier.

My primary area of expertise in the Army was intelligence and operations, though my last long tour was in the Pentagon with the Chief of Staff of the Army, they guy that runs the whole store. That gave me a pretty wide look at how the whole thing works, and since I'm a bit of a military history buff, I've gotten a feel for some of the differences between the WW2 Army and the one I was in.

I think Audie's remarks about training with the old '03 Springfield certainly explain his difficulties in getting a high score at the rifle range. I trained with the M-14 (basically just an improved M-1 Garand), and that mule-like 30-caliber kick is quite a jolt if you're used to shooting a .22 rifle, particularly for someone with a light build. Having lifted weights for a few yrs before the Army, I at least had some extra padding to absorb that sharp kick to the shoulder. I often wondered why the Army used a hard steel buttplate on rifles instead of the soft rubber recoil pads most shooters stick on their deer rifles & competition guns. Now that the Army has gone to a rather ladylike 5.56mm caliber in its battle rifles, I suppose the point is now moot.

This all started yesterday when I got one of those forever-forwarded emails about Mrs Murphy's passing a short time ago. I had read a bit about Audie, and her supposed remark about his "adultery and desertion" certainly caught my eye ... which is when I started looking around on the Web and discovered this excellent website and forum. Shortly I am going to send the email back in the direction it came, with a rebuttal of those remarks (thanks to this Board!). With any luck, it'll at least spike the rumor a bit.

During my foray through the site and message boards, actually a couple of other questions came to mind, in addition to the marksmanship. Both I have finally answered myself, but shortly I'll try to post them here, to perhaps save someone else from having to do the research. If they puzzled an old sergeant, I'm sure someone else will wonder, too, eventually.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 05, 2010 5:51 pm 
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Joined: Mon Feb 19, 2007 10:15 pm
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Location: Sacramento, California 95815
Hello Msgt White,
Welcome aboard and thank you for your 21 years of military service to our country. Your service
date 64-85 coincides with vietnam war and you must be very close to my age. I just wanted to say
thank you for the insight regarding qualifying for marksmanship, or expert badge in the use of
military rifles. Us civilians would not have the knowledge regarding the military protocol for qualifying. When I was much younger, I was fortunate enough to have had a brother who enjoyed
hunting and was very much into firearms. As such he taught his "little sister" much about how to
fire not only a rifle but also a handgun, both revolver and automatic. He had a 270 Winchester with
a left hand bolt action and a range finders' scope. I loved that rifle, because of the left handed bolt
action and the scope. He also had a Remington I think 305 rifle. That had a kick that would knock
you on your rear. He would take me out to the range and let me fire his weapons. My shoulder would be sore for weeks on end and he had double padding on the stock butt to boot. Those days
long gone now as older brother passed away in 1995. Yes, please do pass back the article and
rebutt the slanderous accusation. In canonizing Pamela which she rightfully deserved, McCarthy
demonized Audie which was uncalled for. And in so doing he did the whole Murphy family a grave
injustice. But again that is just my opinion. Thanks again for your post, and visit often.
Shirley Jean.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 05, 2010 9:22 pm 
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Shirleyjean,

You're lucky to have had a brother that taught you about firearms. My wife has always maintained that every woman should learn to use firearms and should own at least a pistol. She was given an NRA Life Membership by her dad when she was 12 (when dinosaurs roamed the earth), along with a really fine competition rifle to learn with. By the time I met her 20 years ago, after I retired, she had a full gun cabinet, a concealed-carry permit and had been training gun dogs (retrievers) since the 60s. We built a little gun range on the farm, and she has taught hundreds of women (and even very young girls) to shoot. As she's fond of pointing out, Sam Colt made her any man's equal.

That Remington was probably a .308 -- a very popular rifle caliber that was the NATO standard for many years. The Springfield that Audie trained on was 30-06, very similar to the recoil of a .308, so you have an idea of what Audie faced back in '41 -- and without that nice recoil pad.

Since I hadn't fired high-power rifles before the Army, I knew nothing about recoil pads until about 20 yrs ago when a friend asked me to help him kill the turtles that were burrowing into his farm pond's dam and making it unsafe. I took a 12-gauge shotgun and a couple of boxes of shells, and after an hour or so -- maybe 40 shots -- I noticed my shoulder hurt. A lot. That black & blue mark stayed for a couple of weeks. So I bought a couple of recoil pads and life got much better.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 05, 2010 9:38 pm 
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Joined: Sat Mar 28, 2009 12:25 am
Posts: 428
Location: Texas
Boy....Shirleyjean and MSgt White: Y'all are both "way out of my league" on the firearms discussion. I can shoot a pistol and I have two .38 handguns, but that's about all I can tell you about my guns. I inherited some shotguns and a rifle from my daddy when he passed on, but I don't know what kind they are. In fact, I've never even fired the "long guns".

Very interesting to read y'alls comments on the different guns. Not that I understand it any better...but it's interesting! Thanks for posting!

***Teri


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 06, 2010 5:12 pm 
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Most Esteemed Researcher, Trustworthy Scholar, and Devote Audie Fan

Joined: Mon Feb 19, 2007 10:15 pm
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Location: Sacramento, California 95815
Msgt White, You are right it was a .308 not .305. The Remington had a different scope on it also.
And it was not left handed bolt action, and it felt bigger and heavier and more stocky in my hands.
I used to call it his "Elephant Gun". Boy I loved that 270, wished I had it now. Thanks for helping
me with my swiss cheese memory. Shirley Jean.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 06, 2010 9:24 pm 
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Joined: Sat Jul 03, 2010 2:31 pm
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Dave wrote:
... jammed M16's in combat ... You don't hear much of anything of the US Soldiers having jammed rifles in combat costing their lives( ?) in Vietnam.


Not my real area of expertise, but my understanding is that the early problems -- and there certainly were some -- were fixed by '67 - 68 after lots of bad publicity & Congressional hearings. Wikipedia has a fairly comprehensive history of the M-16 fielding, and the problems, under "M-16 Rifle." Long afterward I had occasion to talk to the R&D guys in the Pentagon about this, and the general consensus was that the thing was just too high-tech and experimental to have been properly fielded in the middle of a war. Some also thought that overall the early fielding probably saved more GI lives than they lost because of the increased firepower, but no question that some people paid the price.

Personally I never liked the M-16 and even though I have around 40 different firearms, I have no M-16/AR-15 models and no particular desire for one of them. I have three M-1 carbines, though. I like metal & wood rather than plastic, and the rather loose, sloppy action of the old WW2 carbine suits me fine. Nearly impossible to jam, like the AK-47, easy to pack around the farm, and light recoil.


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