Audie Murphy: War Hero and Movie Star by Judy Alter. Illustrated by Patrick Messersmith.
Audie Murphy was the most decorated solider in WWII and in American history. He received every decoration for valor that this country had to offer (some more than once) including the Congressional Medal of Honor given for "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty." Belgium and France recognized his heroism and awarded him 5 additional medals.
Audie’s story is a rags-to-riches tale with heroism, PTSD, a Hollywood film career, and tragically short life ending in a plane crash. The Fort Benning Infantry museum featured several displays with Audie Murphy and inspired me to ask questions about this hero. Why doesn’t my generation know much about Medal of Honor winners and heroes of WWII? Do we risk forgetting the amazing accomplishments of these heroes? Why aren’t there biographies and history books for elementary students on war heroes?
Audie Murphy was an imperfect man whose greatest claim to fame resulted from his killing such a large number of "the enemy." (See interview with author Judy Alter) In a pacifistic society where we gloss over how someone achieves heroism in war, how can we present a biography for fourth graders? In a time of war how can we honor our current soldiers by respecting the past? Should we be keeping the stories of war heroes alive with each new generation? I say, yes.
I realize in our efforts to teach skills and pass tests, we have lost a sense of our history, the people, and the stories that formed our historical values. How can we be "proud to be an American" as the song goes, when we don’t share the stories of our past and what has been overcome with the next generation?
Judy Alter’s biography was written as part of a series to aid fourth grade students who need information about historical Texans. There are free workbooks available at www.mcwhiney.org/press, also. While there are many books out about Sam Houston, Davy Crockett, and Stephen Austin, in Texas students are required to learn about many other characters. This is a problem in many states where the curriculum dictates study and there are no age appropriate resources. I’m taking note how Texas solved this problem and wondering what other states have local printers creating materials that could be shared around the country. If you know of any, please share with all of us.
In the book Audie Murphy: War Hero and Movie Star, Judy Alter notes there are few books that deal with Audie Murphy’s life. His autobiography and film To Hell and Back is too violent and adult for students. Don Graham’s 573 page book No Name on the Bullet (1989) just won’t do for my clientele. Fortunately there are a couple websites out there with information:
There is an Audie Murphy website established to ensure he is not forgotten.
The JROTC program has a biography on Audie Murphy.
Warfoto.com’s memoirs by Sgt. William Heller detail the 3rd ID and Audie Murphy.
The Official Congressional Medal of Honor site has detailed information about all recipients.
A flash show with photos of Audie Murphy can be found on oldBlueJacket.com