Ed Kantz of Punta Gorda, Fla. served in the 15th Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division of Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army during World War II. He also soldiered through Italy, France and Germany with Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier in World War II.
“He wasn’t very big and he looked like a sissy,” the former private 1st class recalled 60 years later. “Audie was in the 15th Regiment with me. I can’t remember what company.”
Kantz recalled their regiment was going along a forest road in Alsace-Lorraine, France. A German sniper was holding up the unit’s advance at a bend in the road.
“Without being asked, Murphy said, ‘I’ll go get him.’ A few minutes later you could hear a German Mouser being fired. Then you heard Murphy’s M-1 rifle go off. He got ’em. We moved on up the road.”
Kantz continued, “A few days later I was carrying a radio for my lieutenant. We watched Murphy maneuver his platoon around some Germans who were holding us up again.”
By the time the war was over, Murphy had received 33 commendations for valor, including the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award for bravery.
His Medal of Honor citation reads: “2nd Lt. Murphy commanded Company B, which was attacked by six tanks and waves of infantry. He ordered his men to withdraw to prepared positions in a woods, while he remained forward at his command post and continued to give fire directions to the artillery by phone.
“Behind him, to his right, one of our tank destroyers received a direct hit and began to burn. Its crew withdrew to the woods. 2nd Lt. Murphy continued to direct artillery fire, which killed large numbers of the advancing enemy infantry.
“With the enemy tanks abreast of his position, 2nd Lt. Murphy climbed on the burning tank destroyer, which was in danger of blowing up at any moment, and employed its .50-caliber machine gun against the enemy.
“He was alone and exposed to German fire from three sides, but his deadly fire killed dozens of Germans and caused their infantry attack to waiver. The enemy tanks, losing infantry support, began to fall back.
“For an hour the Germans tried every available weapon to eliminate 2nd Lt. Murphy, but he continued to hold his position and wiped out a squad which was trying to creep up unnoticed on his right flank. Germans reached as close as 10 yards, only to be mowed down by his fire. He received a leg wound, but ignored it and continued the single-handed fight until his ammunition was exhausted.
“He then made his way to his company, refused medical attention, and organized the company in a counterattack which forced the Germans to withdraw.
“His directing of artillery fire wiped out many of the enemy; he killed or wounded about 50. 2nd Lt. Murphy’s indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground saved his company from possible encirclement and destruction, and enabled it to hold the woods which had been the enemy’s objective.”
After the war, actor Jimmy Cagney brought Murphy to Hollywood. He had parts in 44 B movies. A book on the war hero called “To Hell and Back” became a movie in 1955. Murphy played the lead role. For a decade, it was Universal-International’s top-grossing flick until “Jaws.”
Murphy was killed in a private plane crash on Memorial Day weekend 1971 when the airplane with six on board hit a mountain side in the fog near Roanoke, Va. He was 46.
Murphy is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. His grave is the second most visited grave site in the cemetery, second only to President John F. Kennedy’s, according to information on the Internet.
Audie Murphy was the most decorated American soldier ever. Here are his commendations:
* Medal of Honor
* Distinguished Service Cross
* Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster
* Bronze Star with “V” and Oak Leaf Cluster
* Purple Heart with two Oak Leaf Clusters
* U.S. Army Outstanding Civilian Service Medal
* Good Conduct Medal
* Distinguished Unit Emblem
* American Campaign Medal
* European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one Silver Start, Four Bronze Service Stars (representing nine campaigns) and one Bronze Arrowhead (representing assault landings at Sicily and Southern France)
* Army of Occupation with German Clasp
* Armed Forces Reserve Medal
* Combat Infantryman Badge
* Marksman Badge with Rifle Bar
* French Fourragere
* French Legion of Honor, Grade of Chevalier
* French Croix de Guerre with Silver Star
* French Croix de Guerre with Palm
* Medal of Liberated France
This story first appeared in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Thursday, July 11, 2002. It is republished with permission.