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Texas Matters: Audie Murphy - War Hero, Movie Star, PTSD Sufferer

Audie Murphy starred as himself in the 1955 film "To Hell and Back," which was based on his autobiography.

Audie Murphy the icon wasn't born on the big screen, but on the battlefields of Europe. Murphy, as a diminutive boy of 17, lied about his age to join the Army—the only branch that would take him—and went on to become the most distinguished and decorated warrior of World War II. Pretty good for a poor Texas boy, who was the son of sharecroppers.

It was in San Antonio that the young man would discover his fame, reportedly gobsmacked at the idea that thousands of people knew his name. He was personally cheered in a downtown parade honoring the returning troops. His wartime accomplishments had been chronicled in newspapers and magazines across the country. 

Murphy would go on to Hollywood to become a fairly successful actor after the war, but his notoriety excluded his nagging dark impulses.

Murphy was one of the first soldiers to talk openly about what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. He suffered from night terrors, slept with a gun under his pillow and self-medicated with sleeping pills, to which he would become addicted. 

Why did popular culture forget Audie Murphy?

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi