Shotguns, lever action rifles, pistols, even a Derringer crossed the silver screen in the hands of Audie L. Murphy, war hero and actor. But the guns that truly made him famous had to be those that kept him alive in WWII.
The three most well known small arms he used then were the Thompson Submachine Gun, the M1 Garand, and the .30 caliber M1 carbine. There were a couple of others, of course, that he used to actually wipe out enemy machine gun nests and hordes of advancing German infantrymen.
After emptying his Thompson on an enemy machine gun nest, the 120-lb hero grabbed the German’s own machine gun and used it to clear out two more positions. Then there was the well-known stand atop a burning tank destroyer, where Murphy used a 50-caliber machine gun to hold off advancing troops, killing and wounding many.
In interviews and videos, Murphy refers to, “my Thompson,” which he carried on many assignments. He also referred fondly to the M1 Garand and its far reaching knockdown capabilities in battle. But his favorite firearm turned out to be the petite .30 caliber M1 carbine.
In one of his own writings, he mentions having requested “a carbine” but had not, at the time, been assigned one. So God, or rather, “the fates,” for you atheists out there, provided one for him.
Murphy came across an M1 carbine lying broken on a battlefield. Inspecting it, he realized it was repairable and after procuring a wire, put it into use. Good use, it turns out, as he was reported to have stopped snipers and several enemy soldiers with it during combat.
Murphy referred to his M1 as his, “wounded carbine.” On October 25, 1944, he was wounded seriously enough that he believed he would be sent home. He gave his “wounded carbine” to a sergeant friend, hoping it would bring him luck.
It did not bring the man luck, as the sergeant’s platoon was wiped out the following day. It is believed that Murphy’s carbine was retrieved from the battlefield, repaired, and placed in a storage depot where it remained many years.
Then, during a 1967 interview, Murphy mentioned the carbine’s serial number. Having memorized the number hints at the soldier’s connection with the firearm. At this point, serendipity raised its amazing head.
An employee at the Center of Military History Clearinghouse, intrigued, conducted a database search on the serial number and got a hit. Low and behold, Audie Murphy’s rifle lay resting among endless numbers of war memories.
Today, the “wounded carbine” complements the hero’s uniform, medals, and other memorabilia in the 3rd Army Division museum at Fort Stewart, Georgia.
I recently acquired a .30 caliber M1, albeit an updated version. In my hands, it is just another hunting and sport rifle. But as I look upon it, I am reminded of the gray-haired men who gently go about life mowing their lawns and raking leaves.
The terrible, violent times of war are behind them. Like the little M1, they went to far parts of the earth and performed well. They came home, some wounded, some not. Many never came home.
It reminds me to say, “Thank you, veterans, one and all, for your service. Thank you.