Tonight’s weekend reading review…as always, because Pastors also need a mental break.
David Smith. The Price of Valor. Washington DC: Regnery History, January 1st, 2015. 258 pp.
I enjoyed this biography on Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier of World War Two. It is about time I finally know more about him! I was wondering whether to start with Audie’s autobiography or this biography told in a third person perspective but in the end I thought it was better to start with this work by David Smith. I don’t regret it—that’s because I enjoyed it very much.
The book explores Audie Murphy’s childhood, something which Audie Murphy himself prefer not to talk about or share in details both in person and his own autobiography. Murphy came from a humble Texas background growing up in America during the Great Depression. Unlike Murphy’s autobiography this biography by Smith reveals a darker side to Murphy’s childhood of how his father was a drunkard and disappeared later in Audie’s older years of his childhood. I thought it was insightful of Audie’s character of how early one he worked very hard to provide for himself and his family. For modern readers the portion of the book was also a window into the America’s Greatest Generation growing up and coming of age.
Of course the most exciting part of the book was the part of Audie Murphy’s time in the Army. I didn’t realize how short and boyish Audie Murphy was (I once had an Irish pastor tell me Audie Murphy was my height and how small he was but never followed up with a fact check that he was correct). As the biographer noted, in the beginning this was a liability against Murphy as the higher ups kept on thinking he was not combat infantryman material. Murphy had to fight several times from being moved back to the rear with other duties ranging from being a runner to other details. Murphy was in the Army to be in the fight! Even the story of how Murphy tried to join was fascinating; as the book made clear there was throughout his life a discrepancy with what his age was when he joined but as the author was able to piece together Audie Murphy enlisted by falsifying his birth record. I must confess that I was quite ignorant about Audie Murphy before this book and I didn’t know what campaigns he participated in other than the fact that he fought in the European theatre against Germans. I learned from this book that Audie participated in the North African campaign although at that time his unit was not involved with heavy combat and Murphy and his men kept on yearning for combat. It was at Italy that Murphy’s unit engaged their enemy and here was where Murphy first distinguished himself. The stories of Murphy’s combat was truly courageous and heroic, and I don’t want to ruin it–read the book!
I also appreciated the latter part of the book focusing on Murphy’s homecoming especially with the surprised and awkwardness of suddenly having so much attention upon him and becoming overnight a media sensation. Murphy’s many social and community commitments during his homecoming was astounding and certainly must have strained him in ways that people probably didn’t understand back then. I thought the book was also insightful with Murphy’s post combat trauma, something that wasn’t as prevalently talked about at that time. Audie Murphy would always sleep with a gun and the book has an account of how one of his associate spent the night with him in the same room became frightened for his life to hear Murphy’s screaming and yelling during the night. The guy was so frightened he never stayed in the same room with Murphy again. There’s also the story of Murphy having his knuckles all bloodied from his nightmares of combat. The book discusses how Murphy entered into Hollywood and his acting career going up and down and eventually waning because of cultural shift that society was going through in the 1960s.
The book was insightful and enjoyable to read. Again I recommend it. Audie Murphy was a hero both in combat and how he transitioned back to civilian life after seeing things that most people wouldn’t ever want to see. This book is honest with Murphy’s rather rough moments being a civilian including his failed marriage and gambling. Nevertheless you see him for who he was.