FOR IT’S HI! HI! HEY! – AUDIE’S ON HIS WAY
By Vicki Ellis Griffis
Six months, 23 days after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, June 30, 1942, Audie Murphy finally passed a physical. In his first letter home to his sister and brother-in-law, Corrine and Poland Burns, July 14, 1942, he wrote, “I saw Robert Cawthon in Dallas when I was taking my physical. Came through with flying colors, eyes checked 20-20, ears and teeth 100 percent. (Body . . . oh, wouldn’t you like to know!)”
As per Col. Harold B Simpson’s account, Audie took an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic . . .” and was formally inducted into the U S Army in Dallas’ Federal Building on Commerce Street. He was assigned serial number 18083707.
He then boarded a bus to Camp Wolters, Texas, four miles east of Mineral Wells, for basic training.
During the first close-order drill, Murphy fainted. Come to find out, he had a 100º temperature, a result of the immunizations he had received earlier in the day.
A fellow recruit, Corlis Rowe, wrote in his autobiography, “Audie looked no bigger than a guinea hen and was skinny and pale, like he suffered from malnutrition.”
Audie told a West Coast correspondent that although he wore a size 8 shoe, he was issued a size 10-1/2 at Camp Wolters, and that the shoes were so big that “I could do an about-face and take two steps without moving off the ground.”
In his book, “To Hell and Back,” Audie tells it like this, “I had not reckoned with realistic army training. During my first session of close-order drill, I, the last candidate for the marines and the paratroops, passed out cold. I quickly picked up the nickname of Baby. My commanding officer tried to shove me into a cook and baker’s school, where the going would be less rough. That was the supreme humiliation. To reach for the stars and end up stirring a pot of C-rations, I would not do it. I swore that I would take the guardhouse first. My stubborn attitude paid off. I was allowed to keep my combat classification; and the army was spared the disaster of having another fourth-class cook in its ranks.”
Audie wrote his sister, Corrine, July 14, 1942,
“I learned yesterday I am getting to stay here at Camp Wolters for my basic training which will be about thirteen weeks. Sure do thank you for the loan, Poland. I couldn’t have gotten along without it, as I will not get any pay until first of August. . . .” Audie kidded, “Poland can have my underwear if it isn’t too big for him.” He continued, “When I first got here, I went to get a hair-cut and the barber asked me if I wanted to save my sideburns. I said, ‘Yes.’ He said, “Okay, you better catch them.” (the smart aleck) I like the army fine so far, they let you sleep till 5:30. On the farm I had to get up at 4.”
He ended the letter wondering whether he should increase a life insurance policy the army offered. “I have five thousand dollars’ worth of insurance. You and Poland talk it over and see whether you think I should have more took out later on or not. I don’t think there is any use of it tho, because I don’t intend to get killed anyway, and it costs pretty high.”
Thankfully, he didn’t have to use the insurance, but it was through no fault of his own . . . .
To be continued . . . This is the eighth in a series on Audie Leon Murphy, born in Kingston, Texas, reared in Celeste, who grew up to become the most decorated soldier of World War II.
Photo used with permission Audie Murphy Research Foundation
Used with permission and courtesy of the author.