A remarkable Veterans Day Night Living History Event with Duffy Hudson performing as Audie Murphy, America’s most decorated military hero, will be presented in the beautiful, historic South Pasadena Public Library Community Room on Friday, November 11 at 7 p.m. The free, virtuoso play entitled “To Hell and Back” is presented by the South Pasadena Public Library, the Friends of the South Pasadena Public Library, and the Living History Centre Fund. Special thanks to 210eastsound!
Audie Leon Murphy, the seventh of twelve children, was born into a sharecropper family in a cotton field. Until he went into the Army, most of Murphy’s time was spent doing chores and laboring on the land. As a boy Audie loved to read and to listen to his uncles recount their World War I experiences. In 1939, at the age of 15, Murphy dropped out of school and left home to find work that would help the family. Soon afterwards his father walked out on the family. This took a heavy toll on Murphy’s mother and in May 1941 she died suddenly. Audie was devastated and bitterly resented his father. As he reflected on his own life, he realized he was going down the same path. Audie’s poverty and lack of education meant his life was also probably headed for a dead end.
Then a war got Murphy out of Texas. Shortly after Audie’s mother died, he entered World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Like so many other eager young men, 17 year-old Audie tried to enlist in the military. But at 5’5” tall and 112 lbs., the baby-faced teenager was rejected both by the Marines and the Army. He tried again after he turned 18 and the Army inducted him and sent him to boot camp for combat training. He excelled at marksmanship and developed in to a disciplined soldier.
In January, 1943 Murphy was shipped out to North Africa where he quickly discovered that war was not glamorous. Staying alive became his top priority as he and his battalion headed to Sicily. Their first enemy encounters were with Italian troops who were easy to subdue, but then they came face-to-face with the German troops who were much tougher and better trained. 19 year-old Murphy distinguished himself when he stepped up to lead his troop after their commander was wounded. Audie was promoted to platoon leader and he earned his first medal, the Bronze Star, for singlehandedly knocking out a German tank. He then was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge and the 1st Oak Leaf Cluster which recognized his exemplary actions in ground combat.
The 3rd Division’s next assignment was to land on the coast of southern France to start driving north. Murphy encountered a hill dotted with German machine gun nests that were protecting a big machine gun aimed at the coast. He headed up the hill, methodically destroying the nests along the way. His best friend in the unit suddenly appeared alongside him and insisted on staying with him. Then, as Murphy and his buddy engaged enemy troops in a gun battle, the Germans indicated they were ready to surrender. Murphy was suspicious, but his friend stood up, only to be immediately gunned down. In a furious burst, Murphy killed all the Germans and rampaged up the hill, securing the nest for the Allies. For his actions he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, second highest Army medal for valor.
From then on, Murphy craved action, volunteering for one dangerous assignment after another. He was especially adept at stalking and killing snipers. On September 14, 1944 he was wounded for the first time, but back on the front lines in a few day. Later that fall, he was awarded two Silver Stars, including one for saving his commanding officer. He was wounded a second time on October 26, 1944 when a sniper shot ricocheted off a tree and hit him. He was hospitalized for two months with a gangrenous wound, but was back on the front lines in January for combat during the coldest and snowiest winter Europe had seen in decades. By then Murphy’s courage under fire had earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for bravery. Murphy was ultimately awarded a total of 37 war medals.
Murphy returned to the U.S, after the war, a larger-than-life hero who marched in victory parades and who was pictured was on the covers of news magazines. He soon embarked on a Hollywood acting career that produced 20 years of low-budget westerns and war movies. By this time, Murphy’s personal life was a mess and he had recurring nightmares and slept with a gun under his pillow. He began gambling and his involvement in sketchy business schemes left him bankrupt. In 1971 Murphy died in a plane crash.
Actor, director, writer, teacher, and filmmaker Duffy Hudson has already portrayed Audie Murphy many times around the Southwest, including for Audie Murphy Day in Kingston, Texas. He has just returned to his hometown of Los Angeles after a 5-week national tour. Duffy has also performed on Broadway and directed more than 300 theatrical pieces. Thee chameleon-like Hudson has previously appeared at the South Pasadena Library as Edgar Allan Poe, George Burns, Albert Einstein, Harry Houdini, and in a one-man Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol” in which he played every part. After each performance he has been accorded a rousing standing ovation.
The Library Community Room is located at 1115 El Centro Street. No tickets or reservations are needed and refreshments will be served. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and the rest of the Library will be closed on November 11 for the Veterans Day holiday. Special thanks to 210eastsound!
Free parking is available after 6:00 p.m. and on weekends at the Mission-Meridian Parking Garage located at 805 Meridian Avenue, adjacent to the Metro Gold Line Station.