forgottennewsmakers

Archive for the ‘People from Texas’ Category

AUDIE MURPHY (1924 – 1971) Most Decorated Soldier in World War II & Actor

In Actors, adventure, American History, Hollywood, People, People from Texas, Trivia, World War II on October 4, 2010 at 3:21 PM

Audie Murphy

When Audie Murphy was twelve, the dream of fighting in the Army was his only relief from the poverty and back-breaking work of his Texas sharecropper family.  He was one of nine children who all worked in the fields as soon as they were old enough to hold a hoe.  While he was tending the crops, Murphy fought many battles, and he was always victorious and unharmed.  Real life did not play itself out so easily.

When Murphy was a young boy, his father left with no explanation and never returned.  His mother died when he was sixteen.  The three youngest children were placed in an orphanage, and the rest were forced to fend for themselves.  Murphy worked in a gas station and radio repair shop, but he had a bad temper and got into fights often.  He preferred to be alone, and only in solitude could he connect with his dreams.

 NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR GOVERNMENT WORK   On December 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Murphy was 17 years old and more determined than ever to become a soldier.  The day he turned 18 he went to the Marine Corps recruiting station to offer his services.  He was rejected outright for being too skinny, which only added to his anger.  His second choice was the newly formed paratroopers.  They were a little more encouraging, telling him to come back after putting on weight.  His third option was the infantry, even though he thought they were too ordinary for his ambitions.   They accepted him as he was and shipped him off to boot camp.  During the first close-order drill, Murphy passed out and was immediately dubbed “Baby.”  To add insult to injury, he was transferred to cook and baker’s school.

Refusal to do anything else eventually got Murphy a place back in the rank and file. In 1943 he landed in Tunis, Tunisia and then went on to Italy.  Finally, his dream of being in combat was coming true.

In Sicily, Murphy was moving ahead of his company with the scouts.  Two Italians appeared, and instead of surrendering, they jumped on horses to escape.  Murphy instinctively fired two shots and killed the two enemy soldiers.  Murphy’s company commander made him a corporal.  During a march to Palermo, covering 25 miles per day, he contracted malaria and was in the field hospital for a week. 

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A SOLDIER    After many more battles, some additional training and two more bouts of malaria, Murphy landed in France.  His company was ordered to neutralize a hill that was an enemy strongpoint.  Murphy and two comrades were bringing up the rear with enemy fire surrounding them.  One of his partners died mid-sentence right next to Murphy, and the other one was killed when standing up to move.  Murphy dove into a ditch and came face to face with two German soldiers.  The split second it took for them to realize who they were looking at was enough of an advantage for Murphy to react, killing both of them. 

While he was making his retreat, Murphy exchanged fire with several Germans in various foxholes until his ammunition ran out.  He found some fellow soldiers pinned to the ground by German fire overhead.  Murphy dragged a discarded machine gun into a ditch and aimed uphill so the enemy had to expose themselves to shoot down to him.  By the time he was ready to shoot, however, bullets were landing within a foot of his body.  He let loose with fire in all directions trying to hit anything he could.  There were cries of agony, and Murphy walked uphill to reconnoiter the area.  He saw several dead Germans and one that he put out of his misery. 

When more gunfire attacked him, he emptied his weapon and waited.  One of his buddies, Brandon, arrived, and as both men started walking in the ditch, they were attacked at point blank range.  A bullet clipped off part of Brandon’s ear, but he was able to kill both attackers.  The two American soldiers dove into a hole already occupied by two Germans, and killed them.  Then Murphy and Brandon raised their helmets, inviting fire to reveal the enemy’s position.  They lobbed two hand grenades toward the sound of the blast, and then there was silence.  Brandon saw a white handkerchief waving and was convinced the Germans were giving up.  Murphy cautioned him against responding to the gesture, but Brandon stood up to capture the surrendering enemy.  In a barrage of bullets, Brandon fell back into the hole.  Murphy was trapped with two German soldiers under him and his best buddy on top.  With single-minded focus, he tried to move his friend, leading the way with a grenade.  He sneaked behind the remaining Germans and made sure they were permanently incapacitated.  Finally, there were no more enemy soldiers to confront.  After removing the personal effects from Brandon’s pockets, Murphy sat next to his friend and cried until he was spent before rejoining his company.

For his courage and commitment in many similar situations during three years of active combat, Murphy received 33 awards and decorations.  He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest military award given for bravery.  In an attack of six Panzer tanks and 250 infantrymen, Murphy mounted an abandoned, burning tank destroyer and used one machine gun to stave off the advancing enemy.  Even though he was wounded in the leg, Murphy stayed there for almost an hour, fighting off the attacking Germans on three sides and single-handedly killing 50 of them.  After rejoining his company, he organized a counterattack which forced the Germans to retreat.  In addition, he received five decorations from France and Belgium.  He is credited with killing, wounding or capturing over 250 enemy soldiers.  In 1945 Murphy was 21 years old when he resigned from active duty.  He had attained the rank of Second Lieutenant.

LIFE AFTER WAR    James Cagney saw Murphy’s photo on the cover of Life magazine and invited him to go to Hollywood.  Murphy admitted he had little talent, and he struggled to get parts, sleeping in a gymnasium until he got a break and finally a contract at Universal.  He found his niche in westerns and starred in The Red Badge of Courage directed by John Houston. 

In 1949 he published his autobiography, To Hell and Back, which proved to be a bestseller, and he starred in the film version of his story.  The movie set a box office record for Universal that was only surpassed by Jaws in 1975.  He made a total of 44 films.

Murphy’s heart was always in Texas, and he owned a ranch there as well as in California and Arizona.  He owned and bred Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses, winning and losing fortunes gambling on them, and playing poker.  He also discovered a talent for songwriting, and he wrote songs recorded by Dean Martin, Eddy Arnold and Roy Clark. 

In 1949 he married actress Wanda Hendrix, but the marriage only lasted a year.  In 1951 he married Pamela Archer, and they had two sons. 

LIVING WITH THE NIGHTMARES     Murphy’s combat experiences haunted him for the rest of his life.  He suffered from “battle fatigue,” now known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and slept with a loaded pistol under his pillow.  In order to cope with insomnia and depression he became addicted to sleeping pills.  To break the addiction, Murphy locked himself in a motel room for a week until he finished going through withdrawal.  He advocated on behalf of the soldiers returning from Korea and Vietnam for better health benefits and treatment for mental health issues. 

On May 28, 1971, Murphy, 46 years old, was a passenger in a private plane when it crashed into a fog covered mountain near Roanoke, Virginia.  He was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery. 

QUESTION:  How do you feel about war?  What ideals do you think are important enough to die for?

To see clips of Murphy in To Hell and Back go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFOMVKB9fiY&feature=related

To see his appearance on the game show “What’s My Line” go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RWQ5tESVzk

©2010 Debbie Foulkes All Rights Reserved

Sources:

Murphy, Audie, To Hell and Back. New York: Holt Rinehart, and Winston, 1949.

http://www.audiemurphy.com/biograph.htm

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001559/bio

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audie_Murphy

http://www.cmohs.org/recipient-detail/2907/murphy-audie-l.php

http://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/historical_information/audie_murphy.html

Advertisements

CYNTHIA ANN PARKER (1827–1870) White Girl Raised By Comanche Indians

In American History, Biography, History, Kidnappings, Native Americans, People, People from Texas, Uncategorized, women on July 12, 2010 at 8:50 PM

Cynthia Ann Parker After Being Returned to the Parker Family

In August of 1833, Cynthia Ann Parker’s father, Silas M. Parker, took his family on a road trip.  He loaded his wife, five children and all their belongings into the wagons and headed south from Illinois to central Texas. 

The wagon train consisted of 31 families including Parker’s grandparents, uncles and aunts.  It was a long journey and not without incident.  Parker’s brother James was killed when one wagon lost a wheel, and he was hit in the chest by a piece of wood.    

The purpose of the trip was the great American Dream: to apply for a land grant.  Each head of household was awarded a “headright league” of over 4,000 acres, and the Parkers started calling Anderson County, Texas home.   

WELCOME TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD                      The newly arrived settlers were well aware of the potential threat of the local Indians.  In 1834, Cynthia’s uncle, Daniel Parker, led the effort to build Fort Parker in Mexia, Texas, between Dallas and Houston.  Treaties were signed by the homesteaders and many neighboring chiefs leading to a peaceful coexistence, for a while.   

In 1836, when Parker was nine years old, several hundred members of the Caddo, Comanche and Kiowa tribes attacked the fort.  One Indian approached with a white flag accompanied by enough others to indicate that this was a ruse.  Parker’s uncle, Benjamin, tried to negotiate with the attackers to buy time for the women and children to escape.  Those five minutes of diplomacy allowed most of them to flee into the wilderness.  But Uncle Benjamin, Parker’s father, grandfather and two other men were killed.  Parker, her younger brother, a baby and two women were captured by Comanche.   

Within six years, all the captives had been ransomed and returned to their families except Parker, but that was her choice.  As a new Comanche, Parker’s life was difficult.  She was abused and treated like a slave until she was given to a couple who raised her as their own child. Parker was young, so she adapted quickly to her new environment, perhaps first out of survival and then out of devotion.  She adopted the Comanche name of Naduah (“She carries herself with grace”), and became totally integrated into Comanche society, eschewing her white upbringing.  

HOME IS WHERE YOUR HEART IS                             Peta Nocona, one of the war chiefs who invaded Fort Parker, started his own Comanche branch called Noconi.  Sometime around 1840, when Parker was barely a teenager, Nocona married her.  It was customary for the chief to have multiple wives, but Nocona proved his affection by not doing so.  They had three children: sons Quanah (“Fragrant”), a future chief of the tribe, and Pecos (“Pecan”), and daughter Topsanna (“Prairie Flower”).   

Parker became totally contented with and integrated into the Indian lifestyle and refused more than one offer to return to the Parker family.  One time Colonel Leonard G. Williams saw Parker when he was camped with his trading party along the Canadian River.  He offered a ransom of 12 mules and two mule loads of goods to the tribal elders to reclaim her and take her home.  He was refused, and in subsequent sightings, Parker would run away and hide to avoid being traded back.   

On November 27, 1860, Chief Nocona led a raid through Parker County, Texas, named after his wife’s family.  Parker played a supportive role in the attack, and it’s not clear if she knew the land belonged to her relatives.  The bandits attacked three ranches, stole over 300 horses and violated several women.  When they were finished, Nocona and his band hid in a bluff near the Pease River.   

Groups of local citizens tried to hunt down the raiders, but they weren’t successful.  It took three weeks for Captain Lawrence “Sul” Ross of the Texas Rangers to organize a posse of over 140 volunteers seeking revenge.  On December 18, the vigilantes tracked the natives to their hideout, surprised them and dominated them in the ensuing fight.  There were few warriors left in the camp, and Parker’s two sons escaped unharmed.  There is debate over whether Nocona died during the encounter or later.  Even if he didn’t, Parker would never see her husband again.  

Parker was trying to escape on horseback with Topsanna.  Ross chased and finally captured her.  It was a shock to discover that the woman dressed in deerskin and moccasins had blue eyes. Back at camp there was speculation that she looked familiar. Parker tried to communicate with her captors using Comanche and some English, giving credence to theories that she could be the Silas Parker’s daughter who was kidnapped.  Ross sent for Parker’s uncle, Isaac Parker, to see if he could identify her.  When Parker overheard her name being used in the discussion, she patted herself on the chest and said, “Me Cincee Ann.”   

YOU CAN’T TO HOME AGAIN                                      That admission clinched Parker’s destiny.  She and Topsanna were taken back to live with her white family.  At first Parker and her daughter lived with Uncle Isaac’s family.  Her return was celebrated and she was treated like a hero, but that meant nothing to her.  She had to be locked in her room to prevent her from escaping.  The Texas Legislature tried to help her with a pension of $100 a year for five years and a league (about seven square miles) of land, but that did not compensate for her anguish. Nothing could appease the grief she felt leaving her husband and sons behind.  She had been kidnapped and forced to live among people not of her choosing for the second time in her life.   

Parker’s brother took responsibility for his sister and niece, moving them into his house.  They stayed there until he joined the Confederate Army when they went to live with her sister.  Parker led a productive life.  She learned to weave, spin wool and sew.  Neighbors brought over hides for her to tan, and she created home remedies from the local plants and herbs.  She learned to speak English again and was beginning to become literate.  All of the activity, however, could not erase the 24 years she spent as a Comanche, and she never assimilated emotionally to her new life.  

In 1863, Parker got the news that Pecos had died of small pox.  One year later, Topsanna died of pneumonia, and Parker fell into a deep depression.  Her despondency isolated her and she often refused to eat.  She died in 1870 never knowing that her oldest son, Quanah, had become the last Comanche Chief, and ultimately a bridge between the Comanche nation and white settlers.  

QUESTION: How do you react when you’re in a situation outside your comfort zone?  What do you do to fit in?  

© 2010 Debbie Foulkes All Rights Reserved   

Sources:  

 

http://www.jordan-family.org/texas/  

http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Nocona’s+raid+and+Cynthia+Ann’s+recapture%3A+taken+by+Comanches+at+age…-a0229303267  

http://www.lone-star.net/mall/texasinfo/CynthiaAnnParker.htm  

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Parker_massacre  

http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~okmurray/stories/cynthia_ann_parker.htm  

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cynthia_Ann_Parker  

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Pease_River