Audie Murphy’s M1 Carbine

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An interesting thread over on the old BARFCOM today turned up a few things that I found interesting. Everyone who reads this website knows who Audie Murphy is. One of , if not the most, decorated US Soldier of WW2. If there is an award for doing something, Audie received it. Including the MOH.

Don’t let that boyish face fool you. He was a very dangerous man

Audie was such a small little young fellow he had to lie about his age to get into the Army. The movie based on his autobiography was really hollywooded up. His fellow veterans said Audie was a real of a wild man. Unlike the movie, he was brave and aggressive with so much audacity that they no doubt left it out of the movie for fear average America wouldn’t believe a man really did all the things he did. While he had his problems after the war with PTSD, he was a born killer made for combat.

One of the members over at Brownells-ARF recently stopped by a museum displaying Audie’s M1 carbine used during the war. Audie LOVED the M1 carbine. That may come as a surprise to a lot of people. See, Audie didn’t have internet EXPURTS around during the big one to tell him how ineffective the M1 carbine was. So he naively went around killing Germans like it was cool using his useless carbine. He loved the so much he had some after the war and would give them away to friends.

This blog had a pretty good piece on it a few years ago. I will link you to the original website but there isn’t much need, I already gutted it for the best part.

Figure 1: Audie Murphy, the most decorated US Soldier of WW2. (Source)

Figure 1: Audie Murphy, the most
decorated US Soldier of WW2.
(Source)

When I was a boy, I read the memoir To Hell and Back by Audie Murphy and was very impressed with his accomplishments as an infantry soldier during WW2 (Figure 1). It is a very American tale – a dirt poor teenager from family with a dead mother and missing father accomplishes amazing feats through sheer determination and force of will. He later starred in a movie version of his book that is well worth watching. I should mention that the book tells a better tale than the movie.

I recently read that the US Army had recovered his favorite rifle, which was an M1 carbine. The M1 carbine was shorter and much lighter than the infantry’s standard issue M1 Garand. The carbine was usually carried by troops who had limited space available (e.g. tankers) or who had to carry other things (e.g. radiomen, paratroopers). For example, my father was a radioman and he carried an M1 carbine. In Murphy’s case, he carried many different weapons, but appeared to prefer the M1 carbine. The story of its recovery is a testament to the power of modern database technology. The key to recovering the rifle was an interview with Murphy that provided a key piece of information – the serial number of the rifle.

Figure 2: Serial Number on Audie Murphy's M1 Carbine.

Figure 2: Murphy’s M1
Carbine Serial Number.
(Source)

When Murphy had the rifle, it certainly had certainly seen better days. The explosion of a nearby mortar round had damaged it, and Murphy did a field‑expedient repair on it using a wire. He continued to use the rifle, which he referred to as his “wounded carbine”. I have read that at various times Murphy had used a Thompson sub-machine gun, an M1 Garand, and the M1 carbine. He must of have really like this rifle because during a 1967 interview, Murphy mentioned its serial number, 110878 (Figure 2). Over six million of these rifles were produced during WW2, but that serial number provided a means for uniquely identifying that rifle.

Figure 1: Warehouse in Movie Raiders of the Lost Ark. (Source)

The exact story of how the rifle left Murphy’s possession is unclear. It appears that Murphy was wounded by a sniper on 25-Oct-44. Thinking that the wound may send him home, Murphy gave his rifle to a sergeant who hoped that the carbine would bring that him luck. Unfortunately, most of that sergeant’s platoon was wiped out the following day. It is believed the rifle was recovered from the battlefield by the US Army, properly repaired, and put into storage. When you think of US government storage, think of a warehouse like what was shown at the end of the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark (Figure 3). It seems like a miracle that this specific rifle could be pulled out of a warehouse like this, but it really happened. A person at the Center of Military History Clearinghouse at the Anniston Army Depot did a database search for that serial number, got a hit, and the rifle was found (Source).

Figure 4 shows the rifle in its museum display today. I should mention that another movie,  Carbine Williams, was made that involved the M1 carbine. It is the story of a convict, Marsh Williams , who created the basic operating mechanism of the gun while serving time in a North Carolina prison. If you are curious about the four rifles he designed while in prison, see this Wikipedia paragraph.

Figure 4: Museum Display of Audie Murphy's Rifle, Gear, and Medals from WW2.

Figure 4: Audie Murphy’s M1 Carbine in Museum Display.

Audie Murphy’s Rifle and the Power of Databases

https://www.mathscinotes.com/2017/12/audie-murphys-rifle-and-the-power-of-databases/embed/#?secret=ci3omTvGI7
Murphy’s favorite war time M1

Above is a picture from a museum in Norte Mexico ( AKA Texas) with Audie Murphy’s favorite war time M1, found from storage. You can see it has a bayonet lug which would not be time period correct, The gun was rebuilt after Audie’s time with it and brought up to specs seen in the Korean war era. Above it is the sniper rifle Audie took from a German sniper he personally smoked with same carbine.

Probably the best encounter that was very public at the time was this account published shortly after he returned from the war. It appeared in the Dallas Morning News, the local Newspaper on 11 December, 1946 with the following headline:

“War Hero Handy With His Fist, Hijacker Discovers”

“130-Pound Hero Fells 190-Pound Holdup Suspect”

DALLAS MORNING NEWS

DALLAS (Tex.) Dec. 11. (AP) —


Little Audie Murphy, who is World War II’s most decorated soldier, won another battle singlehanded this afternoon when he subdued a 6-foot 2-inch, 190-pounder who apparently attempted to steal his automobile.
The freckled kid from Farmersville, Tex., told the Dallas Morning News he knocked out the 25-year-old man in a rural filling station near here after a furious 10-minute battle. Murphy weighs 130 pounds and stands 5 feet 7 inches tall.
State Highway Patrolmen Everett Brandon and F. H. Jensen, who talked with the News by telephone, said they arrested the man and lodged him in the McKinney Jail. No complaint was filed immediately.

Tells of Holdup

The 20-year-old Texas hero, who won the Congressional Medal of Honor and every other U.S. combat medal in World War II, related he was driving alone when he saw a large man limping along the highway. “It was raining like the devil and I thought I would do the fellow a favor,” Audie related. “I picked him up and we drove about a mile. “Suddenly this guy jammed something into my ribs, slapped me across the mouth and said: “‘I’m the boss now. If you won’t talk, this .45 will. I can use this car.’ “I admitted that he was pretty much the boss at that point and we drove about four more miles. He told me to pull into a roadside gasoline station and stop. I did and he took the keys and instructed me to slide along the seat and get out on his side of the car.”

Decides on Fight

Audie said the man’s left hand, hidden under an old army blouse, was still jammed into his ribs when he decided to make a fight for it. He grabbed the man’s hand, struck him a blow that tumbled him from the car and on to the filling station drive.
Murphy jumped squarely on the erstwhile tough guy and started swinging.
“We fought all over the place for about 10 minutes,” Audie said. “He was a pretty big fellow, all right. I finally got him, though.”
J. M. Peters, owner of the gasoline station, ran into the drive and ordered both men offthe premises before he knew the background, Patrolman Brandon added.

Calls in Police

Audie rushed to another gasoline station a mile north to telephone the State police and upon his return found that his attacker had recovered, escaped and gone to the home of Mrs. Park Grissom, a few hundred yards distant.
The man was scuffling with Mrs. Grissom and demanding fresh clothing to replace his bloody and torn garments when Murphy and the patrolmen overpowered him again.

dirtbag on left, Audie on right. Ever notice once in a while you run across some one you shouldn’t have fucked with?

16 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve never understood the fascination with either the M1, the M1 carbine, or the M14. All of them were indeed cutting-edge technology, but designed for the mostly imagined conditions of the last war, and which were also woefully flawed weapons even in their heydays.

    If we’d have issued the M1 about 1914, before the conditions of WWI were really apparent, I’d have no issues with it. But, by the time WWII rolled around, the M1 and M1 Carbine was just a sad relic whose flawed conception and design probably led directly to the deaths of a lot of good soldiers. What they should have issued? Something a lot closer to what came out of WWII, like the StG44 or AK. Handwriting about intermediate cartridges for individual weapons was on the wall as early as the 1920s, but nobody wanted to bother reading any of it. And, they were married to the whole NRA/Camp Perry way of life, and the fantastic ideas that they had about the primacy of the individual rifleman in modern combat.

    In some ways, you can’t fault them, but the fact that they forced the 7.62 NATO on the alliance as the individual weapons cartridge, and then compounded the error by going to the M14 vice the FAL? Yikes… We’d have probably been better off if we’d simply handed off our small arms procurement decisions to a cabal of our enemies–They could hardly have done worse by the American soldier, and by extension, the NATO alliance.

    Had anyone had the wit and wisdom to actually look at things clearly, and then done some actual research? We’d have had a select-fire individual weapon with an intermediate-class cartridge sometime in the 1930s, and probably still be issuing a variation of it today. The medium MG role could have been filled by the old-school .30-06 quite happily, giving us what we wound up with after decades of experimentation and wasted money, a dual-caliber solution to our small arms needs down in the squads.

    Unfortunately, the idjit class always gets their way, and here we are. If it weren’t for the egos involved, hell, they might have had the humility to backtrack on the NATO decision, and gone back to the .280 British instead of the SCHV studies they dusted off to justify the 5.56 decision.

    I do have to wonder how many lives we’d have saved, with smarter small arms decisions made back in the 1930s. Putting the Garand and the carbine up against German units armed with the MG42 was just slaughter, in the absence of supporting weapons. Fortunately, they didn’t set things up such that we had to rely on pure infantry operations, or there’d have been a lot more letters home to Mom and Dad…

    But, you do wonder why we couldn’t have done better, and how many lives wouldn’t have been cut short making up for the failures to grasp the reality of things dating back to WWI.

      • It ain’t hindsight when you can go back and see that people were actually, y’know, saying these same things at the time. The Germans would have had an intermediate cartridge weapon ready to go for their planned mid-1940s war, had Hitler not pushed the timeline forward. There were British and American officers who looked at WWI combat, and said the same damn things about the intermediate caliber concept that the Germans were, and so were the Soviets. All of this before 1940…

        Thing was, the hidebound decision-makers like MacArthur were all looking short-sightedly at things like “Ohmygawd, allourstockpiles…”, none of which were actually, in practice, usable even with the M1. False economies…

        We could have done better. The fact is, we didn’t, and looking back at those decisions and criticizing them can help us to make better decisions today–Just like with the whole “NGSW-Overmatch” line of bullshit.

        I’ve done a shitload of reading on this, over the years, trying to understand what the hell went wrong with our thinking and policy-making. The only conclusion that I can reach is that the root issue is that the people making the decisions were mostly blinded by their own prejudices and inability to step outside the box they’d put their thinking around.

        I mean, seriously… One of the arguments for keeping the .30-06 was the necessity for killing horses, as if anyone were going to have to form square and hold off charging cavalry with lances and sabers. Up to about 1914, that kinda made sense, but once they’d gotten the MG out into general issue and common use, that point was sorta irrelevant. I don’t think anyone was “forming square” against cavalry, even when you look at the very last cavalry charges on the Eastern Front during WWII. Even the Soviets just unlimbered the guns, and went to town…

        You can see similar issues today. Instead of looking at why it is we’ve suddenly lost the ability to respond to fires from past about 800m effectively with our MG teams, we’re looking at issuing a whole new suite of small arms. Does that make sense?

        I am pretty sure that the vast majority of the issues with what’s been going on in dismount combat could be answered quite effectively with better training, better equipment, and more ammo for that training to be conducted with. But, since we’re still using the usual standard static ranges that support defensive fires use only, well… Yeah. The gunners don’t know how to get the most out of their guns, the leaders don’t know how to train them, and they still think that the only person in the platoon that needs binos is the LT, who forgets them in the Arms Room or leaves them in the vehicle half the time, anyway. Madness.

        • I think it is good to keep in mind that nothing these days is done to help with marksmanship and small arms effectiveness, its really just a way to grift money. Thats the reason behind everything the military adopts for small arms etc. So some senator gets a factory in his state or some 4 star general gets a sweet pie job at FN after retiring

    • We won WWII. For all the ‘wrong’ in our infantry weapons, we won the war.

      Semi-auto weapons didn’t start in the US military, unlike bolt guns. The first semi-auto rifles were sporting rifles in the US, and the same with semi-auto shotguns, and all of those happened before WWI. The whole idea of semi-auto wasn’t on the Dep’t of War’s list of ideas in light weapons until after WWI. A Stg44-like weapon? No flippin’ way. the Dep’t of War was obsessed with men “wasting ammunition” – which is why the 1903 Springfield had a magazine cut-off, which is why the Garand didn’t have a detachable box magazine. We could go on forever on the subject of the obsession of the higher-ups with “men wasting ammo.”

      As for the ’06 and killing horses: In WWII, the Germans used a very large number or horses in military transport. Millions of them, in fact. An estimated 750K horses in the German forces were killed. Someone had to kill them…

      The .30-03 started out as the ’round to kill horses.’ The old fogies in the Dep’t of War and armory system had to relent and go with the lightweight, 150 grain, spitzer bullet that became the .30-06. Last I heard, it kills horses just fine.

      • I remember hearing years ago that the insistence on the not detachable mag on the garand was a fear of having yet another place for dirt to enter. Not saying they weren’t obsessed with ammo wastage but I remember reading that.

        • In Hatcher’s “Book of the Garand,” apparently it was a combination of:

          a) not wanting infantrymen dropping the magazines on the battlefield, and
          b) the “let’s not allow them to waste ammo!” obsession.

          Dirt was a consideration, but it wasn’t the Big Issue that caused the en bloc clip to be adapted. The en bloc was so much cheaper than a full DBM, and at less than half the capacity talked about for DBM’s, that it passed the various desk jockeys’ approval.

          The irony in this context (the M1 Carbine) was that the DBM’s on the Carbine were/are notorious for getting banged up feed lips, which causes malfunctions in feeding. The first thing I do with any M1 Carbine brought to me for “feeding problems” is put in a brand-new, GI magazine that I keep around for diagnosing feed problems. If my brand-new, rarely-used (only for diagnosis of feed issues) magazine makes the Carbine work, then the customer and I talk about magazines. It comes as a shock to some Carbine owners that they need to buy new magazines – they think that they were made “for the ages.”

          According to vets who used the Carbine of my acquaintance (now passed on), they’d pull new magazines whenever they could – if a mag failed to work for them, they’d just drop it and get another one. The irony here is that the Carbine was made far larger numbers than the Garand during WWII, so the Dep’t of War’s/Ordnance’s obsession with the cost of a DBM “waste by dropping on the battlefield” for the Garand was made moot by the number of Carbine mags dropped and discarded.

          John Garand examined the issue of a DBM on his rifle, which would have made it very much like a BM59 or M14. The idea in that day was for a 20-round magazine, much like the BAR.

  2. Giving up 7 inches and 60 pounds and still winning the fight is pretty damn impressive, it also shows the importance of that first punch.
    This was after the War and he was 20 years old.
    .
    Audie was one of my heroes growing up, I saw the movie, read the book and later read a good biography.
    His later life was tragic and booze took him too early, he paid a very large personal price earning those Medals.

    • As Churchill once said: “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

      That was certainly true of Audie Murphy…

  3. My Dad is a huge Audie Murphy fan.
    So much that we visited his grave at Arlington.
    It’s a wonder this isn’t done with more of these historic rifles.
    I guess it’s a question of knowing the serial numbers.

  4. Imagine the shock the thug experienced when tiny Audie Murphy opened an entire can of Mike Tyson whoop ass. I bet his head was spinning twice as fast from the shock coupled with Audie’s fists. Too bad gas stations didn’t have surveillance cams back then, I would have paid good money to see Audie trash that guy.

  5. I watched a little bit of the Medal of Honor series and I was surprised at how many of the WWII recipients were rocking an M1 carbine or a sub machine gun. I grew up reading Cooper and the gravel belly crew, for whom the Garand was the sine qua non, at least till the M14 came out. Apparently those guys considered the additional firepower of something with a detachable mag and maybe a giggle switch to be pretty valuable.

  6. When I was a kid in the 70’s, I used to sit and listen to my Dad’s friend Mr Saito, who fought in the 442nd RCT. He told me about the night recon/prisoner snatch missions where they all carried BAR’s, Tommy guns and M1 Carbines to have fast and extensive firepower for a small group of men behind the lines. The M1 Garand was left out of the night recon mix, but the M1 Carbine was not.

    I asked Mr Saito if he jumped into holes when he got shot at. His answer always stuck with me, “Son, when you’re moving in, there are no holes.” I didn’t fully understand it until almost 30 years later when my A-Team went to war

  7. In Soviet Republic of Greece, shotguns are “shall issue” (thank God!), handguns are New York-style “may issue” (only for the rich and connected) and rifles a no-no. Not even bolt action rifles for hunting. Why I’m saying this?
    To note that most of your gun-related content is, simply put, irrelevant to us Greeks.
    Why then I’m frequenting this site?
    The answer lies in that I have been introduced with your help in great ideas and great people, both living and dead.
    After your post on Audie Murphy, I got “To hell and back” on my Kindle, and yesterday I finished it. Great book! Almost as good as Eugene Sledge’s “With the old Breed: at Peleliu and Okinawa”.
    Thank you, guys!

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