On 26 January 1945, as American forces approached the Rhine River and German forces fanatically defended their homeland, 2LT Audie Murphy conducted the action that led to his receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor. Murphy was the most decorated soldier of WWII and later became a Hollywood star due to his memoir and later film about his military career.

Audie Murphy at Holtzwihr

The citation for the award tells it best;

“2d Lt. Murphy commanded Company B, which was attacked by 6 tanks and waves of infantry. 2d Lt. Murphy ordered his men to withdraw to prepared positions in a woods, while he remained forward at his command post and continued to give fire directions to the artillery by telephone. Behind him, to his right, 1 of our tank destroyers received a direct hit and began to burn. Its crew withdrew to the woods. 2d Lt. Murphy continued to direct artillery fire which killed large numbers of the advancing enemy infantry. With the enemy tanks abreast of his position, 2d Lt. Murphy climbed on the burning tank destroyer, which was in danger of blowing up at any moment, and employed its .50 caliber machine gun against the enemy. He was alone and exposed to German fire from 3 sides, but his deadly fire killed dozens of Germans and caused their infantry attack to waver. The enemy tanks, losing infantry support, began to fall back. For an hour the Germans tried every available weapon to eliminate 2d Lt. Murphy, but he continued to hold his position and wiped out a squad which was trying to creep up unnoticed on his right flank. Germans reached as close as 10 yards, only to be mowed down by his fire. He received a leg wound, but ignored it and continued the single-handed fight until his ammunition was exhausted. He then made his way to his company, refused medical attention, and organized the company in a counterattack which forced the Germans to withdraw. His directing of artillery fire wiped out many of the enemy; he killed or wounded about 50. 2d Lt. Murphy’s indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground saved his company from possible encirclement and destruction, and enabled it to hold the woods which had been the enemy’s objective.”

From the Audie L. Murphy Memorial Web Site that is trying very hard to keep this American hero’s legacy alive.

Audie Murphy at Holtzwihr Motorcycle Ride

I stayed in nearby Colmar one night in an old, rundown hotel. I arrived late and got a really big room with 14 foot ceilings, wood-paneled walls, a bed, an armoire, and nothing else. I felt like Russian royalty living in distant relatives’ discarded mansions after the revolution. This is just one of the charms of traveling Europe alone on a motorcycle.

For the ride, start at the point where Murphy was wounded whilst operating the .50 cal on top of the tank destroyer. The forest tracks around that area will give you the feel of the close in fighting of the area. Head east over the Rhine and into Germany to the Schwarzwald east of Freiburg for some beautiful woodlands and some great switchbacks. Finish in Freiburg, a great university town with lots of old world charm.

Audie Murphy at Holtzwihr in Print on Film