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Audie Murphy in uniform
figure 1  

 

dogface. A U.S. Army foot soldier, especially in World War II.reference 1

The term gained a high profile when it was used in the Hollywood film, To Hell and Back, based on the best-selling autobiography of Audie Murphy, and starring the same. The film included a song, “The Dogface Soldier.”

Murphy was a certified war hero, winning 33 awards and decorations, including the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was credited with killing over 240 of the enemy in WWII, while wounding and capturing many others, and became a legend within the 3d Infantry Division. Beginning his service as an Army Private, or the classic dogface infantryman, Murphy rose to the enlisted rank of Staff Sergeant and was given a “battlefield” commission as 2d Lieutenant. He was wounded three times and fought in every major European Theater campaign.

 

 

1. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth. 2000. Bartleby.com. Accessed from http:// www.bartleby.com/61/.

 

After the war, Murphy was brought to Hollywood by James Cagney, who saw a promising career for the by-then-famous war hero. Murphy went on to make 44 films; more than a few were box office hits.reference 2

As with many of the dog terms that are positive, this one is a reclaimed taunt. Other services looked down on the infantry, which historically have been the least skilled and the most expendable troops. The dogface soldiers saw it differently: they were the working men of the armed forces and reveled in getting dirty and doing the hard work of war. Murphy himself had originally wanted to enlist as a Marine, but was too short and so had to join the Army instead. While he claimed real pride in his status as a foot soldier, there may be a few sour grapes in the first line of the song about the dogface soldier, “I wouldn't give a bean to be a fancy pants marine.”reference 3 In the end, no doubt, he really was glad to be a dogface soldier, and it is easy to imagine a time when that moniker was painful for him to hear.

2. Rogers, Richard L. 1998. Biographical Sketch of Audie Leon Murphy. Audie L. Murphy Memorial Web Site. Audie Murphy Research Foundation. Accessed Feb 13 2002 from http:// www.audiemurphy.com/biograph.htm.

 

 

3. Gold-Hart. 1955. Dog Face Soldier (Third Infantry Division Theme Song). In Marching Music In Honor Of The Quartermaster Corps. 195.
sheet music for The Dogface Soldier
figure 2
 
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About the illustrations: Figure 1 is Audie Murphy in a still from To Hell and Back. Taken from a U.S. government site that names no further citation or permission. Figure 2, the sheet music, is a reproduction of a non-copyrightable government publication.
see also: dogtags; Dogface (person) Last updated: July 5, 2008
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