2nd Most Decorated Soldier of WWII

Audie Murphy is famous for being the most decorated soldier in World War II. Along with the Medal of Honor, Murphy won 18 other medals for a total of 19. Onclo Airheart was born in Trinidad, Texas and raised on a rural farm. As a young man, he, like Audie, grew up providing meat for his family by hunting deer, squirrel and rabbits. Onclo (pronounced “Onslow”) enlisted in the Army in 1940 at age 23. When he was discharged after the war in 1945, he had received 18 medals, one less than Murphy.  In one of those incredible coincidences of war, almost beyond belief, he was Murphy's "foxhole buddy.” This pair of Texans went through the war, fighting next to each other for days and weeks without break, many times in desperate life-and-death hand-to-hand combat, on the front lines of World War II's most ferocious battles - and they both survived what thousands of other men didn't.

Alongside Audie in B Company of the Third Division while fighting across Europe, Onclo destroyed truckloads of the enemy with a single shot of an anti-tank grenade, rescued a full division of French soldiers and wiped out an impenetrable pillbox full of German machine gunners. 

Once, while scouting ahead of the rest of their company, Airheart and Murphy ran smack into a large force of enemy soldiers. While under fire, they confused the Germans by dashing back and forth from tree to tree, making the enemy think there was a large force confronting them. Eventually, the German forces ceased fire and raised a white flag. It was quite a shock to the 180 enemy soldiers who surrendered to be taken prisoner by only two American soldiers!

Another time, Murphy had been wounded and was out of action so Airheart was left to continue fighting alone.  At a place called Christmas Hill, for three days and nights without food or water, he remained in position fighting until French soldiers informed him the hill had been seized. He had killed dozens of the enemy and was so exhausted he had to be helped to an aid station.

Toward the end of the war, Onclo received the last of his 18 medals, the Bronze Star. He earned it when he and Murphy (who had recovered from his wounds and returned) faced intense enemy sniper fire in Germany. Murphy began shooting at the crew of an ammo truck while Onclo used a rifle grenade to destroy the truck and then with a single shot, killed a German messenger who was running to alert reinforcements.

He was interviewed by a reporter in 1975 for the 30th anniversary of the end of the war. When asked what made him fight so hard, he said, “We had to fight to live, and we wanted to keep the fighting from reaching America’s shores. Those big, old guns the Germans had – they would have tore New York up. And I wanted to get the mess over and get back home. That’s the only way we were going to end it.

For the rest of his life after the war, Onclor lived with many harsh memories. He was interviewed once more in 1995 by a reporter for the Athens Review who succinctly said, “Airheart tells of times when men lived stark, desperate lives that could end the next moment. Students of history read of names like Christmas Hill and the Battle of the Bulge, but Airheart sees them in living color.” He remembered the losses among the Americans at the Battle of the Bulge, There were only six of us from our whole unit left when it was all over.” The interviewer reported that “amazement that he survived still clings to his voice, along with the sadness in his heart for his lost comrades.”

As most people know, once the war was over, Murphy headed to stardom in Hollywood. Onclo returned home to little Trinidad, Texas to work on the family farm. A few years later, Hollywood was making “To Hell and Back” a biographical movie about Murphy. Onclo was contacted by his old friend who asked him to play himself in the film. Onclo declined because it was planting time and he needed to work on his farm. As Onclo himself described it to that 1995 interviewer: “He said he wanted me to go into show business. They was gonna put me in it. But I told him I’ve got my mules and plow, and I’m fixin’ to go to the field.” 
And so Onclor Airheart remained obscure. Even after his death LIFE magazine declined to mention his name. In an issue that summarized the 20th century, the magazine ran a few lines about Audie Murphy as the most-decorated soldier ever. Then they added, “We understand one other soldier from Texas is still living and has only one medal less than Murphy.” No name, no recognition.  Even after the editors were informed of Onclo’s name and address, they replied they had “no interest in information of this kind now.”

Onclo went unrecognized for his war service, but maybe that lack of acknowledgment meant nothing to Airheart.  Like most military service members then and now, he’d done his duty and simply returned home to live out the rest of his life.

Audie Murphy died in a plane crash in 1971. Onclo Airheart, the second most decorated soldier in history, quietly passed away in Trinidad, Texas in 2001.

Crazy Water

Famous Mineral Water Company
City Engineers in Marlin, Texas were trying to find good drinking water for the growing town in 1892. They found a site where they were sure they would find water and began drilling into the black dirt. They hit water alright, but it was not the good drinking water they sought. What came gushing up was a hot, ugly yellow colored water that smelled bad and tasted worse. The disappointed engineers went looking for another site and the people of Marlin were still thirsty.

A couple of weeks later, a young man came into the office of the Marlin Democrat, the local newspaper. Looking "sick and despairing" and obviously suffering from "a loathsome disease," he called upon the sympathy of the paper and the people of the town for help as he had not a penny to his name. Several of the townspeople, not having the amount of sympathy the young man was hoping for, brought him a barrel of the foul smelling, hot water so he could take a bath. A few other townspeople, a bit more charitable, provided him with food so he decided to stay for a while, sleeping at night under a tree in a park and bathing in the barrel of water.

Much to everyone's surprise, five weeks later, he was proclaimed healed! The nasty water everyone hated turned out to be the town's ticket to fame and riches. Within a few weeks of word getting out about the miraculous healing waters, Marlin became one of the country's hottest health destinations. People came from all over the United States and even other countries to "take the waters" and the town benefited handsomely.

The town that benefited the most from discovering "healing waters" though was Mineral Wells, about 150 miles northwest of Marlin. A farmer named J. A. Lynch had drilled a well in 1880 which had come in with the same hot, foul-smelling water found later in Marlin. Mr. Lynch's wife didn't want the water to go to waste so she decided to bath in the hot water and drink what she could stand. In a few weeks, her rheumatism was healed! However, these waters were nothing more than a locally known phenomena until Billy Wiggins drilled on land he owned next to Lynch's.

Wiggins hit the same kind of water and began testing it. He discovered it contained significant amounts of lithium, the same chemical widely used today to treat bipolar disorders. Wiggins saw business opportunity in the water and began to advertise the healing properties of what he called "Crazy Water." He claimed his Crazy Water cured "constipation, high blood pressure, rheumatism, arthritis, kidney problems, liver problems, autointoxication, bad complexion, excess acidity and any other ailments of a more serious nature." With claims like that, people began flocking to Mineral Wells and Crazy Water became the most famous water since fire water. Often there were more than 3,000 people paying to camp on the Wiggins and Lynch property around the wells and paying 10 cents a glass for the water. Soon, Wiggins opened the Crazy Water hotel and quickly became rich. By the mid-1890's, Mineral Wells had 400 commercial wells all selling their own healing waters. By 1910, over 150,000 visitors a year came to Mineral Wells. The town's 46 hotels and boarding houses were constantly fully booked.

Site of the original Crazy Water Well
In 1904, one of the afflicted who came to take the waters was Ed Dismuke. He had been told there was no cure for his stomach ailments, but after a few weeks of drinking Crazy Water daily, his ailments vanished. Ed then established the Famous Mineral Water Company and purchased the Crazy Water wells from Wiggins. Ed built a pavilion next to the original Crazy Water and then built a luxury hotel which housed the thousands of people who came for the Crazy Water treatment.

At its height, the Famous Mineral Water Company was earning over $3,000,000 a year (more than $4,100,000 in 2017 dollars), but by the mid-1930's, the mineral water craze began to fade as the Depression severely reduced the number of visitors who had money to make the trip. To make up for the lost revenue, the company began to sell Crazy Water Crystals, the dehydrated minerals found in the water. The packaged crystals were sold in drugstores around the country - "With a teaspoon of crystals in a glass of tap water, you can enjoy the health benefits of Crazy Water in your own home!" The advertising was done on the "Crazy Water Crystals Radio Show" broadcast across the nation on the Mutual Network. Trouble was brewing though. Using the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, the government began cracking down on the claims made by producers of mineral water. Fearing the Crazy Water Crystals Radio Show would be shut down, the company quickly moved to broadcast over an extremely powerful station in Mexico just south of the border.

World War II came along and with severe gas rationing and the government's attention to mineral water claims, over 90% of all mineral water companies went out of business by 1943. One company that managed to hold on though was Famous Mineral Water. Almost 60 years after being told he would soon die from his stomach problems, Ed Dismuke passed away on November 6, 1957 at age 97 after falling and breaking his hip. He continued to promote the mineral water's healing properties until the end, claiming he had never needed to see a doctor after beginning his daily routine of drinking the water.

Ed's widow sold The Famous Mineral Water Company shortly after his death. Over the years, the company went through a succession of owners until the current owners, Scott and Carol Elder purchased it in 2012. The only surviving mineral water company in Texas, it is now celebrating over 100 years in operation and bottles of Crazy Water are being sold in a number of select locations around the country. If you want to "take the waters" at the source in person, simply travel to the company's headquarters at 209 N.W. 6th Street in Mineral Wells and they'll be happy to sell you as much as you want.