How Audie Murphy Impressed a Kenyan Immigrant to Be part of the US Army

Turner Basic Motion pictures gave itself a makeover earlier this yr, updating its look and making an attempt out new approaches with its programming in an effort to introduce new audiences to superb previous films.

One of the impressed occasions up to now is the upcoming “The Thought of America” sequence, premiering on Friday, Sept. 9, 2022, at 8 p.m. ET and persevering with for the following two Fridays. TCM host Ben Mankiewicz will interview 9 immigrants about how the flicks impressed them to maneuver to the U.S.

The sequence will kick off with a exhibiting of “To Hell and Again,” the nice World Struggle II drama through which struggle hero and Medal of Honor recipient Audie Murphy performed himself.

U.S. Army veteran Ajay Vyas says that “To Hell and Again” impressed him to hitch the B Firm, 1st Battalion,fifteenth Infantry Regiment, which is identical regiment as Murphy after he immigrated to the U.S. Whereas Vyas was born in Kenya and grew up within the nation, his household comes from India. Each India and Kenya have been a part of the British Empire, though each international locations have been transferring towards independence by the point he was born.

Ben Mankiewicz and Hemrani Vyas focus on her father’s love of America and “To Hell and Again” as a part of Turner Basic Motion pictures’ “The Thought of America” sequence. (TCM)

Hemrani Vyas is the assistant supervisor of programming at TCM, and her father’s story impressed her to develop “The Thought of America” sequence. Ajay requested Hemrani to seem on digital camera with Mankiewicz, and “To Hell and Again” would be the first film within the TCM sequence.

Ajay Vyas declined to seem on digital camera regardless of his daughter’s requests, however he was more than pleased to talk with about his Army profession.

Ajay Vyas River Kwai
Army veteran Ajay Vyas photographed on the River Kwai. (courtesy Viyas household) How did you first see American films?

Ajay Vyas: “I used to go to theaters. I lived in an enormous household, and most of them watched Indian films from Bollywood. I did not significantly take care of these films. I used to go to English [language] films. Since I grew up in a British colony, it was primarily British films. Every so often, we’d get quite a lot of American films, primarily westerns and struggle films. I’d throw a tantrum to get cash from my grandfather, and he would let me go to the flicks.” Inform us why you’re keen on “To Hell and Again” a lot.

Vyas: “I can’t let you know the variety of instances I’ve seen ‘To Hell and Again.’ We had a theater in Nairobi referred to as the Cameo Theater the place they ran for twenty-four hours. You should buy the ticket at 8 o’clock within the morning and keep there all day. You’ll be able to keep there for the entire week, watch the identical film again and again. I’ve completed that. I spent an entire weekend watching ‘To Hell and Again’ in that movie show.

“I take pleasure in that film, as a result of it wasn’t that gory however it nonetheless offers you an perception of what an individual would do. As a younger youngster, he had siblings to maintain as a result of their father had left them. Murphy needed to do the best factor, not like as we speak, when individuals say to only maintain your self. However he took care of his household. That was his entire aim. His entire paycheck went to taking good care of his little ones.

“The film hit dwelling for me in my final unit after I was assigned to the Third Infantry Division on Fort Benning, the Third Brigade, Bravo Firm 115, a unit that I supported as a profession counselor within the brigade.

“I helped arrange the Audie Murphy Museum after it transferred from Germany to Fort Benning. After we arrange the museum within the battalion headquarters, we may really see his stuff there. To have the ability to maintain one thing and notice this was touched by Audie Murphy …

“I used to have his DD 214 discharge certificates, however within the temper, anyone stole it. The household had donated it to the museum. However because it was coming to the U.S., someplace alongside the road, it disappeared. So there is a duplicate there, however the unique is gone.

“‘To Hell and Again’ is the required film for each soldier assigned to the 115. So even after I left Africa, I noticed ‘To Hell and Again’ each week after I was at Fort Benning. We simply popped the tape in and watched it.” Why did you resolve to immigrate to the US?

Vyas: “We by no means considered transferring to the U.S. I had no alternative within the matter. Coming to America was not even a part of a dream. It was a really unthinkable choice at the moment. We’re speaking again within the ’60s and the ’70s.

“After 1972, the political state of affairs in East Africa modified when Idi Amin got here to energy in Uganda. He determined to throw all non-Africans out of Uganda. My grandfather owned quite a lot of companies in East Africa in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. He began shutting down his companies and determined to maneuver again to India.

“In 1973, I moved to India to maintain them. School in India was a really troublesome choice, as a result of although my heritage was Indian, the unusual factor was that I used to be born in Kenya. Once I went to India, they didn’t think about me to be Indian as a result of I used to be born in Africa.

“So getting to school was troublesome. You must cross that hurdle. Language was additionally a problem. We grew up in English- and Swahili-speaking college programs. My native tongue, Gujarati, was not taught, aside from within the dwelling. They burdened studying English, since that was a nationwide language.

“After my grandfather handed away, I moved again to Kenya with my father who was to run a enterprise there. At some point, he simply got here up and stated, ‘You have bought a bodily to do.’ I requested why, and he defined that we try to get to America if we are able to.

“We immigrated to the US in 1975 after I was 18 years previous. You must perceive that we didn’t have unbiased ideas in Africa. Once I was rising up, the custom was you stayed with a household and did what the pinnacle of the household stated. Since my father was the pinnacle of the household, we needed to comply with his directions and go the place he takes us.” How did you come to the choice to enlist within the army?

Ajay Vyas uniform
Army veteran Ajay Vyas in uniform (courtesy Vyas household)

Vyas: “Oh, that call was a very long time coming. I keep in mind the 1962 struggle between India and China the place the entire household would collect in entrance of the radio. I used to be 7 years previous and had no thought what was occurring. My mom all the time stated, ‘I want I used to be a person so I may serve within the armed forces for my nation. And I assume that is when the seed bought planted in my thoughts.’

“I did not need to be a part of the household enterprise. I used to be studying quite a lot of comedian books and watching quite a lot of struggle films. The army gave the impression of an thrilling life. In 1977, I went to India to hitch the Indian military. However they stated no, I could not be a part of as a result of I did not converse the language.” Did you enlist instantly as soon as your loved ones moved to Detroit?

Vyas: “Oh, no. What had occurred was, I attempted to go to a school at Wayne State College in Detroit. Sure, I did need to be a part of the army. However my dad and mom have been adamantly against it. They stated, ‘You are the one son we’ve got, and we do not need you to enter the army.’

“I attempted to go to the college, however they might not settle for my highschool diploma from Kenya. To ensure that me to hitch a college, I wanted a U.S. diploma, so I bought my GED. In March of ’75, I went all the way down to one of many places of work that have been holding the take a look at, and I took it. They checked my paperwork, and stated, ‘Congratulations, your diploma might be within the mail.’

“At the moment, I didn’t notice the worth of a highschool diploma versus a GED. The college then stated, you have got a GED so you might want to go to a group faculty first. We did not have funds on the time. So I went to vocational college and have become a radio and TV repairman. However the army was all the time bugging me behind my thoughts. I used to be watching quite a lot of ‘M*A*S*H.’

“Later, I used to be delivering pizza for a restaurant that was subsequent door to the recruiting station. And the recruiter really ordered a pizza for supply. Once I gave him the pizza, he requested me what I used to be doing in life, and I stated that I do TV repairs. Then he requested me to return to his place to restore his TV.

“We began speaking. I defined to him my state of affairs with my household and he stated, ‘Hey, you are in America now; 18-year-olds can do no matter they need to do,’ however I used to be caught between two locations. So I waited till my dad and mom went to India, and on July 28, 1978, I went and signed a contract for the delayed entry program the place you possibly can keep out of the army for a yr earlier than you go to primary coaching. On the fourth of Could 1979, I went on primary coaching and by no means appeared again.

“Once I first joined the army, it was … enjoyable! Apart from primary coaching, which was a bit bit troublesome. However there was nothing I couldn’t deal with. My primary coaching [was] at Fort Dix, New Jersey. It was in June, within the summertime; quite a lot of children felt it was scorching. However I grew up in a scorching nation on the equator, so I used to be used to the warmth. Primary coaching was not that troublesome for me as a result of I used to stroll to highschool daily, forwards and backwards, ever since I can keep in mind. So strolling, mountaineering bodily, I had no issues. Mentally, I had no issues.

Ajay Vyas uniform
Ajay Vyas throughout his Army service (courtesy Vyas household)

“After primary, I am in for my superior coaching. I wished to be a pc repairman as a result of electronics was my background. I went to Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. There was self-paced coaching. When you graduate, you progress on to your subsequent vacation spot. My first current unit was in West Germany. I used to be stationed in a spot referred to as Hanau close to Frankfurt. We occupied previous Second World Struggle German barracks made out of stone. My first room had 15 individuals to the room. Circumstances have been a bit atrocious. We needed to tie our tissues to the pipes so the water would not leak on us.

“Do not forget that the Army was transitioning from our draft military to an all-volunteer military. So whenever you had draftees within the army at the moment, individuals did not care concerning the circumstances as a result of they knew they have been there for 2 years, they usually’ll be going dwelling.

“I bought to Germany in ’79 and got here again to Fort Bragg in 1982. After I bought married, the profession type of slowed down. Earlier than, I used to go do something and every little thing I may do. However now it is a marriage between two individuals. My spouse was not used to having a man within the Army with no household or buddies round.

“After about 12 months at Fort Bragg, I wished to return to Germany. We stayed there for 11 years. My spouse may go see her household in England, as a result of we had an organized marriage and her household was in London. So each four-day weekend, we drove to London.

“I’ve come to comprehend that life as a soldier is tough, however it’s a good life. You do not make some huge cash, however you be taught issues. You meet individuals from different states. You meet individuals from different international locations, and you discover out that you’ve got the identical values. My children hate me saying all this, however it’s not political. The Army teaches you to do the best factor. You must personal something and every little thing you do.

Ajay Hemrani Vyas
Ajay and Hemrani Vyas (courtesy Vyas household)

“After Germany, we got here to Fort Benning, Georgia, stayed in barracks for some time. We determined to purchase a home right here as a result of my oldest daughter was on the brink of graduate from highschool. We have been in Georgia since 1992. I had deliberate on staying in for 35 years, however at 21½ years, I retired. That was the perfect time in my life. You’ll be able to’t beat that. Navy life is one thing completely different.

“I retired in 2000, and 9 months later, we had 9/11. I couldn’t return since I used to be retired. However I used to be dwelling proper outdoors Fort Benning, there have been alternatives for prior army to return in

to assist individuals deploy. After that, I bought a contract job as a civilian, to work in Iraq after which in Afghanistan I did that for about 10-15 years. Then I misplaced my eyesight in a single eye, so I am totally retired now.”

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