Released – August, 1955
Directed By – Jessie Hibbs
Starring – Audie Murphy (as himself), Marshall Thompson (Johnson), Charles Drake (Brandon), Jack Kelly (Kerrigan), Greg Palmer (Lt. Manning).
Description – The Exciting True-Life Story of America’s Most Decorated Hero!
This is an exciting autobiographical account of Audie Murphy’s World War II experiences in the U.S. Army.
Audy Murphy grew up in a large sharecropper family in Texas. The father abandoned the family leaving their mother to provide for her nine children. Murphy, being the oldest son, worked to help support the family, and after his mother’s death in 1941, his brothers and sisters are sent to live with his elder sister Corrine to whom he would later send his military allotment checks.
With the outbreak of World War II, Murphy is anxious to enlist, but is rejected by the Navy, the Marines, and the Army Paratroopers. His rejections are due to his small size and youthful appearance. His repeated attempts are finally rewarded by the Army accepting him as an ordinary infantryman.
This is no ordinary infantryman.
After training, Murphy is assigned, as a replacement soldier, to the Third Infantry Division in North Africa where he soon proves himself in battle. His courage and valor gain him quick promotions, initially against his will, and he receives a battlefield commission as a second lieutenant.
He will participate in many battles in Sicily, Italy, and France which earned him the universal respect of his men as well as some life-long friendships. However, it was his action in January, 1945 near Holzwihr, France that would earn Audie Murphy our highest military honor.
While his company is forced to retreat in the face of a fierce German attack, Murphy remains behind directing artillery fire on the approaching enemy armor and infantrymen. As the advancing Germans close in on his position, Murphy jumps on board an abandoned tank and uses its .50-caliber machine gun to hold off the enemy. He accomplishes this with the tank on fire and threatening to explode at any second.
Wounded, and openly exposed to enemy fire, Murphy manages to hold off the Germans and saving his company. After a period of time in the hospital recovering from his injuries, Murphy returns to duty.
Shortly after the conclusion of the war, Audie Murphy is awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in addition to two dozen of our nations highest military honors.
NOTABLE: Prior to the making of this film, Audie Murphy had already begun his successful Hollywood career having played in a few westerns. Initially, he refused to play the part of himself feeling that the public might think he was trying to cash in on his military record and suggested Tony Curtis for the role. It was director Jesse Hibbs and producer Aaron Rosenberg who convinced Murphy to play himself.
In an effort to look as authentic as possible, during a combat scene to capture a German position in an Italian farmhouse, real ammunition was used in the German machine gun being fired at the advancing American soldiers. This was done to get the impressive muzzle flash that was wanted.
To Hell and Back was a box office smash for Universal Studios and its record was not broken until the release of the film Jaws.
Audie Murphy’s impressive list of military honors include five decorations awarded by France and Belgium.
In all, the military’s most decorated soldier received a Bronze Star, another Bronze Star with a Bronze Service arrowhead, three Purple Heart’s, two Silver Stars, the Legion of Merit, a Distinguished Service Cross, two Croix de Guerre medals with Palms and the Legion of Honour Chevalier from France as well as the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Personal Note: A true American hero! Here’s a quote from ‘Variety Movie Guide’, Audie Murphy ” . . . gets into the army in 1942 at 18. In 1943, Murphy became a replacement in Company B, 15th Infantry Regiment, Third Division, 7th Army, in North Africa, and served with the unit throughout the war in Tunisia, Italy, France, Germany and Austria. During that time he rose from PFC to company commander, was wounded three times, personally killed 240 Germans, and was one of the only two soldiers left in the original company at the end of the war. His decorations total 24, from the Congressional Medal of Honor on down.”