To Hell and Back (1955)




Director:    Jesse Hibbs.

Starring:    Audie Murphy (Himself), Marshall Thompson (Johnson), Jack Kelly (Kerrigan), Charles Drake (Brandon), Paul Picerni (Valentino), Gregg Palmer (Lt. Manning), David Janssen (Lt. Lee), Richard Castle (Kovak), Paul Langton (Col. Howe), Bruce Cowling (Capt. Marks), Julian Upton (Steiner), Denver Pyle (Thompson), Felix Noriego (Swope), Art Aragon (Sanchez), Brett Halsey (Saunders), Tommy Hart (Klasky), Anthony Garcen (Lt. Burns), Gordon Gebert (Audie as a Boy), Mary Field (Mrs. Murphy), Howard Wright (Mr. Houston), Edna Holland (Mrs. Houston), Anabel Shaw (Helen).

War hero Audie Murphy stars as himself in this film based on his autobiography.  During World War II, he fought in North Africa, Italy, France, Germany and Austria.  He was the most decorated soldier, winning more than 20 medals, including the Congressional Medal of Honor.


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

General William Bedell Smith (Ret.) introduces the movie.

1937.  Northeast Texas.  Audie is 12 years of age.  His father has left the family behind and they are very poor.  To help his mother out, he gets a job with a neighbor farmer, Mr. Houston.  His mother dies suddenly and Audie finds himself responsible for the family. 

Peal Harbor is attacked by the Japanese and Audie wants to enlist.  Being underage at 17, he gets permission to join the military from his married sister. His brothers and sisters will have to be cared for by Church welfare.  Audie wants to stay with the boys but Mr. Houston tells him that he can make more money in the military and send the money to his siblings. 

Audie tries the marines and is rejected.  He then tries the navy and is rejected.  They tell him to join the army and so he does.  After basic training he is placed on a ship, destination North Africa.  He is placed with Baker company, 3rd Infantry Division.  He gets a lot of teasing for his young age and is short height compared to the other men.  Africa falls to the Allies and Audie's unit heads for Sicily.  In Sicily Audie takes out a machine-gun nest and kills four other German soldiers. 

They move on to Italy.  Audie leads a combat patrol to create a diversion for another unit.  Audie performs magnificently and soon is in charge of the platoon.  The Allies make a lot of progress heading north up the boot of Italy, but they are stopped at Cassino.  The guys are given some rest and relaxation in Naples. There Audie establishes a relationship with an Italian girl and her family. 

They land at Anzio to get around Cassino and cut it off from any reinforcement.  Audie and his men have to take a two-story house and hold it.  They capture the house and hold it for awhile.  German tanks arrive and push them out.  Audie is offered a battlefield commission, but he declines.  He feels he is too uneducated since he did not even complete grade school.

Success of the D-Day landings in France.  Audie and his men move to the Italian coast for amphibious training.  There destination is southern France.  Murphy goes beyond the call of duty again and so they give him the job of capturing Hill 481.  They take it.

Audie is forced to take a battlefield commission.  There have been too many deaths in the officer corps.  He and his men are given the job of taking the city of Holtzwihr.  He is told that the objective has to be taken no matter what.   Audie is forced to take a battlefield commission.  There have been too many deaths in the officer corps.  He and his men are given the job of taking the city of Holtzwihr.  He is told that the objective has to be taken no matter what.  They takes the city largely because of the brilliance and courage of Murphy who calls in artillery on the attacking tanks and German soldiers, and then kills so many enemy with the machine-gun mounted on a tank that the Germans retreat.  Audie is wounded in the hip during the action.  His wound is bad enough to keep him out of West Point and the army. 

The movie ends showing Murphy receiving medals.  They then list 13 medals that he received, including the Congressional Medal of Honor. 


An o.k.  Audie Murphy is a very likable chap in the movie and you find yourself rooting for him.  He goes from a poor boy from Texas to the nation's most decorated soldier in World War II.  It's fun watching Audie show up his teasers and taunters.  It's a simple, straight-forward movie.  We don't really learn about Audie personally.  But with all his accomplishments, it is not really necessary. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:

Murphy had parents who were Texas sharecroppers.  He had been rejected by both the Marines and the Navy because of his young age. But in the Army he rises to the rank of lieutenant, killing some 240 of the enemy.

the 1960s  --  Murphy suffers with alcohol and drugs and with being charged with attempted murder during a barroom brawl.

1971 --  killed in a small plane crash.


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