To Hell and Back, The Epic Combat Journal of World War II’s Most Decorated G.I.
By Audie Murphy
Hardcover in dustjacket, 274 pages
Published by MJF Books, New York, Copyright 1949 by Audie Murphy
Dimensions: 5.6 x 1.0 x 8.5 inches
Audie Murphy attempted to enter military service after the attack on Pearl Harbor, but was rejected due to his small size and for being underaged. Returning with falsified papers, he successfully enlisted in the Army in 1942 at the age of sixteen. Assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division, fought in Sicily, Anzio, and Rome. The Division then landed in the South of France as part of Operation Dragoon. By January 1945 Murphy had received a battlefield commission and was acting as the commander of Company B. At Holtzwihr, France The Company’s position was attacked by a superior German force with armored support. It was there that Murphy stopped the German tanks by calling in artillery fire and engaged the attacking infantry using the machine gun atop a burning tank destroyer. Although wounded, he then led his men in a counter-attack. For this action he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
To Hell and Back is Murphy’s story. There is no pretext, the account begins in Sicily and ends with Germany’s surrender. It is nominally an autobiographical account, but the book was actually written as a collaboration with Hollywood writer David McClure. This is apparent as much of the book is detailed banter between Murphy’s fellow soldiers which will be recognizable to any reader who has seen a Hollywood Western or war movie from the 1940’s. While the characterizations have been embellished the underlying story is Murphy’s, and it graphicly conveys the ordeals of a combat infantryman. After the war Murphy became an actor, and played himself in the 1955 Universal adaptation of this book.
This book is a classic, not only as a combat account, but as an example of human perseverance under the worst of conditions. If you have only one shelf of military history books, To Hell and Back should be on it. This is a great read (or re-read if it’s been awhile), highly recommended.