To Hell and Back

       

Audie Leon Murphy, June 20, 1924 – May 28, 1971, was the most highly decorated American       soldier in World War II. He is buried in Section 46, grave 366-11 in Arlington National Cemetery. (U.S. Army photo by Rachel Larue/released)

I decided before Christmas I should read this classic. The book was first published in 1949 with the cover shown above. My heavily thumbed library copy was a first edition. I assumed he had a ghostwriter but did not know what to expect. The book is good, even very good.

It is sparse,  concentrating on Murphy’s war. With the help of Hollywood writer David “Spec” McClure, the book maintains focus on what it was that made Murphy stand out. Yet it never glamorized a man who went from private to first lieutenant in three years. Oh, and along the way, he was part of four landings and picked up some 33 medals. He was chosen as Time‘s Man of the Year. He was the last man in his company and nearly in his regiment to make it through, even with 3 Purple Hearts. As he put it in his book, he was lucky.

Murphy suffered from PTSD for the rest of his life and slept with a loaded pistol under his pillow, but he was willing to go to Korea in 1950. He was a major in the Texas National Guard for several years where he trained recruits, but that division was not nationalized for Korea. Murphy finally left the army reserve in 1969. The photo of Murphy above shows the sleeve patch of the Third Infantry Division. As far as I can tell, he was in the same company for the whole of WWII.

If you want to read an honest account of a real military hero, you can’t do much better than To Hell and Back. For 1955, the film version is OK.

Mike Lawrence

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