This true-life account of the military career of Audie Leon Murphy was taken from his 1949 autobiography and starred Murphy, playing himself.
A native of Texas, Murphy was placed in charge of his many younger siblings on the death of his mother and decided to join the military at the age of 18 to provide for them.
According to the film, he fought in seven major campaigns during World War II, killed 250 enemy soldiers, and his many acts of bravery and heroism during the advance through Italy, France and into Germany earned him increasing rank and responsibility
He received the Bronze Star (and later had a Bronze Service Arrowhead added to it), three Purple Hearts, the Legion of Merit, two Silver Stars and a Distinguished Service Cross. From France, he was awarded two Croix de Guerre medals with Palms and the Legion of Honour Chevalier.
Shortly after his 19th birthday, he was awarded the US Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest honour that an American soldier can be awarded.
To Hell and Back was filmed at Fort Lewis and the Yakima Training Center, near Yakima, Washington, with soldiers from the base serving as extras.
Surpassing expectations, the film garnered critical accolades, was an enormous commercial success – Universal’s highest-grossing release until Jaws (1975) – and was a great boon to Murphy’s film career and personal finances; it was estimated the actor earned $1 million from the film. He tried to make a sequel called The Way Back, dealing with his postwar life, but could never produce a script that attracted financing.
Audie Murphy died on 28 May 1971 when the private plane in which he was a passenger crashed into a mountain near Roanoke, Virginia. He was just 46.