To Hell and Back
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 15 Feb 2017
Audie Murphy was one of the most decorated American soldiers of WW2, having received the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Star medals, among other US and foreign awards. After the war, he visited sites of battle in Europe together with writer David McClure, who assisted with Murphy's memoir. The memoir was ultimately published in 1949 under the title To Hell and Back.
To Hell and Back took the readers through Murphy's experiences fighting in Italy and France. I had the feeling that Murphy and McClure took great liberties with conversations in the lull of battle and with mundane events in a typical soldier's day. This was apparent especially with the words supposedly spoken by Murphy and his comrades, which were over laden with American regional stereotypes. Some of the words were simply a bit too silly to sound real. However, at various key moments, true feelings came through the pages. The words, however unadorned, reflected the genuine friendships Murphy had struck in the foxholes and in bars. The feeling of utmost helplessness amidst an artillery barrage struck deeply as I lived through these ordeals together with him. I particularly enjoyed the ending; a bit open-ended, it somehow still conveyed the closure of a defining chapter of his life, and the healing and hope to come.
I had reviewed this title in its audio book format. Tom Parker employed a full range of regional accents of American English, plus a bit of Polish and Italian accents thrown in. Though over-the-top, I thought this made the listening experience enjoyable, especially in the scenes where Murphy and his comrades chatted and bantered.
To Hell and Back might not had been a literary classic, it nevertheless was a great work on the personal experiences of a front line infantryman. I had definitely enjoyed it.
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General Douglas MacArthur at Leyte, 17 Oct 1944