This autobiographical account of the exploits of Audie L. Murphy as the most decorated American soldier of World War II makes for a good traditional military movie where everybody obeys orders. RIDE CLEAR OF DIABLO director Jesse Hibbs and SASKATCHEWAN scenarist Gil Doud have fashioned a solid, unpretentious combat movie that opens with a brief prologue about our protagonist and the rigors that he endured as a deprived teenager. Murphy had no father. The man abandoned his family and left them to fend for themselves with our hero setting aside his eighth school education to earn money for his mother and his brothers and sisters. The outbreak of World War II prompted Murphy to enlist, but the Marine Corps and the Navy rejected him for his size. He stood five feet five inches and must have looked even scrawnier in real life. Eventually, Murphy made it into the Army, but Hibbs and Doud skip his basic training and have him showing up in North Africa as a replacement. The commanding officer of the outfit is somewhat surprised when Murphy puts in a request to transfer to the paratroopers. Initially, the C.O. wants to transfer the ailing Murphy out because of his poor health on the trip to North Africa (Murph had never been on a ship) and put him in with the cooks. Murphy asks them to forego any special treatment. Nothing happens for our heroes in North Africa, but they get their taste of combat in Sicily and later the Italian campaign. Everybody in the outfit sets out to protect little Audie, but by the time that it is over, he has risen to the rank of lieutenant and he is the one watching out for them. What sets this combat film apart, aside from its infantry perspective, is the appearance of two genuine Sherman tanks--which while they may not be the same models that plowed through the fields of France--are a rarity in World War II movies, especially during the 1950s. Hibbs includes the famous scene where Murphy single-handedly stalled a German advance by manning a .50 caliber machine gun on a blazing tank. His superior officers wanted to ship Murphy off to West Point, but those ambitious plans were sidetracked when Murphy suffered a war wound that disqualified him for the academy. Marshall Thompson, who played the replacement in the Battle of the Bulge movie BATTLEGROUND is cast as a fellow G.I. along with Jack Kelly who later attained fame on the MAVERICK television series with James Garner. Murphy has a brief interlude with a spunky Italian babe, Maria (Susan Kohner in her film debut), but they never get it on with fireworks to boot. Basically, TO HELL AND BACK covers the war without too much fanfare on the part of the protagonist. The theme of friendship is explored in some detail. Nobody wants to make friends under such stressful conditions because their friends wind up dying under fire and the separation is agonizing for them. The action ends with Murphy receiving his decorations. The Germans are pretty much depicted as extras in long shots without any interaction between themselves or the Americans.