medal of honor

Movie Monday: To Hell and Back 1955

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To Hell and Back Image One
Image Credit: IMDB & Amazon

Sixty-five years ago, today, the war film To Hell and Back was released, originally in San Antonio. Directed by Jesse Hibbs and based on the book of the same name, it starred Audie Murphy, Marshall Thompson, Charles Drake, Jack Kelly, Gregg Palmer, Paul Picerni, David Janssen, Denver Pyle, Brett Halsey (Admiral’s great-nephew) and Gordon Gebert as a young Audie.

IMDB Summary:

Biopic of the wartime exploits of Audie Murphy (played by himself), the most decorated US soldier in World War II. Starting with his boyhood in Texas, where he became the head of his family at a young age, the story follows his enrollment in [the] Army where he was assigned to the 3rd Division. He fought in North Africa, Sicily and Italy, before landing in southern France and, eventually, fighting in Germany. A Medal of Honor recipient, he also received battle honors from the French and Belgian government.

Rotten Tomatoes Summary:

The highly variable Audie Murphy delivers his best screen performance as “himself” in Universal‘s To Hell and Back. Based on the star’s autobiography, this is the story of how Murphy became America’s most-decorated soldier during WW II. After dwelling a bit on Murphy’s hard-scrabble Texas upbringing, the story moves ahead to 1942, when, as a teenager, Audie joined the army. Within a year, he was a member of the 7th Army, serving in North Africa, Italy, France and, ultimately, Germany and Austria. One by one, the members of Murphy’s Company B are killed in the war, until only three men from the original company are left. [The] others appear at the finale as ghostly images […]. The bulk of the film is given over to Murphy’s conspicuous acts of combat bravery and his killing of 240 enemy soldiers. Highlighted by excellent battle sequences, To Hell and Back is a serviceable tribute to a most complex individual.

Audie Murphy Image Two
Date: 1948
Photo Author: Fort Detrick
Wikipedia & Wikimedia

Trivia Bits:
Filmed at Fort Lewis, WA, Yakima River, WA, Oak Creek Wildlife Area, WA and Universal Studios.
♦ Audie Murphy originally declined the opportunity to portray himself in the movie, not wanting people to think that he was attempting to cash in on his role as a war hero. Murphy initially suggested his friend Tony Curtis to play him.
♦ Audie Murphy’s war buddy Onclo Airheart was slated to play himself, but he declined due to the fact that the movie was to be shot during planting season.
♦ [Author] David Morell [sic] cites Audie Murphy as the inspiration for the character of John Rambo.
♦ In the movie, […] Murphy does his one-man standoff on top of a medium M-4 Sherman tank. [In] real life it happened on top of an M10 Wolverine tank destroyer.
♦ Audie Murphy’s feats of heroism and his much decorated status have been compared to those of his counterpart during World War I, Sgt. Alvin C. York […].

Murphy […] wrote poetry and songs, and, himself a sufferer, was among the first advocates for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He died on May 28, 1971, when the private airplane in which he was riding crashed.

Additional Reading:
To Hell and Back (American Film Institute)
To Hell and Back (Turner Classic Movies)
Alvin York (Wikipedia)
Audie Murphy (Wikipedia)

Flashback Friday: Spain Declares War 1898

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Spanish-American War Collage Wikipedia Image One
Top Left: Signal Corps extending telegraph lines.
Top Right: USS Iowa
Middle Left: Spanish flag replaced at Fort Malate
Middle Right: Filipino soldiers in Spanish uniforms outside Manila.
Bottom Left: Roosevelt & The Rough Riders @ San Juan Hill
Bottom Right: The signing of the Treaty of Paris (1898)
Collage Credit: Barbudo
Wikipedia & Wikimedia

I posted about Hillsborough’s Old Courthouse this past Tuesday. The first picture was a marker about the Kentucky Expedition, led by Daniel Boone in 1775. The information was fashioned out of metal from the USS Maine, the very ship sunk in Havana Harbor that touched off the Spanish-American War. Spain declared war on the U.S. one-hundred, twenty-two years, ago, today and, the U.S. declared war the following day. Historically, the day of declaration is retroactively moved to April 21 as that was the day Spain severed diplomatic relations and the U.S. Navy began a Cuban blockade (the first of two). At the time of my Town Tuesday post, I didn’t realize that I actually posted it on the same day as the corrected date.

After first landing on an island then called Guanahani, Bahamas (San Salvador), on [October 12], Christopher Columbus commanded his three ships […] to land on Cuba’s northeastern coast on [October 28], 1492. Columbus claimed the island for the new Kingdom of Spain and named it Isla Juana after Juan, Prince of Asturias.

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The main issue was Cuban independence. Revolts had been occurring for some years in Cuba against Spanish rule. Hostilities began in the aftermath of the explosion of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor in Cuba, leading to U.S. intervention in the Cuban War of Independence.

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The growing popular demand for U.S. intervention became an insistent chorus after the (still) unexplained sinking [of the Battleship Maine], which had been sent to protect U.S. citizens and property after anti-Spanish rioting in Havana. [P]olitical pressures from the Democratic Party pushed [President] McKinley into a war that he had wished to avoid. McKinley signed a joint Congressional resolution demanding Spanish withdrawal and authorizing the President to use military force to help Cuba gain independence […].

Remember The Maine Wikipedia Image Two
Remember The Maine!
Image Credit: Artist Victor Gillam
Historical Society of Pennsylvania
May 7, 1898

The ensuing, ten-week war, fought in both the Caribbean and the Pacific, was pathetically one-sided, since Spain had readied neither its army, nor its navy, for a distant war with the formidable power of the United States.

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An army of regular troops, and volunteers, under General William Shafter, with Theodore Roosevelt (then, Assistant Secretary of the Navy) and his 1st Volunteer Cavalry, (The Rough Riders), landed on the coast, east of Santiago and, slowly advanced on the city […]. Madrid sued for peace after two Spanish squadrons were sunk in Santiago de Cuba and Manila Bay and a third, more modern, fleet was recalled home to protect the Spanish coasts.

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The result was the 1898 Treaty of Paris. In it, Spain renounced all claim to Cuba, ceded Guam and Puerto Rico to the United States and, transferred sovereignty over the Philippines to the United States for $20 million.

♦ In 1976, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover commissioned a private investigation into the [USS Maine] explosion and, the National Geographic Society did an investigation in 1999, using computer simulations. All investigations agreed that an explosion of the forward magazines caused the destruction of the ship but, different conclusions were reached as to how the magazines could have exploded.

♦ [T]heodore Roosevelt, who eventually became Vice President and, later, President of the United States […] was, posthumously, awarded the Medal of Honor in 2001 for his actions in Cuba and, became the only U.S. President to win the award.

♦ The defeat and loss of the last remnants of the Spanish Empire was a profound shock to Spain’s national psyche […]. [There was a] philosophical and artistic re-evaluation of Spanish society known as the Generation of ’98.

Sources:
Cuba: Population, History and Resources 1907 (Google Books)
Destruction of the Maine (PDF Library of Congress)
Spain Declares War Against The United States (On This Day Website)
Spanish-American War (The History Channel)
What Destroyed The USS Maine (The Spanish-American War Centennial Site)
Cuba: A New History (Web Archive)
Battle of San Juan Hill (Wikipedia)
Cuban War of Independence (Wikipedia)
Generation of ’89 (Wikipedia)
Spanish-American War (Wikipedia)
Treaty of Paris (1898) (Wikipedia)

The Story of the USS Maine

Smithsonian Channel Explosion of the USS Maine

History Channel Spanish-American War Documentary