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A World War II action/adventure show set in the deserts of Libya that follows the shoot em up exploits of a four man band of Allied soldiers as they wreak havoc on Nazi supplies and missions. Ran for two seasons from 1966-1968 and developed a cult following that has lasted to this day, although not enough to prevent it from being cancelled after 58 episodes. Fondly remembered by fans for its leapin’ jeeps, action oriented story telling, and epic explosions.The Rat Patrol.
Tropes in this show
Adventurer Archaeologist: Moffitt has degrees in archaeology and anthropology, is an expert on geological formations in the desert, and speaks fluent German and Arabic. His knowledge of the terrain and people is why he was assigned to the Patrol.
Affably Evil: Dietrich is very polite to the Rats, even when he is trying to capture and kill them.
America Wins the War: Three out of four main Allied characters are Americans, despite the limited part the US played in the real-life campaign. When the show was briefly licensed by the BBC, the volume of complaints received led to it being rapidly taken off air.
Badass Crew: Driving through the desert, sneaking up on Nazis and blowing them sky high with 50 caliber guns strapped to jeeps badass enough for you?
Bilingual Bonus: There are frequent long passages in untranslated German and occasionally French. Hans Gudegast (a.k.a. Eric Braeden), who played Captain Dietrich, is a native speaker, as are most of the Nazi characters who speak German. Apparently he sometimes adlibbed German lines—watch the English speaking Nazi extras trying to keep up.
Bluff The Imposter: While Troy is disguised as German officer Richter, the suspicious Colonel Gerschon does this in order to expose him, holding up what he claims is the real Richter's dog tags. But after Troy fesses up, Gerschon reveals they're his own tags.
Butt Monkey: Dietrich may be the closest counterpart to Wile E Coyote in live-action television: His plans to capture and/or kill the Rats never work (no matter how clever they are), his stuff usually ends up exploded, and heavy objects frequently fall on him. Poor guy can't catch a break. Never mind, they can't kill him, either.
There's also Gestapo Major Bruder, who keeps insisting that the bandaged "Klinger" is actually Moffitt. Nobody listens to him and his Wehrmacht colleagues ridicule him. Eventually, although he is able to prove Klinger is actually Moffitt in disguise, Moffit changes places with him, putting the bandages on him, so when the by now convinced Colonel von Graff comes to kill the "spy" it's Bruder he blows away.
Dress-Coded for Your Convenience: Subverted. The Germans, the Americans, and the British all wear similar khaki colored uniforms. Eventually you’ve just gotta tell them apart by their equipment or headgear. Truth in Television, as before long the North African sun had bleached all army’s uniforms the same basic color.
Goggles Do Nothing: Averted. Both the Rats and the Germans actually do wear the goggles they sport over their eyes, although Dietrich does have a habit of wearing his even when not appropriate.
Hand Signals: During the opening titles Sergeant Troy signals his men using hand gestures: prepare to attack (a closed fist) and then to move out (fist opens up). Watch it here.
Hollywood History: Plays fast and loose with reality. The biggest is probably how the show seems to think Americans were in charge of the North African campaign, when they really only entered the fight during the last six months of the conflict. Most of the fighting was carried by the British Commonwealth, and the unit that the Patrol is based on, the Long Range Desert Group is still considered an integral part of British special forces culture.
The show was actually taken off during its first series in the UK due to the number of complaints received.
Indy Ploy: Troy loves this one. Hot headed sergeants can't be bothered to come up with elaborate premeditated plans!
Karmic Death: Von Brugge, who steps on one of the landmines he intended to kill Troy with.
Kill and Replace / Dead Person Impersonation: Wanted war criminal Colonel Beckman murders his aide Captain Seitel and switches rank insignia with him. When taken prisoner, he passes himself off as Seitel, and the dead Seitel as the real Beckman. He also frames Troy for his "own" murder in this manner.
The Rat Patrol have done this a few times themselves, although they usually at least try to capture the guy they're going to impersonate alive (sometimes successfully but often not).
Mook Lieutenant: Dietrich has had several throughout the series, as have other German officers. Usually a captain or lieutenant will fill this role, and occasionally a sergeant. Whether they're good or evil depends on the disposition of their commanding officer - i.e., if the officer is good, then his lieutenant will be, too; likewise if the officer is evil, although there are exceptions to this.
More Dakka: The main method the Rats employ against the Germans. This show will make you believe a jeep can kill a tank.
When the Germans attempt this, of course, it never works.
My Country, Right or Wrong: Seems to be Dietrich’s motivation for remaining a German officer. Truth in Television, as many Heer (Army) officers despised Hitler, but still wanted a strong Germany and were willing to put up with him if he could give their country superpower status once again.
Nice Hat: One for everybody. Moffitt sports a black beret, Troy has an Australian slouch hat, Hitchcock is in a red kepi, and Tully wears the only standard headgear, an American GI helmet.
Officer and a Gentleman: Sergeant Moffitt, although he technically enlisted and isn’t an officer. He’s got the upper-class Brit part down, and the cool headedness to counteract Troy.
This may explain why it didn't last long when it was shown in Britain (veterans objected to the crew being made up of one Brit and three Americans).
Tanks, but No Tanks: The "German" tanks and halftracks were all American vehicles in German markings.
Those Wacky Nazis: It is WWII, after all. Played straight with the majority of German characters; subverted with Dietrich, who is an honorable professional soldier who hates his bosses and respects the Rat Patrol.
Torture Technician: Lt. Koss in the penultimate episode. He even sings while preparing to torture his victims.
Translation Convention: Often done quite subtly. The Nazis will frequently have whole conversations with each other in German, but only if we can basically understand what’s going on, or when there’s a character translating to someone else. Most often, they will begin a dialogue in German, then ask to switch over to English, citing something like not wanting the enlisted men to overhear. A few times, the dialogue starts in German, then abruptly changes to English in a straight case of translation convention.
At least in season 1. By season 2 the Germans were always inexplicably speaking English.
War Is Hell: Played straight and subverted. War may be hell, but it sure looks like fun.
We Have Reserves: Seems to be the Afrika Korps' motto, especially in the case of the vengeful Major von Brugge, and Colonel Voss after him. Both were willing to sacrifice as many of their men as they needed to to defeat the Rat Patrol.
Would Hurt a Child: Von Graff, who has the son of a British general kidnapped and later uses the child as a human shield.
Would Not Shoot a Civilian: One of the ways we learn Captain Dietrich is different from the other bad guys. Also goes for the Rats, naturally.
You Look Familiar: Guest stars were frequently reused (often with a change of rank and uniform or playing a different race), but particularly Manfred Lating, who played quite a few of the anonymous German soldiers who exist solely to be shot up.