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Series / Combat! (1962)

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Left to right: Vic Morrow as Sergeant Chip Saunders and Rick Jason as Second Lieutenant Gil Hanley.

Combat! is a TV series that ran on ABC from 1962 until 1967 about "King Company" during the invasion of France in World War II, starting from D-Day and never farther than that throughout its five-season run. It predominantly featured Sergeant Chip Saunders (Vic Morrow), though his entire squad was just as fleshed out. Robert Altman was a major creative force on the series, directing every second episode of the first season. The show's original writer, Robert Pirosh, also wrote Battleground (1949) and Hell Is for Heroes, which have a similar grounded style to this series.


  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Quite a few of the Germans, noticeably Colonel Hoffen in "Gadjo."
  • All for Nothing: In "Hills Are For Heroes", the company gets slaughtered trying to take a strategically important hill. Even the tank they call in for help gets destroyed by the dug-in Germans. At the end, they finally take it, only to be told by Hanley they have to withdraw back to their original positions because the Germans have broken through elsewhere.
  • Artistic License – Military: In the Feud Episode "Conflict," Littlejohn's and Caje's bickering throughout the episode and even lashing out at others even during the mission was considered to be the charge of insubordination in face of the enemy. Littlejohn's transfer request would be thrown out the window since he now has war criminal record and if Saunders wasn't merciful, any sergeant in the platoon would automatically have the two infighting privates court martial. In the U.S. military, engaging in physical altercations with fellow soldiers which nearly happened twice between Littlejohn and Caje in the episode is considered a serious offense and can result in disciplinary action. Depending on the circumstances of the altercation, a service member may face charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which could result in punishment such as fines, imprisonment, or discharge from the military. It is important to remember that physical violence is not an acceptable way to resolve conflicts and that all service members are expected to maintain good order and discipline.
  • Big Eater: Braddock, especially in the pilot.
  • Big Good: Rick Jason as Lt. Hanley, as he is one of the series' regulars and the only one with a higher rank than Sgt. Saunders and the White Rook platoon.
  • The Big Guy: Littlejohn, the most towering soldier in White Rook.
  • Bottomless Magazines: The squad members were seldom seen re-loading their M-1s, BAR, and Thompson submachine gun.
  • Comic-Book Time: The first season follows a roughly consistent Story Arc from D-Day (June '44) to the imminent liberation of Paris (August '44). The next four all happen around and after that time... but the squad never leaves France.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Almost all of the characters got to have an episode for themselves.
  • Doomed Hurt Guy: Several times the squad will try and rescue a badly wounded G.I., a member of La Résistance, or, sometimes, even a Nazi, only to have the individual end up dying despite all their efforts. It was used to great effect to show the futility of war.
  • Gentle Giant: The Big Guy of White Rook, Littlejohn.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: In "Entombed," a truce is declared between Lt. Hanley's group and German soldiers following a cave-in. It forces both sides to work together and even causes both groups to bond with one another. The dominoes start to fall when the German Lt. Karl Mauer attempts suicide as Hanley attempts to talk him out of it, only for Mauer to accidentally injure him. Then Pvt. Tommy Bishopnote  kills Mauer to save Hanley just as Mauer was apologizing to Hanley for accidentally shooting him and he nearly got killed by the German soldier Wexler, whom he bonded with to avenge Mauer's death, until Hanley saves Bishop by killing Wexler. An unfortunate sad end to a bond between two enemy groups. Sadder considering both Bishop and Wexler finally dug a way out when it happens.
  • Hero Antagonist:
    • The British soldier and the French Resistance fighter (until he discovers the truth) towards Kirby out of suspicion of being a German infiltrator in disguise in "The Masquers".
    • Sgt. Metcalf and the court who sides with him towards Kirby in "Hill 256".
    • Eddie Albert as Phil, the title character of "Doughboy" towards Saunders initially.
  • Inspector Javert: The British soldier and the French Resistance fighter (until he discovers the truth) towards Kirby out of suspicion of being a German infiltrator in disguise in "The Masquers". There is also Sgt. Metcalf and the court who sides with him towards Kirby too in "Hill 256".
  • Jerkass Ball:
    • Saunders when he behaves like The Neidermeyer towards New Meat Trenton, who Saunders suspects of pulling the Wounded Gazelle Gambit to skip combat duty, following suffering a Heroic BSoD from his letter in "Mail Call."
    • Also, Littlejohn and Caje in the Feud Episode "Conflict," when the lack of sleep and enduring rain prompts them to lose their patience, made them cranky and mean-spirited than they are usually, also behaving like each The Neidermeyer, turned them against each other and even lashing out at other members of their platoon, affecting their performances in the front lines that gets to a point of them committing insubordination and acting each as The Millstone for their Nice Job Breaking It, Hero moments. Both Saunders and Doc call them out for their inexcusable insubordination and they nearly earned getting a dishonorable discharge from their squad as Fallen Heroes after serving White Rook well and nobly in past countless episodes that spanned over four seasons for their disgracefully petty insolence in this episode. Fortunately, while they were not above in attempting to engage in a fistfight in amidst of their bickering, at least Littlejohn and Caje were humane and held on to whatever moral restraint they had left enough not to turn their M1s or bayonets against each other to kill one another out of petty spite, which if attempted may resulted in them not just earning a dishonorable discharge and transfer, but an automatic court martial for both of them also and shamed them afterwards as absolute Fallen Heroes following prosecution for attempting or having committed killing a fellow soldier. Doc's "The Reason You Suck" Speech towards the two troublemakers was able to get through to them for them to have a Jerkass Realization about themselves and eventually they reconciled, shift to Heroic Safe Mode and worked together with no issues.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Kirby, the Hot-Blooded member of White Rook who is also equally courageous on the battlefield and caring of his brothers-in-arms.
  • Last-Name Basis: Justified. Everyone is in the Army.
  • Licensed Game: A Japan-only Super NES Turn-Based Strategy game based on the series was released in 1995.
  • Mauve Shirt: Early on, Pirosh and Altman made an effort to contract actors for a couple of episodes, so you'd just get to know them before they're killed.
  • New Meat: The squad seems to have a completely random new soldier every week, and half of the time, they end up dying.
  • One-Steve Limit: King Company had two different medical soldiers nicknamed Doc, one played by Steven Rogers in Season One, and the other played by Conlan Carter for the remainder of the series.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Gavin MacLeod's British in "The Masquers".
  • Pet the Dog:
  • Properly Paranoid: In "The Masquers", the Allied soldiers are extremely paranoid of who is a German in disguise and who isn't. As a result Unfriendly Fire ensues.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: In a variation, the Instrumental Theme Tune quotes from "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again", a song from The American Civil War.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: While there are mostly Those Wacky Nazis antagonists on the show, several episodes even show some German soldier characters to be this too.
  • Put on a Bus:
    • Private Braddock, as Shecky Greene walked off the show after nine episodes, because the physical demands of the series were taking a toll on him, and he wished to return to his nightclub acts in Las Vegas.
    • The first Doc after Season One as well.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: Leonard Rosenman wrote a music library that provided backing throughout the run of the series, although he did do an original score for the pilot (and some other episodes).
  • Sergeant Rock: Sergeant Chip Saunders.
  • Spin-Off: Garrison's Gorillas, made as an episode of this show, but eventually shown as a true Pilot Episode (turning it into a Spin Off Sendoff instead.)
  • Stock Footage: Artillery barrages, massive numbers of tanks, and bombers are mixed with reaction shots of the cast members.
  • Translation Convention: Completely subverted, which helped greatly with the show's authenticity and realism: the Germans spoke German, the French spoke French, and all without subtitles; any translation that may have gone on was if the squad happened to have a translator who could hear the enemy's secrets, and relay the information back to the others.

Alternative Title(s): Combat