Follow TV Tropes


Series / The Rat Patrol

Go To
The In Color Raid!

"Shall we spread a little alarm and despondency?"

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 the Afrika Korps' supplies and missions. It ran for two seasons 1966-68 and 58 episodes on ABC and developed a cult following that has lasted to this day. Fondly remembered by fans for its leapin’ jeeps, action oriented story telling, and epic explosions.


The Troping Raid:

  • AB Negative: "The B Negative Raid". Moffitt has B negative blood, and when he's injured in the field, the Patrol are too far away from a hospital and unable to give blood themselves due to being incompatible. They end up raiding Dietrich's camp and kidnapping an American POW who has the same blood type.
  • 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.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Captain Wansee in "The Decoy Raid." The man suffers from extreme mood swings, alternating between quiet disinterest in anything going around him to screaming at the top of his lungs and even nearly crying, and, of course, committing random acts of cruel violence at the drop of a hat.
  • Advertisement:
  • America Won World War II: 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 (it did return to British screens years later.
  • Anti-Villain: Dietrich, obviously. He is a villain by default, being a German officer, but a generally decent person overall.
  • Ax-Crazy: The psychotic SS Captain Wansee in "The Decoy Raid." Lampshaded by Dietrich when he calls out Wansee's sanity.
  • Badass Crew: Driving through the desert, sneaking up on the Jerries 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 (later aka Eric Braeden), who played Captain Dietrich, is a native speaker, as are most of the guest actors playing German characters. He ad-libbed his own German-language dialogue, necessary as the series writers didn’t speak it. It’s interesting to watch the English-speaking German-character extras trying to keep up.
    • Even the native speakers don't always keep up with one another. There is a particularly humorous example of this in the "B-Negative Raid." Dietrich, not unnaturally, is shouting orders at his men to go do something about some explosions (caused by the Rats, but he doesn't know that). One of these men is played by Manfred Lating, also a native speaker. However, he and Hans Gudegast are from different regions of Germany (Lating is from Bayern, and Hans Gudegast is from Kiel in the extreme north). Judging from his momentarily blank expression, Manfred Lating had no clue what the captain had just said. He resorts to saluting and making tracks, still looking blank.
  • 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: 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, Moffitt 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.
  • Cool Car: The Patrol's Ma Deuce-packing Jeeps.
  • Desert Warfare: The whole series follows fictional raids against the Afrika Korps, and details such as sandstorms are a constant.
  • 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 German units raided captured stores of British made gear including uniforms. Also, before long the North African sun had bleached all army’s uniforms the same basic color.
  • Due to the Dead: In "The Darers Go First Raid," the Rats allow the two captured SS tank crew members to bury their four dead comrades.
  • Compilation Movie: The three-parter "The Last Harbor Raid" was released theatrically overseas as Massacre Harbor.
  • Day in the Limelight: "The Dare-Devil Rescue Raid" is this for Moffitt with a huge dose of It's Personal thrown in when he and the other Rats are waiting for Moffitt's father to join them on a mission while the plane bringing is shot down in front of them. Moffitt refuses to believe his dad's dead until he's sees his body. The name of the episode should tip you off that father are son are reunited..
  • Enemy Mine: There are several episodes where Dietrich and the Rats form a truce while working for a common end. By the end of the episode though, they always go back to trying to kill each other.
  • Evil Cripple: Von Brugge. (Also, very nearly Capt. Dietrich. According to Mr. Gudegast’s autobiography, the producers were of the opinion that Dietrich was too sympathetic a character and wanted him to portray Dietrich as a hardcore National Socialist, complete with a limp and an eye patch).
  • Failure Is the Only Option: 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 occasionally fall on him. The deck is stacked, and the dice are loaded— in the Rats’ favor. It doesn't matter how bright, brave, and clever he is, the poor guy can't catch a break. Never mind, they can't kill him, either.
  • Fake in the Hole: In "The Darers Go First Raid," the Rats need to take an SS tank intact so they can use it to drive into an Afrika Korps depot. Troy has a dud grenade (thrown at him earlier by one of the enemy tank crew), which he tosses into the open hatch. This causes the commander and loader to bail out and get captured. However, the radio operator throws the grenade back out and shuts the hatch.
  • Five-Man Band:
  • Even Evil Has Standards: As a Combat Pragmatist, Dietrich will lead them to poisoned wells, lie, and set devious traps for the Rat Patrol. He will absolutely threaten to shoot them if they're caught in civilian clothes or German uniform. But if they are in uniform, he will respect the very letter of the Geneva Convention, and is shocked and disgusted at an SS officer holding up much-needed medical supplies for petty reasons.
  • Friendly Enemy: Dietrich won't stop trying to kill the Rats and the Rats won't stop foiling his missions. But they're perfectly affable with each other outside that, and they won't object to teaming up against a greater foe.
  • 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).
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Moffitt started to go down this route after hearing of his brother's death to a point of being borderline Ax-Crazy in "The Hickory Dickory Dock Raid."
  • 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 after the first six episodes due to the number of complaints received (while The BBC never brought it back; however United Artists released the Compilation Movie (see below) in the UK in 1969 the series was eventually shown on British satellite TV decades later, and season 1 is available on region 2 DVD).

    • Another issue is the frequent appearance of SS troops, including an SS tank in one episode. The SS in reality had a limited presence in Africa.
  • Hollywood Tactics: In spades, however, the way that the Rats take control of the SS tank in "The Darers Go First Raid" is a pretty good way to capture such a vehicle intact and working with minimal effort:
    • The tank, with four crew inside, is sitting parked underneath a makeshift shelter. Troy tosses a dud grenade into the open hatch and captures the commander and loader as they come out in a panic. Then when the radio operator throws the grenade back out and shuts the hatch, Troy makes the loader stand in front of the tank so it can't drive forward without running him over, then forces the commander to do the same at the rear so it can't back up, and then they jam logs in the treads just to be sure, then the Rats take down the shelter so the sun is beating down on the vehicle and sit and wait for the hot sun to drive the remaining men out. It works.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Almost every episode title is "The ________ Raid" (like "The Blind Man's Bluff Raid" and "The Kingdom Come Raid"), but there are a few exceptions like "Mask-A-Raid" and the only episode title that doesn't have "raid" as the last word, "The Wildest Raid Of All."
  • Imperiled in Pregnancy: "The Life For A Life Raid."
  • 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).
  • Knight of Cerebus: SS Captain Wansee in "The Decoy Raid" is quite a disturbing mood-swinging nut job and a dark Villain of the Week at the time of the show's syndication. Even Dietrich doesn't go this far as this psycho.
  • MAD: Ratpacktrol
  • 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.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: In "The Darkest Raid," Troy replaces a wounded German courier in a scheme to steal a cache diamonds from a Nazi outpost, Christopher George doesn't even try to do a German accent making viewers wonder why the Nazis don't see though Troy's cover sooner than they actually do.
  • 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.
  • Pin-Pulling Teeth
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Dietrich is maybe the most frequent adversary of the Rat Patrol, but he is also a chivalrous man of honor who is just serving his country, while also hating his bosses and the SS and being an overall decent person.
  • The Quiet One: Tully sometimes goes for whole episodes without saying more than one word. Pulls it off by being The Big Guy who gets to use the bazooka.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles. In "The Holy War Raid" Sgt. Jack Moffitt speaks in German to Hauptmann Dietrich over the radio in an attempt to trick him. Dietrich isn't fooled - he comments that Moffitt's German isn't as good as his own English.
  • Replaced the Theme Tune: Alex North's original theme music (as well as his score for the pilot episode "The Chase Of Fire Raid") were scrapped when creator/producer Tom Gries was fired during post-production, resulting in Dominic Frontiere taking time off from another World War II series (12 O'Clock High) to write a new theme and music library. North's music didn't go to waste, however - he repurposed his theme for the 1968 movie The Devil's Brigade, and his work on the series was later released on the second of two soundtrack albums that La La Land Records issued decades later.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: After Captain Wansee reneges on the bargain with Dietrich to trade Moffitt for the innocent nurse hostage, Dietrich shoots him to save them both in "The Decoy Raid."
  • Sergeant Rock: Sergeant Sam Troy, natch.
  • Southern-Fried Private: Tully Pettigrew plays with this trope. Although from Kentucky (and getting his jeep leapin’ training by running moonshine), he’s plenty intelligent and good at his job.
  • The Squad: Sergeants Troy and Moffitt, and Privates Hitchcock and Pettigrew. Truth in Television, they are based on the real life guerrilla squads of the North African campaign like the SAS and the Long Range Desert Group. The changes didn't go down well in Britain, as explained elsewhere on this page.
  • Taking the Bullet: Marianne for Hitchcock in "The Last Harbor Raid: Episode III." To make it worse,it was unintentional - she's shot in the back by one of the Nazis while she's in front of him in his arms while the group escape.
  • Tanks, but No Tanks: The "German" tanks and halftracks were all American vehicles in German markings.
  • Tank Goodness: The Rats going nuts with a captured SS tank in "The Darers Go First Raid," using it to infiltrate and destroy an Afrika Korps depot.
  • Tap on the Head: Troy as well as Moffitt receive beatings or are knocked out on more than one occasion, and are able to shake it off and keep on fighting as though nothing happened.
  • 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 Germans 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.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Captain Wansee is prone to this due to his psychotic mood-swinging episodes in "The Decoy Raid."
  • Villainous Valor: Anytime the Rat Patrol manages to defeat the Germans, Dietrich always turned up as the Sole Survivor of their raids and tries and tries again in succeeding episodes to counterattack them.
  • 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.
  • Worthy Opponent: Both the Rat Patrol and Dietrich acknowledged and respected each other for their determination in their valorous duties.
  • 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.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: