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Series / The Rat Patrol

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The In Color Raid! Left to right: Moffitt, Troy, Hitchcock and Pettigrew.

"Shall we spread a little alarm and despondency?"
Sgt. Jack Moffitt in "The Kingdom Come Raid"

The Rat Patrol is a World War II Action/Adventure Series from The '60s. It 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. Most episodes are set in and around the deserts of Libya, although the heroes are sometimes sent on commando raids in less hostile environments.

The Rat Patrol are three Americans — tough, clever commander Sgt. Sam Troy (Christopher George), bespectacled mechanic Cpl. Mark T. Hitchcock (Laurence Casey), Badass Driver PFC. Tully Pettigrew (Justin Tarr) — and an Englishman, Desert Warfare expert Sgt. Jack Moffitt (Gary Raymond). They fight various Germans, but their most frequent nemesis is Captain Hans Deitrich (Hans Gudegast), a Noble Demon who is neither cruel nor sadistic, unlike many of his fellow Nazis. (Dietrich is often referred to by his German rank, Hauptmann.)

The show 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 leapiní 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. (He learned these skills from his father, who's also an archaeologist.) His knowledge of the desert's 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.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Played for Drama and pathos at the end of "The Love Thine Enemy Raid". The wounded German nurse overhears plans for an upcoming raid. After a debate, the Rats decide to let her live and drop her off at a German base for treatment, and trust her not to talk. Later, the raid goes off without a hitch, which means that either the nurse didn't talk or she didn't live. Neither the Rats nor the audience learn if she survived or not.
  • America Won World War II: Three out of the 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 the air, although 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, Italian and Arabic. 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 didnít speak it. Itís 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.
    • "The Take Me to Your Leader Raid" has a variation. The Rats think the American major they're driving around is a German spy, but they have no proof — so they act as if they already know his secret, approaching him menacingly with guns drawn, to see how he reacts. The "major" quickly confirms their suspicions by shooting at them and trying to escape.
  • Butt-Monkey: Gestapo Major Bruder from "Mask-a-Raid", who keeps (correctly) insisting that the bandaged "Klaus 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.
  • Captured on Purpose: In at least two episodes ('The Deadly Double Raid' and 'The Do-Re-Mi Raid'), one or two members of the team allow themselves to be captured by the Germans so that they can break a prisoner of war out of a P.O.W. camp.
  • Chromosome Casting: Not in every episode, but female characters are rare in this Rated M for Manly series.
  • Compilation Movie: The three-parter "The Last Harbor Raid" was released theatrically overseas as Massacre Harbor.
  • Cool Car: The Patrol's Ma Deuce-packing Jeeps.
  • A 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 him is shot down in front of them. Moffitt refuses to believe his dad's dead until he's sees his body. The episode's Spoiler Title should tip you off that father are son are reunited.
  • 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 youíve 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 armyís 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.
  • 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:
    • Colonel Von Brugge from "The Field of Death Raid" was injured by the Rats in an encounter that we're never shown. Now, he walks with a cane and plots to destroy them.
    • Also, very nearly Capt. Dietrich. According to Mr. Gudegastís 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 -ó in the Ratsí 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.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: As a Combat Pragmatist, Dietrich will lead the Rat Patrol to poisoned wells, lie, and set devious traps for them. He will absolutely threaten to shoot them if they're caught in civilian clothes or German uniform. But if they are wearing their proper uniforms, he will respect the very letter of the Geneva Convention, and in "The Decoy Raid" he's shocked and disgusted when an SS officer holds 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, or to save a child.
  • 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 of one episode, Sergeant Troy signals his men using hand gestures: prepare to attack (a closed fist) and then to move out (fist opens up).
  • Heroic Suicide: In "The Fire and Brimstone Raid", the Germans have turned an ancient Arab winery into a munitions depot, and Dietrich has forced the sheik who runs the place (and just wants all the foreigners gone) to cooperate. When Dietrich gets rid of a bomb the Rat Patrol have planted, the sheik (who had already discussed the morality of this trope with Moffitt) takes matters into his own hands by strapping several sticks of dynamite to his chest.
    Dietrich: I hope you are aware that you are going to blow yourself up with [the ammunition].
    Sheik: That's my choice, Captain. You will have just seconds to make yours.
    (Dietrich flees as depot explodes)
  • He Who Fights Monsters: In "The Hickory Dickory Dock Raid", Moffitt starts to go down this route after hearing of his brother's death, to the point of becoming borderline Ax-Crazy.
  • Hollywood History: The series plays fast and loose with reality.
    • The biggest inaccuracy 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.
    • In the UK, the show was actually taken off the air after the first six episodes due to the number of complaints received. While The BBC never brought it back, United Artists released the Compilation Movie (see above) 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. In reality, the SS 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!
  • The Infiltration: A common trope on the show. Sometimes the Rats pose as German soldiers; in other episodes, they just sneak into enemy installations. However, since this is a Shoot 'Em Up show, they're almost always discovered and wind up having to fight their way out.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Mickey Roberts from "The Do-Re-Mi Raid". He's a famous singer who has been captured by Dietrich, and the Rats are sent on a mission to save him. However, it turns out that Roberts would rather spend the war in a safe POW camp than go back to combat. Worse, the Germans have tortured him into revealing that Perkins, a British soldier being held with him, has valuable information, which leads to Perkins being tortured. However, he feels guilty about this and is adamant that Troy rescue Perkins while he stays behind. In the end Roberts is killed while covering Troy and Perkins' escape.
  • Jumping on a Grenade: In "The Delilah Raid", Colonel Leske does this to save his lover, the French collaborator Michele Cartier.
  • Karmic Death:
  • Kill and Replace/Dead Person Impersonation:
    • In "The Exhibit A Raid", 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, and the other Rats have to prove Troy's innocence.
    • 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 from "The Decoy Raid" is quite a disturbing, mood-swinging nut job and an unusually dark Villain of the Week for the time the show was made. When he's not going on deranged rants about how all is fair in war, he's going back on his word or needlessly killing a prisoner just to show how serious he is. Even Dietrich, who may be a Nazi but at least has a code of honor, is repelled by this psycho.
  • MAD: Published a parody titled "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 Dietrichís motivation for remaining a German officer. Truth in Television, as many Heer (Army) officers despised Adolf 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.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: In "The Love Thine Enemy Raid", Troy shoots several soldiers emerging from the back of a German supply truck. Then, he reflexively shoots the next person — who turns out to be a nurse. The only way to save the seriously wounded nurse is to take her to a nearby German base, which a guilt-stricken Troy insists on doing despite the danger.
  • Nazi Protagonist: Or Nazi Supporting Protagonist without the Nazi aspect itself, since the views spends almost as much time with Capt. Dietrich as with the Rat Patrol and his opposition is the driving force of the most episodes he appears in.
  • No Name Given: The Sheik in "The Fire and Brimstone Raid". We never learn what his real name is.
  • Noble Top Enforcer: Capt. Dietrich is this whenever he serves under a one-note Nazi Villain of the Week in contrast to his own principles.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: In "The Darkest Raid," Troy replaces a wounded German courier in a scheme to steal a cache of diamonds from a Nazi outpost. Christopher George doesn't even try to do a German accent. This makes viewers wonder why the Nazis don't see though Troy's cover sooner than they actually do. However, this is one of the episodes where Translation Convention is in effect, so everyone is speaking English anyway.
  • Obfuscating Disability: In "The Darkest Raid", Troy poses as a blinded German soldier so that when the other Rats cut off the electricity, plunging the base into darkness, he'll have the advantage.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Sergeant Moffitt, although he technically enlisted and isnít an officer. Heís got the upper-class Brit part down, and the cool-headedness to counteract the more Hot-Blooded Troy. Captain Dietrich is one for the German side, due to being played by the future Victor Newman.
  • One-Steve Limit: Defied Trope, as several German names are reused by various enemy characters.
  • The Patriarch: In "The Fire and Brimstone Raid", the Sheik describes himself as "[the] head of a family whose tradition dates back a thousand years."
  • 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", Moffitt speaks in German to 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.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Of the Rat Patrol are Sergeants Troy and Moffitt, while for the Afrika Korps is the Geneva Convention-abiding Captain Dietrich compared to the other Those Wacky Nazis who proved themselves as either The Neidermeyer, a General Ripper, a Colonel Kilgore or a Sociopathic Soldier.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: Some of the music cues are recognizable from Stoney Burke and The Outer Limits (1963). Understandable, as all three series were scored by Dominic Frontiere and produced by United Artists Television.
  • 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.
  • La Rťsistance: In "The Delilah Raid", the Rats are stunned when they discover a woman from the French Resistance in the desert. They're even more stunned when they realize that she turned traitor after falling in love with a German colonel.
  • 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 leapiní training by running moonshine), heís plenty intelligent and good at his job.
  • The Squad: Sergeants Troy and Moffitt, and Privates Hitchcock and Pettigrew. Truth in Television up to a point, as the Rat Patrol is based on the real life guerrilla squads of the North African campaign like the SAS and the Long Range Desert Group. However, see America Won World War II above. The artistic license didn't go down well in Britain, as explained elsewhere on this page.
  • Supporting Protagonist: Or in Captain Dietrich's case, either a Villain Protagonist or Nazi Protagonist (just not really a Nazi). Dietrich can qualify in most of his appearances, whenever he is pitted against the Rat Patrol or at least forms an Enemy Mine truce with them, he qualifies as their Token Evil Teammate Sixth Ranger (except for episodes when he is absent) as he gets as much screen time as the Rats, and his actions sets the episodes' plots in motion whenever he appears. The fact the show begins with Dietrich's Villain Opening Scene can attest to him being this.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Tully's actor Justin Tarr missed four episodes in the second season, so three other characters (one of whom appeared twice) replace him until he returns.
  • 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.
  • Token Good Teammate: Capt. Dietrich is this compared to his fellow Nazi colleagues. Ironically he can also be considered a Token Evil Teammate whenever he aids the titular 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 whatís going on, or when thereís 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 rule seems to be that the Germans speak English whenever the audience needs to understand what they're saying, whether it makes sense in-story or not.
  • Villain Opening Scene: In the beginning of the pilot (and the overall show), Capt. Dietrich traveling with his convoy are the first characters to appear.
  • Villain Protagonist: Well Villain Supporting Protagonist, but the viewers follows the main adversary Capt. Dietrich simultaneously as they follow the show's titular task force led by Sgt. Troy.
  • Villain Respect: Dietrich demonstrates this towards the Rat Patrol for being a Worthy Opponent strike team.
  • 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 from "The Hide-and-Go-Seek Raid", who has the son of a British general kidnapped and later uses the child as a Human Shield.
  • Would Not Hurt A Child: By contrast, Dietrich has his men help the Rats rescue an Arab child who's trapped in a well in "The Truce at Aburah Raid".
  • 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. However, this causes a dilemma for the team in "The Trial by Fire Raid", in which Troy has to figure out how to destroy a supply depot while doing minimal harm to the Arab villagers who are working there. In the end, one villager sacrifices himself to save his daughter.