Combat! is an American television program that originally aired on ABC
from 1962 until 1967. (The exclamation point in Combat! was depicted
on-screen as a stylized bayonet.) The show covered the grim lives of a
squad of American soldiers fighting the Germans in France during World
War II. (The episode "A Day In June" shows D-Day as a flashback, hence
the action occurs during and after June 1944.) The program starred
Rick Jason as platoon leader Second Lieutenant Gil Hanley and Vic
Morrow as Sergeant "Chip" Saunders. The series was unusual in that
Jason and Morrow would play the lead in alternating episodes.
1 Broadcast history
4 Guest cast
7 Military connection
9 Critical reception
10.2 Coloring book
10.3 Board game
10.4 Video game
10.5 VHS and DVD releases
12 External links
Main article: List of Combat! episodes
Combat! premiered on ABC on October 2, 1962, and was broadcast for
five seasons. TV's longest-running
World War II
World War II drama (as of February
2016), Combat! aired 152 hour-long episodes. The first four seasons,
spanning 127 episodes, were produced in black and white. The fifth and
final season produced 25 color episodes. The show was developed by
Robert Pirosh, who wrote the pilot episode.
Rick Jason (left) and
Vic Morrow in a first-season episode
According to Rick Jason, "Our budgets for the first year, including
pre-production, production, and post-production, (that is, the entire
cost of each negative) was $127,500. In the fifth year (in color) we
delivered them for $183,000. Our time schedules were six shooting
days. Therefore, on a five-day week, we took a week and one day to
shoot a show. Here and there, a segment went to seven shooting days
and everybody in the front offices got a little nervous."
Jason said of the working conditions, "In the first year of the show,
Vic and I were given dressing room suites in a building that hadn't
been renovated in twenty-five years. We also had no dressing rooms on
the outdoor sets (we were thankful just to have chairs). Vic went on
strike the beginning of the second year and things got much
Wesley Britton wrote, "The producers and directors of the series
(including Robert Altman, whose work on the show included 10 defining
episodes) went the extra mile for establishing credibility and
realism. Then and now, viewers see motion picture quality photography
as in the long shots very unlike most network television of the
period. They had military advisors on hand to look over scripts and
maps. The cast couldn't shave during the five day shoots to help the
'beard continuity.' Except for occasional dialogue, for the most part
when the 'Krauts' or 'Gerrys' spoke, they did so in German. Actor
Robert Winston Mercy, who wrote one script and played a number of
German officers, told me the uniforms were so precisely recreated with
correct pipings and insignias that he would cause a stir among Jewish
cafeteria workers when he strode in wearing his costume during lunch
2nd Lt. Gil Hanley
Sgt. "Chip" Saunders
PFC Paul "Caje" LeMay
Pvt./PFC William G. Kirby
PFC "Doc" Walton
Pvt. Billy Nelson
Recurring Characters: Season 1 only (except Davis who appeared twice
in Season 2)
Fletcher Fist as Cpl./Pvt. Brockmeyer 7 episodes
Joby Baker as Pvt. Kelly 3 episodes (killed in third)
John Considine as Pvt. Wayne Temple Jr. 2 episodes (killed in second)
Arnold Meritt as Pvt. Jerome Crown 3 episodes
Dennis Robertson as Pvt. Albert Baker 7 episodes
William Harlow as Pvt. Davis 5 episodes
Note: Fletcher Fist, Dennis Robertson, William Harlow, Arnold Meritt
and John Considine all played different characters in minor guest
roles in Seasons 2-5.
Prior to portraying Pvt. McCall, William Bryant made three guest
appearances throughout the first four seasons. Throughout the whole
series, however, Paul Busch portrayed multiple characters, the
majority of them being German.
Conlan Carter (a newcomer) was
nominated for an
Emmy in 1964 for his portrayal of PFC "Doc".
Sal Mineo and
Vic Morrow in a 1965 episode
The majority of the guest stars appeared as additional squad members,
French citizens or German soldiers. In the first season, the then
Ted Knight and
Frank Gorshin made appearances. Other
notable guest stars included Lee Marvin, Robert Duvall, James Coburn,
Bill Bixby, Dwayne Hickman, Telly Savalas, Luise Rainer, Andrew Prine,
Rip Torn, Charles Bronson, Richard Basehart, Eddie Albert, James Caan,
Jeffrey Hunter, Leonard Nimoy, Terry Carter, Ben Cooper, Frankie
Avalon, Dan Duryea, Sal Mineo, Neville Brand, Brandon De Wilde, Tab
Hunter, Bobby Rydell, Beau Bridges, John Cassavetes, Roddy McDowell,
Walter Maslow, Mickey Rooney, Claudine Longet, James Whitmore, Dennis
Hopper, Tom Skerritt, Carol Lawrence, Harry Dean Stanton, James
MacArthur, Dennis Weaver, Keenan Wynn, Joseph Campanella, Richard
Jaeckel, James Franciscus, Fernando Lamas, Ricardo Montalban, Claude
Akins, Paul Burke, Warren Oates, Nick Adams, William Smithers, Joan
Hackett, Margaret O'Brien, Jack Lord, Dean Stockwell, Jack Carter,
Chad Everett, and Frank Sutton.
Producers for the series were:
Series pilot: Robert Pirosh
Season one: Robert Altman, Robert Blees, Burt Kennedy, Gene Levitt,
Richard Maibaum, Paul Stanley
Seasons two through four: Gene Levitt
Season five: Richard Caffey
The executive producer for all five seasons was Selig J. Seligman,
head of Selmur Productions.
Directors for the series were:
Jus Addiss (1 episode)
Robert Altman (10 episodes)
Laslo Benedek (2 episodes)
Richard Benedict (2 episodes)
Michael Caffey (11 episodes)
Alan Crosland, Jr. (6 episodes)
Richard Donner (1 episode)
Tom Gries (3 episodes)
Georg J. Fenady (6 episodes)
Herman Hoffman (1 episode)
Burt Kennedy (6 episodes)
Bernard McEveety (31 episodes)
Byron Paul (1 episode)
John Peyser (27 episodes)
Vic Morrow (7 episodes)
Ted Post (6 episodes)
Sutton Roley (15 episodes)
Most of the cast members were veterans of the armed services, with
several having served during World War II. Jack Hogan, Dick Peabody,
Shecky Greene all served in the U.S. Navy, while
Rick Jason served
in the Army Air Corps.
Vic Morrow served in the
U.S. Navy in 1947.
Conlan Carter served in the
U.S. Air Force
U.S. Air Force during the post-Korean War
Pierre Jalbert was a drill sergeant in the University Air
Training Corps at
Laval University in
Canada during World War II.
Morrow's character often displays what appears to be USMC cover on his
helmet; it is actually a scrap from a camouflage parachute used in the
Combat! has been aired on and off since the 1970s in Greece, Iran,
Japan, Mexico, Philippines, Brazil, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Chile,
Colombia, Argentina, South Korea, Canada, Venezuela, Australia,
Malaysia, Peru, Pakistan, and Taiwan.
Combat! is also aired on
Me-TV and Heroes & Icons.
The show is noted for its realism and character development.
Syndication created a new audience and interested commentators.
Pop culture scholar Gene Santoro has written,
World War II
World War II drama (1962-67) was really a
collection of complex 50-minute movies. Salted with battle sequences,
they follow a squad's travails from D-Day on--a gritty ground-eye view
of men trying to salvage their humanity and survive. Melodrama,
comedy, and satire come into play as Lieutenant Hanley (Rick Jason)
and Sergeant Saunders (Vic Morrow) lead their men toward Paris. Under
orders, Hanley keeps sending or leading Saunders and his squad on
incessant patrols though they're dead on their feet and always
shorthanded; replacements are grease monkeys or cook's helpers who are
fodder, and everybody knows it. The relentlessness hollows antihero
Saunders out: at times, you can see the tombstones in his eyes.
Most of the first 32 episodes are very good indeed, thanks to taut
scripts and canny direction... Series developer
Robert Pirosh copped
an Oscar for writing Battleground: his hard-edged realism is often
reflected in the plots.
Later episodes inevitably get uneven, though there are gems
throughout... But this TV series, shot on MGM back lots when color TVs
were rare, remains exceptional."
Rick Jason and
Luise Rainer in 1965
Wesley Britton, son of a
World War II
World War II veteran, wrote, "Unless you
watched Combat! during its original 1962-1967 run, you might not know
just how popular and influential the program was... In a league of its
own, Combat! was aptly titled as considerable time was spent with the
American soldiers engaged in machine gun fire fights and explosions
while the soundtrack was filled with the martial horns and drums of
Leonard Rosenman score. Combat! was also distinguished by
its grim and realistic stories that frequently had only the most
minimal of dialogue, and that often being only quick orders from Sgt.
Saunders to his unit while they were on the move."
Britton added, "The 25 episodes of the fifth and final season of
Combat!, the only one broadcast in color, maintained the high-quality
of the show so well established in the first four years. One major
change was a move from MGM studios to
CBS which meant, among other
matters, a new sound crew and different props. Further, in this season
the color was especially memorable as most viewers were accustomed to
World War II
World War II in black-and-white like the newsreels of the war
years. However, using color resulted in a variety of production
problems such as the lack of usable stock footage. But the show wasn't
simply spectacular explosion fests, although most episodes opened and
closed with violent skirmishes believably orchestrated by the special
TV Guide ranked the episode "Survival" #74 on its list of the
100 Greatest Episodes.
Franklin M. Davis wrote a novel based on the theme.
Saalfield Publishing published a 144-page coloring book based
on the television show. The cover features an in-action illustration
of Lt. Hanley and Sgt. Saunders running across a battlefield.[citation
In 1963, the
Ideal Toy Company
Ideal Toy Company released a board game whose cover
featured images of Lt. Hanley and Sgt. Saunders along with the show's
logo. However, the game itself had nothing to do with the series; it
was just a World War Two strategy game for two players who controlled
six soldiers each with each side trying to capture the others'
headquarters or all of the other players' soldiers.
The Super Famicom game, Sgt. Saunders' Combat!, was based on the
television show and only released in Japan. It allowed players to
World War II
World War II battles in Western Europe and North
Africa. The names of fictional officers in addition to real-world
officers (i.e., Karl Bülowius, Joachim Peiper, and Anthony McAuliffe)
are used in order to maintain a sense of historical accuracy.[citation
VHS and DVD releases
Several Combat! episodes are available commercially from WorldVision,
with six tapes in all. These were the time-compressed syndication
prints and ran slightly less than the original airtime of 50–51
minutes. The frequently asked questions for the shows' mailing list
Image Entertainment has released the entire series on DVD (Region 1).
They released each season in two-volume sets in 2004 and 2005. On
December 6, 2005,
Image Entertainment released a 40-disc boxed set
featuring all 152 episodes. Each season set, as well as the complete
series set, features various extras including commentaries, oddities,
bloopers, and photo galleries.
However, all episodes are the time-compressed versions that were
distributed by WorldVision for syndication; each comes in at 46 to 47
minutes, instead of the original runtime, which was 50 to 51
On October 9, 2012
Image Entertainment released a five-DVD collection
of 20 episodes called Combat! - 50th Anniversary Fan Favorites.
On November 12, 2013, Image released Combat! - The Complete Series, a
40-disc set that features all 152 episodes of the series.
^ a b c Davidsmeyer, J. (1996, 2008) Combat! A Viewer's Companion to
the Classic WWII TV Series. Sarasota, Florida: Strange New Worlds.
^ a b Jason, Rick (July 2000). "Scrapbooks of My Mind: A Hollywood
Autobiography by Rick Jason". www.scrapbooksofmymind.com. Retrieved
August 24, 2013. chapter= ignored (help)
^ a b c Britton, Wesley (July 29, 2013). "DVD Review: Combat! The
Complete Fifth Season". BC: Blog Critics. Retrieved September 8,
^ Santoro, Gene (March–April 2011). "Infantrymen on the Small
Screen". World War II. Leesburg, Virginia: Weider History Group. 25
(6): 69. Retrieved August 24, 2013.
Special Collector's Issue: 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time". TV
Guide (June 28-July 4). 1997. access-date= requires url=
^ Combat Fan website FAQ.
^ Combat: Season 1 – Campaign 1 : DVD
Talk Review of the DVD
Video. Retrieved 2010-01-19.
^ Lambert, David (July 3, 2012). "Combat! - '50th Anniversary Fan
Favorites' 5-DVD Set Arrives in October". TVShowsOnDVD.com. Retrieved
July 5, 2012.
Davidsmeyer, J. (1996, 2008) Combat! A Viewer's Companion to the
Classic WWII TV Series. Strange New Worlds: Sarasota, Florida.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Combat! (TV series).
Combat! on IMDb