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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.

Combat - Title Card.jpg
1966-67 season color title card (showing Rick Jason)
StarringRick Jason
Vic Morrow
Country of originUnited States
No. of seasons5
No. of episodes152 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)Selig J. Seligman
Running time50 minutes per episode
Production company(s)Selmur Productions
DistributorABC Films
CBS Television Distribution
Original networkABC
Original releaseOctober 2, 1962 (1962-10-02) –
March 14, 1967 (1967-03-14)


Broadcast historyEdit

Combat! premiered on ABC on October 2, 1962, and was broadcast for five seasons to become TV's longest-running World War II drama. In total Combat! aired 152 hour-long episodes. The first 127 episodes, spanning four seasons, 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.[1]


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."[2]

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 better."[2]

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 breaks."[3]


Character Season 1 Season 2 Season 3 Season 4 Season 5
2nd Lt. Gil Hanley
Rick Jason
Sgt. "Chip" Saunders
Vic Morrow
PFC Paul "Caje" LeMay
Pierre Jalbert
Pvt./PFC William G. Kirby
Jack Hogan
PFC "Littlejohn"
Dick Peabody
PFC "Doc" Walton Steven Rogers
PFC "Doc"
Conlan Carter
Pvt. Billy Nelson
Tom Lowell
Pvt. Braddock Shecky Greene
Pvt. McCall William Bryant

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".

Guest castEdit


Producers for the series were:[1]


Directors for the series were:[1]

Military connectionEdit

Most of the cast members were veterans of the armed services, with several having served during World War II. Jack Hogan, Dick Peabody, and 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 during the post–Korean War era. Pierre Jalbert was a drill sergeant in the University Air Training Corps at Laval University in Canada during World War II. Director Robert Altman served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, flying more than 50 bombing missions as a crewman on a B-24 Liberator in the South Pacific. Morrow's character often displays what appears to be a USMC cover on his helmet; it is actually a scrap from a camouflage parachute used in the D-Day invasion.


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.

Critical receptionEdit

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,

TV's longest-running 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.[4]

Rick Jason and Luise Rainer in 1965

Wesley Britton, son of a 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 the rousing 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."[3]

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 seeing 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 effects crew."[3]

In 1997, TV Guide ranked the episode "Survival" #74 on its list of the 100 Greatest Episodes.[5]



In 1964, Franklin M. Davis wrote a novel for young readers based on the show’s characters and setting.[6] Three paperback novels were published in 1963 and 1965, featuring original storylines built around the ‘’Combat!’’ characters.[7]

Coloring booksEdit

In 1963, 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.[8] A second coloring book was published the following year, featuring a different cover.[9]

Board gameEdit

In 1963, the 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 a World War II strategy game for two players, each controlling six soldiers. The game had two basic benchmarks for victory: capture the opposing headquarters, or capture all of the other player’s soldiers.[10]

Video gameEdit

The Super Famicom game, Sgt. Saunders' Combat!, was based on the television show and released only in Japan. It allowed players to re-enact crucial 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.

VHS and DVD releasesEdit

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 confirms this.[11]

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 Enterprises for syndication; each comes in at 46 to 47 minutes, instead of the original runtime, which was 50 to 51 minutes.[12]

On October 9th, 2012, Image Entertainment released a five-DVD collection of 20 episodes called Combat! - 50th Anniversary Fan Favorites.[13]

On November 12th, 2013, Image released Combat! - The Complete Series, a 40-disc set that features all 152 episodes of the series.[14]



  1. ^ a b c Davidsmeyer, J. (1996, 2008) Combat! A Viewer's Companion to the Classic WWII TV Series. Sarasota, Florida: Strange New Worlds.
  2. ^ a b Jason, Rick (July 2000). "Vic Morrow". Scrapbooks of My Mind: A Hollywood Autobiography by Rick Jason. Strange New World. ISBN 978-0970162403. Retrieved August 24, 2013 – via
  3. ^ a b c Britton, Wesley (July 29, 2013). "DVD Review: Combat! The Complete Fifth Season". BC: Blog Critics. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ "Special Collector's Issue: 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time". TV Guide. June 28 – July 4, 1997.
  6. ^ [1].
  7. ^ Davidsmeyer, Jo. "Collectible Books". Retrieved August 17, 2019.
  8. ^ "Combat! Coloring Book". Flickr. September 25, 2008. Retrieved August 17, 2019.
  9. ^ "1964 Combat Coloring Book". Worthpoint. Retrieved August 17, 2019.
  10. ^ "Combat". Board Game Geek. Retrieved August 17, 2019.
  11. ^ Combat Fan website FAQ.
  12. ^ Combat: Season 1 – Campaign 1 : DVD Talk Review of the DVD Video. Retrieved 2010-01-19.
  13. ^ Lambert, David (July 3, 2012). "Combat! - '50th Anniversary Fan Favorites' 5-DVD Set Arrives in October". Archived from the original on July 5, 2012. Retrieved July 5, 2012.
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on January 2, 2014. Retrieved January 2, 2014.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)


  • Davidsmeyer, J. (1996, 2008) Combat! A Viewer's Companion to the Classic WWII TV Series. Strange New Worlds: Sarasota, Florida. (ISBN 978-0970162434)

External linksEdit