D-Day and Combat!

There’s a lot to say about D-Day, WWII, the “Greatest Generation,” and the military through the ages, but this year I just want to say a few things about Combat!

Combat! was a TV show that ran for five seasons, 1962-1967. It centered on the experiences of one squad, beginning on D-Day.  They land at Omaha beach and then begin fighting their way across France.  The squad is continually faced with missions that turn out to be challenging and tough, with not quite enough resources to do the job, and replacements who have more experience as cooks and grease monkeys rather than infantry combat.

I can’t really explain why I got hooked on this show recently.  There are a few reasons for me to be uninterested: I’ve never been in the military and I’m (mostly) a pacifist.  I don’t agree with all U.S.foreign policy and I strive to understand why the people of some foreign nations dislike us.  Even so, I think this is show is terrific and it grips my imagination.  I began watching it from the beginning and I’m now in Season 3.

Maybe it’s because of all the change and turmoil that’s been going on inside me and around me for the last few months.  Maybe it’s because I really want to be more like Sgt. Saunders.  Maybe it’s because I appreciate the solidarity of the squad and their loyalty to Saunders, Lt. Hanley, and each other.  Maybe it’s because these are men who don’t sit around and complain and whine about their feelings.  These men get the job done and watch out for each other while at the same time demanding a lot from each other.  Some themes are constant: they don’t leave wounded behind, they fight with incredible spirit, they protect those who are weaker, they don’t abuse prisoners, and they behave with honor at all times.  OK, I guess I just figured out why I love this show.

Combat! does not glorify war.  Many of the episodes are anti-war.  There is a great deal of humanity there—personal stories, drama, some laughs and some satire.  The writers and directors and cast all went deep.  There’s a lot more going on there besides killing.  A lot of the episodes have scenes with very little dialogue, so the actors had to really stretch in order to tell the story.

This was a highly successful, highly acclaimed show in its day, with a great many guest-stars who went on to greater fame later on, and a few great episodes have Robert Duval, James Coburn, Lee Marvin, Beau Bridges, James Whitmore, Rip Torn, Charles Bronson, James Caan, Sal Mineo, Roddy McDowell, Dennis Hopper, Harry Dean Stanton, Keenan Wynn, Warren Oates, and Dean Stockwell—to name just a few.

Watch it on YouTube and other sites.  You can begin at the beginning, or start with one of these great episodes:

A Gift Of Hope ~ Season 3, Episode 11 (December 1, 1964)

The Duel ~ Season 3, Episode 4 (October 6, 1964)

The Bridge at Chalons ~ Season 2, Episode 1 (September 17, 1963)

Please let me know what you think about Combat!  No one in my Life is interested at all, so I would love to be able to talk about this with someone  :-/

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