Combat! is an American television program that aired on ABC from
1962 until 1967.
Created by Robert Pirosh, Combat! ran for five seasons, of which
the first four are in black-and-white, with a move to color for the final season. The show covered the grim lives
of a squad of American soldiers in France during World War II. Although the series ran five seasons, King Company
never fought its way out of France.
Combat! presented an unvarnished view of men in armed conflict.
This was not a series that glorified war, but a tribute to the civilian soldier, the average G.I. who fought (and
died) on the front lines of Europe. Combat! never dealt with the big picture; it showed war in microcosm and always
put a face to the devastation and slaughter. In Combat!, war was a furnace that either consumed and destroyed a
man, or tempered him like hardened steel. Combat!, at its best, showed men struggling to find and keep their moral
center in the midst of a world torn apart by war.
The series often had a film noir quality—the soldiers were usually
battle-fatigued and bleary eyed; Sergeant Saunders rarely smiled. With little action, it was downbeat even when it
tried to be upbeat. Episodes frequently were psychological character studies about duty in the face of demoralizing
Regular cast members were: Rick Jason as 2nd Lt. Gil Hanley, Vic
Morrow as Sgt. "Chip" Saunders, Jack Hogan as Pvt. William G. Kirby, Pierre Jalbert as PFC Paul "Caje" LeMay,
Shecky Greene (first season only) as Pvt. Braddock, Steven Rogers (first season only) as "Doc" Walton, Conlan
Carter as "Doc," and Dick Peabody as Pvt. "Littlejohn."
Guest stars appeared as additional squad members, French citizens
or German soldiers. In the first season, the then little-known Ted Knight and Frank Gorshin made appearances. Other
notable guest stars included Lee Marvin, James Coburn, Telly Savalas, Charles Bronson, Richard Basehart, Eddie
Albert, Nick Adams, Randy Boone, James Caan, Billy Gray, Peter Helm, Leonard Nimoy, Warren Spahn, Mike Farrell, Ron
Foster, Beau Bridges, John Cassavetes and Robert Duvall. The program was produced by Robert Blees, Robert Altman
(briefly), Richard Caffey, Gene Levitt, and Richard Maibaum. The executive producer was Selig J. Seligman. Ten
episodes were directed by Altman, who went on to make M*A*S*H and other acclaimed films.
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.