MovieChat Forums > Combat! Discussion > The most unrealistic aspect of COMBAT!

The most unrealistic aspect of COMBAT!


I fondly remember COMBAT! from its first-run on ABC in the Sixties. Now that I enjoy the reruns on MeTV, I find the usage and effects of small-arms in the show to be almost as hokey as a Republic movie serial from the Forties. Examples:

1) In COMBAT!,neither an American M1 Garand nor a German Mauser can shoot through an inch of wood and hit the soldier behind it. Reality: there is a WW2 US Army training film titled "INFANTRY WEAPONS AND THEIR EFFECTS" that shows a single .30-06 bullet penetrating a tree trunk AND the helmet of a mannequin dressed in a Wehrmacht uniform. (Narrator: "That Nazi thinks he's safe behind that tree, but he doesn't know what Uncle Sam gave you to throw at him!")
2) RARELY does COMBAT! show an M1 Garand ejecting its sheet metal enbloc clip when shot dry.
3) Saunders repeatedly loses his 1928 Thompson on the battlefield, yet always replaces it with an identical model. In reality, Ordnance would have issued him a newer M1/M1A1 Thompson, or EVEN a M3 grease gun.
4) There are no grenadiers in the squad, carrying M1903A3 Springfields with rifle grenade launchers. The early-issue M1 Garands could not fire rifle grenades, since the tremendous back pressure would cause the gas piston/bolt assembly to recoil so violently as to damage the rifle; by late 1944, a modified retrofit gas valve cut the gas flow to the piston when the M7 grenade launcher was mounted, and the fired blank grenade cartridge was manually ejected after launching the grenade. (The 1954 scifi epic THEM! shows Garands firing grenades at the giant ants.)
5) Hanley's M1 carbine would not have had a bayonet lug in 1944. Most carbines were retrofitted with lugs by Ordnance after the war.

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Hey Jarnoldfan,

You are absolutely correct about full metal jacket 30-06 ammo going through two feet of tree trunk and killing someone. The same is true of the German 8MM. However, saying Combat! is as hokey as a Republic serial is throwing down the gauntlet to a true Combat! fan. We are very good at suspending our disbelief when we see a Walker Bulldog shown as a German and an American tank in the same episode. On a side note, if you watch the shows often enough and pay close attention, you will see and even hear the ping of the M-1 clip being ejected. This happens frequently with Caje who seems to frequently empty eight rounds as fast as possible just so we can see him reload a fresh clip in its place. As far as Grease Guns go, you never see one on Combat!, and you never see any '03 Springfields.

Best wishes,
Dave Wile

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Hey Jarnoldfan,

I just remembered where they did use an '03 Springfield. In the Doughboy episode featuring Eddie Arnold, Arnold plays an American soldier left over from WWI with some form of dementia. Arnold wears his old Doughboy uniform and carries an '03 Springfield.

There are probably other some other episodes where you might see one, but it cannot be many. Offhand, I do not ever remember seeing a Grease Gun on the show.

Best wishes,
Dave Wile

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There is a two part episode about some Brits holding a train station, and all of the Brits are using 03 Springfields, and NOT Enfileds SMLEs.

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Hey Yatman,

I know exactly which episodes to which you refer. They were titled What Are the Bugles Blowin' For? (parts 1 and 2). I remember the storyline quite well, but I do not have any recollection of the rifles the Brits were using. I am surprised I do not remember their use of Springfields; I should have remembered that. The next time I watch that episode, I will pay close attention to their rifles.

Best wishes,
Dave Wile




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Jarnoldfan,

As far as I know everyone of your numbered points is 100% correct.

My reason for writing is about your first paragraph, where you use the word "hokey" to describe these elements of a series that has received tons of praise for being realistic.

I believe that derisive term should be saved for shows that feature all sorts of things that the majority of viewers can instantly recognize as being quite phoney. I suspect that the majority of Combat viewers cannot tell the difference between most of the weapons you mention. Make that more like 85%.

If they weren't using weapons from the 1960s, or the 1860s, then most of the weapons appeared to be correct to the average viewer. I suspect the producers didn't have the time to seek out weapons that would exactly match what their platoon should be using, and what the Germans should be using.

I know I've read that there were only so many types of tanks they could use and so they had to do the best they could.

I'll elaborate with an example from a field I know more about--baseball. If I was making a movie made about a baseball team taking place in 1938, and when we went to shoot I saw the equipment guy had obtained half a dozen gloves that were a style that came out in 1940, I wouldn't think it vital to hold up shooting until we could get more 1938 style gloves. The difference would not be that big and most viewers would not know.

Now if he got me some bright blue 1970s-style gloves, I would insist we get something closer.

I do not object at all to you pointing out these incorrect details. I am just saying they are small points and do not make the show "hokey" in any way.

I have seen many of those Republic serials. I would happily join you in using the "hokey" term there.


















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It's spelt ORDNANCE. And ordinance is a law or regulation.

Doesn't it depend on the tree? A 30/06 might go easily through a pine, but I doubt it would do so well through an oak.

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An inch of ANY type of sawed board wood would not stop a FMJ .30/8mm rifle bullet. (I fixed the "ordnance" spelling-not easy to type with Parkinsons).

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Hey Jarnoldfan,

I learned to type in high school and rather well during my working years. Since retirement, however, typing has become more and more difficult for me. I can only imagine how much worse it would be if I had Parkinsons in addition to regular old age. Do not worry about your typing; your message was just fine, and I was teasing about picking on our Combat! series.

You are also correct about .30 caliber full metal jacket rounds going through wood. Such bullets will actually go through live trees easier than going through old wood posts that have been dried out over the years. I would bet a nickel that a 30-06 full metal jacket military round would pass clear through a two foot diameter oak tree, but that same bullet might be stopped by an old oak post 8 to 12 inches thick. Live trees are filled with water which seems to allow full metal jackets to slip through much easier than old dried logs.

Best wishes,
Dave Wile

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Despite criticisms I see here, the fact that Combat! had the Germans speaking German, the French speaking French....NO SUBTITLES (except one ep when Saunders' crew had comandered a German tank, that one had subtitles, though I never knew why). It made for a lot more realism. It heightened the fear a soldier might feel when he has no idea of what the enemy is saying.

Sure there are things that are indicative of a 1960s TV show....look at the Germans who were shot; you often never saw their face, just the enemy meant to be eliminated; and they get shot and fall...no blood...no splatter...it would be different on the screen today.

I loved the original series as a kid; it still holds up well despite some flaws.

And Pierre Jalbert (Caje) was kind enough to write me a personal note many years ago; I thank him for reaching out to a fan, even so many years later.

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One prop related question is Saunders cammo covered helmet. All the photos I have seen from the ETO show GIs with uncovered or net covered steel pots. The only cammo covered helmet like Sanders' was worn by Marines in the Pacific. This has bothered me sine 1962 and I would like to know if others noticed this.

Perhaps this liberty was taken so the audience could more easily recognize Saunders on their small B&W TV sets.

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That explanation works for me. Thanks.

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Hey Toshi,

Regarding your comments about the use of camo cloth on Saunders' helmet:

One prop related question is Saunders cammo covered helmet. All the photos I have seen from the ETO show GIs with uncovered or net covered steel pots. The only cammo covered helmet like Sanders' was worn by Marines in the Pacific. This has bothered me sine 1962 and I would like to know if others noticed this.

Perhaps this liberty was taken so the audience could more easily recognize Saunders on their small B&W TV sets.


One of my uncles survived Omaha beach on 6 June 1944 and told me how he, along with some other GIs cut pieces of camo silk from parachutes and incorporated the camo silk with the netting over their steel pots. My uncle also said he cut a blanket sized piece of silk camo which he used occasionally to cover his entire body. He was just a Lancaster Pennsylvania farmboy who never finished eighth grade, but he was smart enough to recognize the usefulness of camo silk for some measure of concealment.

As for Morrow using the camo silk to set himself off from the other cast members, I suspect you are probably correct, and it certainly did the trick.

Best wishes,
Dave Wile



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Saunders was the coolest! I mean, come on!... His neat camo helmet, his slick Thompson with the long 30-round magazine, his fashionable short-cut jacket with extra Thompson magazines tucked inside. Even his simple "buck sergeant" chevron looked cool. And of course, his whole sarge persona was fantastic. Saunders was IT. Hanley, on the other hand, was boring. When we played Combat as kids, everyone wanted to be Saunders!

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People have to remember that TV is TV. Yes, you can be as "Realistic as possible, but realism isn't always flashy or interesting enough for TV and Movies. I find it funny the people that will argue realness on a show like Hogans Heros but in reality, many of the "Nazi-isms" of that show are spot on with the exception of the ineptness of Schultz and Klink.

One thing I always like to point out is if these shows did strive for complete realness, they could not be aired on TV especially at that time. The "Grossness" factor of real war cannot even be shown on today's tv. My first tour in Iraq even I threw up a few times after seeing what happens to the human body when an M249 hits an enemy soldier. Even an M4 can tear appendages off of the body at closer range especially on full auto or 3-second auto-burst.

When I grew up there were no longer many war shows on TV, probably because of Nam and the dislike for it and all war. Police, medical shows, and Westerns ruled the airwaves. But being a Huge History Buff, especially Military History, I enjoy these "old" shows and movies. Having 14 years in 2 military branches and 9 deployments to combat zones the most unreal thing about these shows is the death. Rarely in real life are you able to have an open-casket viewing of a deceased soldier that died in combat. On tv, especially black and white shows, the deaths appear as if they simply "went to sleep".

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The helmet camo was from a parachute and improvised by Sgt Chip ... Not the US Marines helmet cover used in Pacific theatre.

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By far the most unrealistic aspect of the series is the way these men get shot to pieces every week, and show up again, good as new, the following episode.

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I grew up in the sixties, and had an uncle who was a sergeant on the western front that served from right after Pearl until after the end of the war. I was much too young to understand what he referred to, but I do remember that he and my dad (who was stationed in the far east) would talk to each other during the episodes when they would spot things that weren't close to being realistic (American tanks with German crosses on them, and the never ending ammo of course being favorites). Even at 7 though, I complained about them talking during the show (like they did whenever I opened my mouth) and they nicely shut up so we could watch the shows. But unc did make it pretty clear that what we were watching didn't reflect the reality of infantry combat. Did say it was a good show, however, and, of course, all the kids idolized Saunders; whenever we played war, everyone wanted to be him. I was tallest so I was always Littlejohn.

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I think there's quite a bit of stuff that wasn't quite accurate; it would be a pretty long winded list, and some of the items couldn't be helped. 

Guess what! I've got a fever, and the only prescription is MORE COWBELL! -Bruce Dickinson-

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In the early '60s my dad did many ballistics tests. Among other things, he put .22 Super Jet rounds through half-inch steel plates, and put craters the size of jumbo olives in one-inch steel plating. People would be amazed at what the right load and rifle can do with even a small-caliber bullet.

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