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Invisible bullet holes in killed soldiers


Posters have often commented on what they thought were unrealistic aspects of COMBAT!, some of which were obvious and legitimate, such as, using American tanks to pose as German tanks (given the lack of real German tanks in Hollywood), and the fact that the show lasted five seasons and yet chronologically takes place within a narrow time period of WWII, between late June and late August, 1944 since nearly all the episodes show summertime. Autumn of 1944 was the wettest on living memory in history and in September the defeated Germans were in full retreat.

The most glaring omission I still see is the lack of bullet holes in German and American soldiers shot and killed. I watched one episode yesterday where SGT Saunders and several of his squad rescue a captured American colonel. They ambush the two German vehicle convoy, disabling both motor cars. The Germans put up a stout fight but all are shot and killed. One German, a driver, stands up in the car with his back to the Americans. There are the sounds of M1 Garands and a BAR firing. The German jerks as if being hit by several bullets and he falls over. But his back is so clearly visible and there are NO bullet holes and wounds. This was incredulous. It was common Hollywood practice to rig up bullet holes in actors. The most common was to tape a thin metal plate on the actor's body. The thin metal plate held several, spaced, tiny explosives. Very thin wires, well concealed to the plate detonated the explosives and showed the effect of bullet holes appearing through the actor's clothing. It was effective, if not totally 100% realistic because if one looked closely they could see the tiny explosions exploding outward along with the edges of the bullet holes in the clothing. But at least it looked real enough. But I read that often COMBAT! ran on an economical budget.

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Absence of bullet holes in shot actors was commonplace in movies prior to the late 1960s. On television shows, it persisted a few years longer. They had the technology, but they still had reservations about grossing out the audience. They still had this funny idea that the story, not the traumatic medical details, was the main thing.

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The earliest bullet hit with blood or "squib" as they are known, that I think I've seen was in the battle against river pirates in the 1962 movie "How the West Was Won". Once someone told me there was an earlier example of their use, but I forget which movie. They did not really become commonplace until after Bonnie & Clyde in 1968.

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