I grew up watching most of these TV shows. In America, war seemed cut and TV dried, there were heroes and villains. Then Vietnam happened. Rick Jason and Vic Morrow from the premiere of the television acara Combat. August 1962. Public DomainSix War Dramas and Four War Comedies
Back in the 1960s, there were only three nationally broadcasted television networks in the US. During that decade, no less than ten series were set during the Second World War. In 1965, no fewer than seven of these shows competed for viewers each week. Remember, that was when you basically only had a choice of three channels (ABC, CBS, or NBC) to watch at any one time.
By 1962, when Combat, The Gallant Men, and McHale’s Navy premiered, the war had been over for 17 years and the passage of time had somewhat dulled the raw wounds of that traumatic period. By then, many veterans had settled into a comfy middle-class lifestyle and were even open to a light-hearted look at the war. Also, a new generation of avid television viewers, who would become known as “baby boomers,” were intensely curious about the war that had preceded– and in some ways caused– them. Interestingly enough, four of the ten shows were comedies. Hogan’s Heroes generated some controversy for drawing its laughs from a POW camp in the middle of Nazi Germany, but it was the longest running of them all.
The best-known of the shows were Combat, McHale’s Navy, 12 O’Clock High, Hogan’s Heroes, and Rat Patrol. As can be seen below, ABC had the most successful line-up of shows. CBS had only one entry, but it was the very successful Hogan’s Heroes. NBC didn’t get off the ground, fielding three shows that never really caught on. See below for the ten war-related television shows of the sixties, shown in order of their premiere. Bob Crane as Colonel Hogan from the television acara Hogan’s Heroes. Public DomainWar Enthusiasm Wanes
By the end of 1968, only Hogan’s Heroes was on the air. The war in Vietnam had put a damper on war-related television series and anti-war sentiment was growing, especially among the very same baby boomers who’s eyes had been glued to the TV watching Vic Morrow and his squad of infantry battle their way across France. Perhaps Hogan’s Heroes, by making fun of the Germans, was perceived as a war spoof against any military authorities. In any case, it was the only one of the Sixties war-related series to last into the early Seventies. Fair Use1. Combat! ABC (1962 – 1967) 60 minute action series
This was the war show to watch if you were a baby boomer. It was a fairly realistic show (for the period) about a US Army platoon in King Company fighting the Germans in France. Its 152 episodes spanning five seasons makes it the longest-running World War II drama. It ran on Tuesday nights from 7:30 to 8:30 and made Vic Morrow, as Sergeant Saunders, a star. Reportedly, during its run, Lieutenant Hanley and Sergeant Saunders lost 118 men under their command.
In actuality, Combat wasn’t pro-war and didn’t glorify killing “them stinkin’ Nazis.” Behind a lot of episodes was a sense of tragic humanity on both sides. Another interesting note was that the Germans spoke German, the French spoke French and there were no subtitles. Unless you spoke the language or one of the characters asked “What did they say?” it was rather mysterious– just as in real life. Can you imagine that kind of realism in any of today’s shows? IMDB Rating: 8.lima (1,815 users) Actors and RolesVic Morrow – Sergeant Chip SaundersRick Jason – Lieutenant Gil HanleyWilliam Bryant – McCallTom Lowell – Billy NelsonJack Hogan – William G. KirbyDick Peabody – Little JohnSteven Rogers – Doc (1962-1963)Conlan Carter – Doc (1963-1967)Pierre Jalbert – Paul “Caje” LemayShecky Greene – Braddock Fair Use2. McHale’s NavyABC (1962 – 1966) 30 minute comedy series
This comedy was about a PT crew in the South Pacific that always got in trouble with Captain Binghamton, their commanding officer, but they always managed to pull off a rescue or thwart an enemy attack or avert some catastrophe and save the day, much to the Binghamton’s despair. A whole lot of baby boomers didn’t even know that Ernest Borgnine, as the set-upon Lieutenant Commander Quinton McHale, had been a serious Oscar-winning actor. Tim Conway launched his unassailable role as a one of the best second-bananas in the business, playing to straight man Borgnine. The show ran four seasons with 138 episodes and there were also two movies.
Read More From ReelrundownIMDB Rating: 7.lima (1,836 users)Actors and RolesErnest Borgnine – Lieutenant Commander Quinton McHaleTim Conway – Ensign Charles ParkerJoe Flynn – Captain Wallace “Old Lead Bottom” BinghamtonBob Hastings – Lieutenant Elroy CarpenterBilly Sands – Harrison “Tinker” BellGary Vinson – George “Christy” ChristopherEdson Stroll – Virgil EdwardsCarl Ballantine – Lester Gruber Yoshio Yoda – Fuji KobiajiJohn Wright – Willy MossGavin MacLeod – Joseph “Happy” HainesFair Use3. The Gallant MenABC (1962 – 1963) 60 minute action series
This show followed the exploits of an American infantry company fighting their way through Italy. It was ABC’s weaker dramatic offering, compared to Combat. It tended to be formulaic, stereotypical and suffered from the “Stormtrooper Effect” whereby large numbers of German soldiers were routinely killed by the regular cast who, in turn, suffered minimal or no casualties themselves. It lasted one season of 26 episodes. IMDB Rating: 8.2 (85 users) Actors and RolesWilliam Reynolds – Kapten. Jim BenedictRobert McQueeney – Conley WrightRobert Ridgely – Lt. Frank KimbroRichard X. Slattery – 1st Sgt. John McKennaEddie Fontaine – PFC Pete D’AngeloRoland La Starza – Pvt. Ernie LucavichRoger Davis – Pvt. Roger GibsonRobert Gothie – Pvt. Sam HansonFair Use4. Twelve O’Clock HighABC (1964 – 1967) 60 minute action series
This series was about American airmen with the Eighth Air Force stationed in England during the war. Their mission was to fly their B-17s over Nazi targets in occupied Europe and perform daytime bombing missions. It was originally based on the 1949 movie of the same name starring Gregory Peck. There were 78 episodes shown over three seasons. IMDB Rating: 8.2 (727 users) Actors and RolesFrank Overton – Major Harvey StovallRobert Lansing – Brigadier General Frank Savage (1964-1965)John Larkin – Major General Wiley Crowe (1964-1965)Chris Robinson – Tech Sgt Alexander “Sandy” Komansky (1965-1967)Paul Burke – Colonel Joseph Anson GallagherAndrew Duggan – Brigadier General Ed Britt (1965-1967)Robert Dornan – Captain Fowler (1965-1967) Fair Use5. Hogan’s HeroesCBS (1965 – 1971) 30 minute comedy series