[October 27, 2016] I grew up in the Deep South, rural Louisiana, where we had strict rules about how children were to behave. One hard-and-fast rule in my family was that my brother and I got to watch only one “war show” per week and the one we chose was the television series called Combat! The show was a WWII action drama, staged in the European Theater, which focused on the human element of events … every friend I had were enthralled with the show.
WWII and Korean War veterans lived throughout our neighborhoods and they would tell us kids a few stories about their wartime service. From those vets and also from watching television series’ shows like Combat!, Rat Patrol, and Twelve O’clock High, we gained an admiration for those who would stand up against our enemies. Those men were held in high esteem in our communities and I wanted to be like them.
We learned from the TV shows that war is not glamorous, fun, or something you would want to do … but if you had to fight in a war then doing so bravely was the most honorable thing a man could do for his country. We also learned about the human element in war; that war effects us each differently and unpredictably, that it brings out the best and worst in humans, and that it’s devastation is nearly unimaginable.
On television in the show Combat!, my hero was Sergeant Chip Saunders, platoon sergeant in Company K of the U.S. Infantry. I wanted to be like him; tough, brave, honorable, and leading men in a struggle for good over evil. His rank was “buck sergeant,” the lowest of the Non-Commissioned Officer ranks. And it was my proudest moment when I was promoted years later to the rank of buck sergeant in the U.S. Infantry.
Shows about war today seem to shy away from the human element in war and if the show covers it, then the impact is always bad. Those shows from the 1960s however gave us the good as well as the bad. Always the good won out over the bad and I think that is the message from those WWII TV shows. If we are strong enough, brave enough, and are willing to act honorably then good can win.
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