They say that if you remember the sixties you weren’t there. But on Tuesdays at 7:30, from 1962 to 1967, many remember the greatest World War II show of all: Combat! With Vic Morrow as Sgt. “Chip” Saunders and Rick Jason as Lt. Gil Hanley, this series is a classic. Each episode deals not just with an event in history of the fictitious King Company’s Second Platoon and their march from D-Day to Berlin, but with the complexities of human beings in war. But don’t worry. There is no Anti Americanism, or soldiers portrayed as wackos. This is pre Watergate, pre 1968 Democratic Convention television. You can actually watch it with your kids and even do Bible devotions after a show, as we did tonight (amazingly tonight we read from Judges chapter three and the story of Ehud and his killing of Eglon and how Israel went from 18 years of bondage to that evil pagan king, to liberation and 80 years of peace; lessons abound in the divinely written Combat! stories of the Old Testament).
We get Combat! through Netflix and are in season 3. Each episode is like a book by Stephen Ambrose or Paul M. Johnson: you are sad when you get to the end of it and want more. As a Chaplain in the Army Reserves, I am thinking of using these episodes to draw people into a human condition and then show the Gospel healing of that condition.
Sadly, the two great stars of this critically acclaimed and popular series, led troubled lives and died tragically. On July 23, 1982 Vic Morrow was killed while filming a Stephen Spielberg movie (”Twilight Zone: The Movie”). A helicopter scene went bad. He was killed instantly along with two child actors. He had never recovered from a divorce and estrangement from his daughter. He died with the complicated loose ends of his life left undone. And Rick Jason, cool, calm and collected Lt. Henley, took his own life on October 16, 2000, in his own home in California. Sad. And how I wish I or someone could have reached them with the Good News of Jesus Christ before they died. And maybe someone did. A happy ending even in the midst of tragedy. Just like in Combat!.