Combat! reviews by Jo
Episodes rated from 0 to 4 bayonets
Rating: 3.5 bayonets
Aired April 9, 1963
Season 1, Episode 2
Syndication Order: 28
Kirby is separated from squad during a German barrage. Staff Sgt. Metcalf finds him
unconscious in ditch, revives him, and takes him on assault of Hill 256. But Kirby runs,
claiming he was taking cover from a machine gun -- a gun only he saw. Metcalf charges him
with running from the enemy. On a 48-hour pass, Caje and Saunders attend the
court-martial; visiting Kirby in cell, they see him put up a brave front to cover his fear
that he will be found guilty and executed. Saunders defends Kirby to an unsympathetic
Metcalf--Metcalf lost seven men at Normandy because of a "coward like Kirby" and
is still haunted by dreams about it.
Saunders starts quest for proof of Kirby's innocense. He first unsuccessfully
interrogates a German prisoner captured on the hill. He next seeks history of action on
the hill, and luckily discovers that no other engagements occurred there. But Saunders'
plans to examine hill for evidence of a German machine gun nest are complicated when he
discovers that the hill is now in no-man's-land. He convinces Caje to join him on an
unauthorized expedition to Hill 256. En route, they are captured by the British who hold
them most of the night awaiting verification of their identities. Finally released, they
disregard the British Lieutenant's suggestion to return to their own lines. They continue
to Hill 256.
They fruitlessly search through the night. In the morning, Caje literally falls into
the machine gun emplacement and discovers the evidence needed to clear Kirby. But a
truckload of Germans arrives, blocking their escape. They eventually sneak off in time to
save Kirby. When they enter the German 8mm ball cartridges and ammo belt links into
evidence, the charges against Kirby are dismissed. A humbled Metcalf comes to Kirby to say
he really didn't see the machine gun.
courtroom drama pits the gold-brick Kirby against war hero Sergeant Metcalf. It's a
foregone conclusion who the court will believe when stalwart Metcalf accuses Kirby of
cowardice -- until Saunders intervenes. This is a great story, made more interesting by a
lack of villains. Everyone is doing his duty, everyone it behaving honorably, and Kirby
may lose his life over it. When first aired, this episode probably had a level of tension
that has been lost in re-run land: Kirby was still a new member of the squad, not a
"regular" in most of the audience's mind. There was the possibility that Kirby
might be convicted. Now, watching the episode, we of course know that Saunders will
ultimately save the day. But the possibility of failure at the time was probably quite
Robert Culp is magnificent as the battle-hardened veteran; Vic Morrow's Saunders is, as
always, superb. His struggles to save his man in the face of insurmountable odds is
fascinating to watch. The interplay between Culp and Morrow is the highlight of the
episode. Curt Conway as the defense lawyer also puts in an enjoyable performance.
Notes, Oddities, and Bloopers
- Trek fans will note that Liam Sullivan (Maj. Hendricks) starred in the classic Trek
episode "Plato's Stepchildren"
- Conlan Carter (the second "Doc") makes his first Combat! appearance as an M.P.
corporal in this episode.
- Details about Staff Sergeant Metcalf: John C. Metcalf, Fox Company, 361st infantry. In
army three years, served in Europe and Africa. Bronze star, Silver star, three purple
- The hill they use as Hill 256 is also used again in "One More For The Road"
as Sgt. Saunders
as Lt. Hanley
(NOTE: Jason does not appear in this episode)
Robert Culp as
Sgt. John Metcalf
Pierre Jalbert as Caje
Curt Conway as Capt. Dugan
Liam Sullivan as Maj. Hendricks
William Zuckert as Col. Veach
Walter Friedel as German Prisoner
Clegg Hoyt as Technical Sergeant
Conlan Carter ..... M.P. Corporal
Alan Caillou ..... British Lieutenant
Richard Peel ..... British Sergeant
George Keymas ..... Maj. Daggett
Bill Gaskin ..... Sgt. Kaufman
John Shay ..... Maj. Canfield
KIRBY: How do you not see a machine gun?
CAPTAIN DUGAN: Well, people see things that don't exist, I guess it's possible to NOT
see something that does exist.
SAUNDERS: Especially if you just spent the last two years of your life charging German
gun positions. And leading men you care about straight into the face of rifle and machine
gun fire, not even stopping for a moment to be afraid. There goes a man so conditioned to
being brave he can't even see danger when it's staring right down his throat.
CAJE: What's going to happen to Metcalf now, Sarge?
SAUNDERS: I don't know. Probably get a rest. Maybe a month or two somewhere.
CAJE: And then?
SAUNDERS: Then back to a foxhole. Night Patrol. Frontal assault on a hill...
THE FORMAL CHARGE AGAINST KIRBY:
Violation of article of war 75: misbehavior before the enemy. Specification: that
private William G. Kirby did at Hill 256 in the vicinity of Chateau de (????), on or about
August 7, 1944 while attached to elements of Company F, 361st infantry, run from the
enemy, shamefully remain under cover, and refused to carry out the duties and
responsibilities of a member of the Army of the United States.