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Season 4
COMBAT! episodes:

[A Day in June]
[Any Second Now]
[Just for the Record]
[The Squad]
[Lost Sheep, Lost Shepherd]
[Forgotten Front]
[Missing In Action]
[Rear Echelon Commandos]
[The Chateau]
[The Prisoner]
[Escape to Nowhere]
[The Celebrity]
[Far from the Brave]
[The Quiet Warrior]
[Cat and Mouse]
[Reunion]
[I Swear by Apollo]
[The Walking Wounded]
[The Medal]
[The Volunteer]
[No Time for Pity]
[Survival]
[Next in Command]
[Night Patrol]
[Off Limits]
[No Hallelujahs for Glory]
[Battle of the Roses]
[Hill 256]
[The Sniper]
[One More for the Road]
[High Named Today]
[No Trumpets, No Drums]

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Combat!
reviews by Jo DavidsmeyerEpisodes rated from 0 to 4 bayonets

Kirby being questioned

(028)
Hill 256

Rating: 3.5 bayonets
* * * 1/2

Written by
David Moessinger
 

Directed by
James Komack

 

Aired April 9, 1963
Season 1, Episode 2
Syndication Order: 28


Synopsis

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.


Review

This taut 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 real.

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 hearts.
  • The hill they use as Hill 256 is also used again in "One More For The Road"

Cast Credits

Vic Morrow
as Sgt. Saunders

Rick Jason
as Lt. Hanley
(NOTE: Jason does not appear in this episode)

Guest Star
Robert Culp as
Sgt. John Metcalf

Jack Hogan
as Kirby

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


Dialog Excerpts

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.

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File last updated June 28, 2012

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