Combat! reviews by Jo
Episodes rated from 0 to 4 bayonets
The Short Day of Private Putnam
Written by Esther and Bob Mitchell
Directed by Bernard McEveety
First aired 24-Mar-1964
Episode 28 of Season 2
Unbeknownst to the squad, their newest
replacement, Pvt. Orville Putnam, is only fifteen years old. Putting on a false front,
"Putt" alienates the squad and rebuffs Billy's attempt at friendship. The squad
scoffs at his bravado and his odd interest in collecting leaves. When tested under fire,
Putt is unprepared emotionally and panics when his friend Harvey is killed beside him. But
in the end, his keen eye and botanical hobby save him and the squad from snipers.
Beau Bridges stars as Putt in
"The Short Day of Private Putnam." As in "Mail Call," this is a squad story, highlighting the squad's
cohesiveness. Once you get past the premise, it is a very entertaining story. As in "Rear
Echelon Commandos," the squad is
saved by a skill they first scoffed at.
Tom Lowell enjoyed the episode because of Beau Bridges. Actors of his own age only
rarely appeared on Combat! "Dennis Robertson, Beau Bridges, or somebody like
that," says Lowell, "came along every once in awhile. The irony, of course, is
in WWII, they were all young kids."
The premise, that a fifteen-year-old is not emotionally equipped for war, has little
historical basis. Throughout history, teenage boys (and girls) have carried arms and
fought heroically. Despite the comfortable mid-life look to the Combat! squad,
World War II was fought largely by teens. Rick Jason, Dick Peabody, and Shecky Greene were
all in their teens when they served in WWII. Fifteen was young by WWII standards, (though
a few 'men' of that age did serve gallantly), soldiers of that age and younger were
staples of earlier armies. Some military historians think teens are better suited to war,
because they have less concept of their own mortality and, unlike adults, they can be
convinced that they like it.
NOTES, ODDITIES, AND BLOOPERS:
- The Germans snipers wear U.S. Army camouflage jackets.
- Hanley's radioman gets the
call signs reversed, saying "Checkmate King Two, this is White Rook." But in the
next transmission, he gets it right.
ABOUT FILMING THE EPISODE:
Tom Lowell: "I had no idea that
would be my last episode. At the time we were still in negotiations for the contract. And
Gene Levitt just wouldn't budge. I felt badly about it, but at the time my outside career
was doing real well."
Rick Jason as Lt. Hanley
Vic Morrow as Sgt. Saunders
Beau Bridges as Orville Putnam
Jack Hogan as Kirby
Conlan Carter as Doc
Pierre Jalbert as Caje
Dick Peabody as Littlejohn
Tom Lowell as Nelson
Robert Sampson as Harvey
Lilyan Chauvin as Fauvette
Charles Francisco as Sgt. Darden (uncredited)
Paul Busch as Gunner (uncredited)
Richard Tretter as Ambulance Driver (uncredited)