Hath No Fury like a Sergeant Scorned
A character sketch of Sergeant Saunders
Beneath that gruff exterior is a guy who
aw, just shut up and do like the man says ...
"The Germans have a word for it: Schrecklichkeit. It means
A British bomb disposal officer talking about the timing device in a German
five-hundred-pounder? Try again. Actually, this was an anonymous GI we overheard in a
café somewhere in France, describing the temper of one Sgt. Chip Saunders. But the said
GI was not unaware of the origins of the phrase. "Personally," he added,
"Id rather take my chances with the bomb."
Hold on, buddy, hold on. You asked about the danger in this sector, didnt you?
Well, were telling you.
This sergeant, see ... theres a lotta dogfaces round here that would agree
with that GI. Weve heard the stories terrible ones. Yesiree, terrible tales
have emanated from King Companys Second Platoon about The Wrath That Is Sarge
how cocky Cinci deejays, arrogant politicians, obnoxious boxing managers, recalcitrant
jazz drummers and know-it-all noncoms have all been leveled by combinations of deadly
dirty looks, lots of collar-grabbing and ferocious chewing outs. (Just imagine what this
Saundersd do if he really didnt like you. But then, the Krauts can
testify to that.) And it aint just the surly types and the slouches who get taken to
task by Saunders. We hear one of his best soldiers once got the Patton treatment from the
So its probly safe to say (as long as the mans out of earshot, mind
you) that more than one goldbricker along the way, having run afoul of His Tempership, has
secretly wished harm as in, the permanent kind to Saunders. Mind you, we
would counsel all such plotters that they may as well hold their breath waiting for a
discharge, or a date with Betty Grable, or a week without Spam or any other utterly
impossible scenario, as count on ole Sarge gettin bumped off.
Just consider the numbers: hes been wounded more than thirty times, and the
Allies arent even out of France yet. ("Hey, Sarge, spare a Purple
Heart?") This is one indestructible joe. And yet, for all those bullet wounds and
burns and beatings and falling beams, it isnt as if the guy spends all his time in
the hospital, either. Seems his average time relaxing between a set of clean sheets is
about three minutes before the fadeout occurs and, bam, just like clockwork, hes
back for the next patrol. (What kind of vitamins are they giving him anyway???)
In addition to his amazing recuperative powers, theres a lot about the Sarge that
remains mysterious to us mere mortals. Like where he really comes from (Cleveland?
Illinois? out West? all three?), what he did before the war (shoe clerk? nahhh), why he
never seems to have any noncom buddies (except the kind that die in the first five
minutes), and just what exactly was in that literary-looking book he was once seen
reading. Could it be, this battle-hardened warrior par excellence is also a lover of belles
lettres? Perish the thought. Wed probly be right in supposing that a guy
like Saunders would rather be taken prisoner with his pants off than be caught by his men
reading lines like, "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways." Contrary to
rumor, there are fates worse than death by army cuisine, even for sergeants.
Still, even though none of us has figured this guy out, you know Sgt. Saunders
has to belong to somebody and come from somewhere back in the States, and you know that
someday, when this lousy war is over (as in, 1980), hell go back home and take up an
occupation that may or may not involve lots of collar-grabbing and chewing outs. Football
coach, maybe? Flatfoot? Bodyguard for "Swoonatra"? (Hey, driving off hordes of
maniacal bobby soxers cant be that different from defending a position against
hordes of maniacal Germans, can it?)
Well, we can rule out at least one future line of work for this guy hell
never run for public office (way too high-minded and moral). But you gotta admit, he does
have one thing in common with politicos he feels compelled, on a regular basis, to
speechify. And how. Even worse than being caught by one of Saunders dirty looks, it
seems, is being caught by one of his (for lack of a better phrase) motivational tirades.
You just hope your blood isnt pooling in your ankles by the time he gets done
Well, thats the scuttlebutt.
Whats that, soldier? You say youre headed for Second Platoon? (smothered
snicker) Good luck, buddy. And, uh, enjoy the view from the ground when Saunders cuts you
down to size.
Just remember you never heard any of this from us.
Copyright © 1998 by Dorothy Spangler. All rights reserved.
Characters from the television series COMBAT! are the property of ABC-TV.