Sergeant Saunders -- Unofficial Biography
by Nancy Durgin
This contains details gleaned from specific episodes, and lots of extrapolation. The
references in brackets indicate episodes from which the information was taken.
Charles(?) "Chip" Saunders
Age: ~25 ["The Letter"]
Blood Type: O+ ["The Wounded Don't Cry"]
Home Town: Illinois ["Masquerade"] or Cleveland, Ohio ["Just for the
- Mother - living ["Just for the Record", "The Letter"]
- Father - deceased [lack of mention in "Just for the Record", "The
- Sister - Louise ("The Brat"), age ~15 ["Just for the Record"]
- Brother #1 - Chris, age ~17, enlisted in army 1945 ["The Letter"]
- Brother #2 - ???, age 18-24, Marine Corps in the Pacific ["Mail Call"]
- Brother #3 - Joey, <= 24, possibly deceased as child ["Survival] (Note: Brother
#2 and #3 could be same person)
- Serial #: 227-06-22 ["Survival" and others] [See note 1]
- Participated in North Africa campaign ["A Day in June"]
- Fought and was wounded in Italy (rank: Corporal?, decorations: Purple Heart, possibly
others) ["A Day in June"]
- Fought in D-Day invasion, at Omaha Beach (rank: Sergeant) ["A Day in June"
[ In "The Letter", young Private Jim Hummel reminds Saunders of his own kid
brother, Chris. Jim gives some biographical information on his older brother Charles who
was killed at Normandy. This information seems consistent with Saunders' own background,
and it is implicit that Saunders finds it all very familiar (e.g. Charles was 8 years
older than Jim, had "helped raise" him after their father died, etc.). This
information is assumed in Saunders biography, mainly in estimating his age at 25, and in
concluding that he was the oldest child... Most of the other details below are pure
speculation, but shouldn't contradict any information available in aired episodes. ]
Saunders was born in the Midwest, and is the oldest of 4 (or 5) children. His father
died when Saunders was about 12, and "Chip" took on the responsibility of
supporting the family and helping to raise his younger brothers and sister. He worked part
time during high school, and after he graduated he went to work full time (probably in a
factory or construction job - a likely occupation in the midwest). As a youngster,
Saunders dabbled in magic tricks ["The Furlough", "The Long Way
Saunders has claimed to be both from Illinois ["Masquerade"] and Cleveland
["Just for the Record"]. One possible explanation is that he was born in
Illinois, but that the family moved to Cleveland sometime after his father's death.
Another explanation is that he is from the small town of Cleveland, Illinois (yes, there
really is a Cleveland, Illinois).
Saunders enlisted in the Army soon after Pearl
Harbor (early 1942). During his 3 months of basic training, his leadership and tactical
abilities were recognized. He went on to advanced infantry training, and was promoted to
the rank of Corporal.
In early 1943, Saunders and his unit were shipped to Algiers in North Africa. The unit
were mainly assigned to security and defensive positions, so their fighting in Africa was
limited. This left plenty of time for Saunders to build a reputation for carousing and
partying when he was off-duty. These activities found Saunders teetering on the edge of
disciplinary action on more than one occasion .
In June 1943, his unit was pulled out of Africa in preparation for the invasion of
Italy. After several more months of preparation and waiting, Saunders finally saw his
first real action, during the invasion of Salerno in September, 1943.
Saunders fought in several battles in Italy over the next few months, and was rapidly
transformed into a veteran soldier; if he lost his stripes during his hijinks in North
Africa, he quickly got them back in Italy. In a battle near San Pietro, in late December
1943, his squad was pinned down in fire-fight, and the squad leader was killed. Cpl.
Saunders took over the squad and completed the mission, despite being seriously wounded.
Among the other survivors in this action was the squad's BAR man, Grady Long.
Saunders was shipped to England to recover from his injuries, and was out
of action for several months. When he recovered, he was re-assigned to the 361st -- a unit
of mostly green troops who were preparing for the invasion of France. Saunders was also
awarded a Purple Heart, promoted to the rank of Sergeant, and assigned as a Squad Leader.
Joining Saunders in K Company were Platoon Sergeant Gil Hanley, and Saunders' friend
from his old unit in Italy, Grady Long (though Grady wasn't assigned to Saunders' squad
until after D-Day).
During the long pre-invasion wait in England, Saunders had more opportunity for some
off-duty carousing, an activity in which he was sometimes joined by Hanley. The two became
friends, though Hanley didn't hesitate to pull rank on Saunders occasionally -- despite
the fact that the clean-cut Hanley was the less-experienced one of the pair.
After several months of waiting, D-Day (June 6th, 1944) finally arrived.
When their platoon leader, Lieutenant Crowley, was killed soon after Omaha Beach, Hanley
took his place, and was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant. Hanley's replacement as Platoon
Sergeant was Tech. Sgt. Avery -- a hardened veteran who would make quite an impression on
Saunders in the next few weeks, before he went MIA at St Lo ["A Gift of Hope"].
Hanley reassigned Grady Long to Saunders' squad, but Grady was killed a few weeks later
["Far from the Brave"].
From here, we have the events as aired in the series.... Enough action to provide five
years of episodes, even though the fighting in France and Germany lasted only about a
1) Saunders gives his serial number as "12078299" in "Dateline," but
the number given in "Survival" is the first reference to it, and this number is
used consistently in at least one other episode, so I've selected the 227-06-22 number as
the official one..
2) Perhaps more than just "teetering on the edge of disciplinary action" --
In ADIJ, Saunders tells Hanley that if he gets caught off the base, "they'll bust you
right down to Buck Private", and Hanley retorts "You ought to know -- you've
been there often enough." This could be an exaggeration on Hanley's part, but it
certainly indicates that Saunders has been in trouble in the past. This biography doesn't
allow for very many opportunities for Saunders to be "busted" and then to redeem
himself (since there isn't that much time or combat opportunity prior to D-Day), but it's
certainly possible that he had been promoted to Corporal or Sergeant after basic training,
and then got busted after some exploits in Africa, and promoted again in (or after) Italy.
I don't know if it's common to jump from Private straight to Sergeant, but it's certainly
possible to get demoted that far after one incident.
Also on this level of the website:
About Vic Morrow
Vic Morrow Biography
Vic Morrow Interview: The Good Samaritan
Vic Morrow filmography - TV and Movie roles
Books about Vic Morrow - his Life and Death
Vic Morrow Interview: TV Color Blind
A Sergeant Scorned
Saunders: episodes he appears in
Vic Morrow Photo Gallery