Ten 1960s TV Shows Set In World War 2

From Drama...

Rick Jason and Vic Morrow from the premiere of the television program Combat. August 1962.
Rick Jason and Vic Morrow from the premiere of the television program Combat. August 1962. | Source

... to Comedy

Bob Crane as Colonel Hogan from the television program Hogan's Heroes.
Bob Crane as Colonel Hogan from the television program Hogan's Heroes. | Source

6 War Dramas and 4 War Comedies

Back in the 1960s, there were only three nationally broadcast television networks in the US. During that decade, no less than ten series were set during the Second World War. In 1965, no fewer than seven of these shows competed for viewers each week. Remember, that was when you basically only had a choice of three channels (ABC, CBS or NBC) to watch at any one time.

By 1962, when Combat, The Gallant Men and McHale's Navy premiered, the war had been over for 17 years and the passage of time had somewhat dulled the raw wounds of that traumatic period. By then, many veterans had settled into a comfy middle-class lifestyle and were even open to a light-hearted look at the war. Also, a new generation of avid television viewers, who would become known as “baby boomers”, were intensely curious about the war that had preceded-- and in some ways caused-- them. Interestingly enough, four of the ten shows were comedies. Hogan's Heroes generated some controversy for drawing its laughs from a POW camp in the middle of Nazi Germany, but it was the longest running of them all.

The best-known of the shows were Combat, McHale's Navy, 12 O'Clock High, Hogan's Heroes and Rat Patrol. As can be seen below, ABC had the most successful line-up of shows. CBS had only one entry, but it was the very successful Hogan's Heroes. NBC didn't get off the ground, fielding three shows that never really caught on. See below for the ten war-related television shows of the Sixties, shown in order of their premier.

War Enthusiasm Wanes

By the end of 1968, only Hogan's Heroes was on the air. The war in Vietnam had put a damper on war-related television series and anti-war sentiment was growing, especially among the very same baby boomers who's eyes had been glued to the TV watching Vic Morrow and his squad of infantry battle their way across France. Perhaps Hogan's Heroes, by making fun of the Germans, was perceived as a war spoof against any military authorities. In any case, it was the only one of the Sixties war-related series to last into the early Seventies.

Combat

ABC (1962 – 1967) 60 minute action series

This was the war show to watch if you were a baby boomer. It was a fairly realistic show (for the period) about a US Army platoon in King Company fighting the Germans in France. Its 152 episodes spanning five seasons makes it the longest-running World War II drama. It ran on Tuesday nights from 7:30 to 8:30 and made Vic Morrow, as Sergeant Saunders, a star. Reportedly, during its run, Lieutenant Hanley and Sergeant Saunders lost 118 men under their command.

IMDB Rating: 8.5 (802 users)

The actors and their roles:

Vic Morrow - Sergeant Chip Saunders

Rick Jason - Lieutenant Gil Hanley

William Bryant - McCall

Tom Lowell - Billy Nelson

Jack Hogan - William G. Kirby

Dick Peabody - Little John

Steven Rogers - Doc (1962-1963)

Conlan Carter - Doc (1963-1967)

Pierre Jalbert - Paul "Caje" Lemay

Shecky Greene - Braddock

McHale's Navy

ABC (1962 – 1966) 30 minute comedy series

This comedy was about a PT crew in the South Pacific that always got in trouble with Captain Binghamton, their commanding officer, but they always managed to pull off a rescue or thwart an enemy attack or avert some catastrophe and save the day, much to the Binghamton's despair. A whole lot of baby boomers didn't even know Ernest Borgnine, as the set-upon Lieutenant Commander Quinton McHale, had been a serious Oscar-winning actor. Tim Conway launched his unassailable role as a one of the best second-bananas in the business, playing to straight man Borgnine. The show ran four seasons with 138 episodes and there were also two movies.

IMDB Rating: 7.6 (598 users)

The actors and their roles:

Ernest Borgnine - Lieutenant Commander Quinton McHale

Tim Conway - Ensign Charles Parker

Joe Flynn - Captain Wallace "Old Lead Bottom" Binghamton

Bob Hastings - Lieutenant Elroy Carpenter

Billy Sands - Harrison "Tinker" Bell

Gary Vinson - George "Christy" Christopher

Edson Stroll - Virgil Edwards

Carl Ballantine - Lester Gruber

Yoshio Yoda - Fuji Kobiaji

John Wright - Willy Moss

Gavin MacLeod - Joseph "Happy" Haines

The Gallant Men

ABC (1962 – 1963) 60 minute action series

This show followed the exploits of an American infantry company fighting their way through Italy. It was ABC's weaker dramatic offering, compared to Combat. It tended to be formulaic, stereotypical and suffered from the “Stormtrooper Effect” whereby large numbers of German soldiers were routinely killed by the regular cast who, in turn, suffered minimal or no casualties themselves. It lasted one season of 26 episodes.

IMDB Rating: 7.3 (51 users)

The actors and their roles:

William Reynolds - Capt. Jim Benedict

Robert McQueeney - Conley Wright

Robert Ridgely - Lt. Frank Kimbro

Richard X. Slattery - 1st Sgt. John McKenna

Eddie Fontaine - PFC Pete D'Angelo

Roland La Starza - Pvt. Ernie Lucavich

Roger Davis - Pvt. Roger Gibson

Robert Gothie - Pvt. Sam Hanson

12 O'Clock High

ABC (1964 – 1967) 60 minute action series

This series was about American airmen with the Eighth Air Force stationed in England during the war. Their mission was to fly their B-17s over Nazi targets in occupied Europe and perform daytime bombing missions. It was originally based on the 1949 movie of the same name starring Gregory Peck. There were 78 episodes shown over three seasons.

Imdb Rating: 8.4 (276 users)

The actors and their roles:

Frank Overton - Major Harvey Stovall

Robert Lansing - Brigadier General Frank Savage (1964-1965)

John Larkin - Major General Wiley Crowe (1964-1965)

Chris Robinson - Tech Sgt Alexander "Sandy" Komansky (1965-1967)

Paul Burke - Colonel Joseph Anson Gallagher

Andrew Duggan - Brigadier General Ed Britt (1965-1967)

Robert Dornan - Captain Fowler (1965-1967)

Hogan's Heroes

CBS (1965 – 1971) 30 minute comedy series

This comedy was about Allied soldiers, led by Colonel Hogan, who fought against the Nazi war machine while ostensibly imprisoned in Stalag 13, a prisoner of war camp inside Germany. They could come and go as they pleased with their vast network of tunnels and a seeming unending supply of whatever they needed to get the job done, to the constant dismay of the ever-suspicious camp commandant Colonel Klink. The hapless Sergeant Schultz famously knew nothing, saw nothing and heard nothing. His iconic “I see nothing-- NOTHING” to avoid trouble is still recognized today. There were 168 episodes over six seasons. Werner Klemperer, a German Jew who fled the Nazis, would only take the part of Colonel Klink after being reassured that the Germans never gained the upper hand in the series.

IMDB Rating: 7.8 (2,720 users)

The actors and their roles:

Bob Crane - Colonel Robert Hogan

Werner Klemperer - Colonel Wilhelm Klink

Richard Dawson - Corporal Peter Newkirk

John Banner - Sergeant Hans Schultz

Robert Clary - Corporal Louis LeBeau

Larry Hovis - Sergeant Andrew Carter

Kenneth Washington - Sergeant Baker

Ivan Dixon - Sergeant Ivan Kinchloe

Leon Askin - General Albert Burkhalter

Cynthia Lynn - Helga

Howard Caine - Major Wolfgang Hochstetter

Sigrid Valdis - Hilda

Bernard Fox - Colonel Crittendon

Mister Roberts

NBC (1965 – 1966) 30 minute comedy series

This series was about a young Navy Lieutenant stuck on a supply ship during the war. Life was pretty boring on the ship and so he kept getting in trouble. That about sums it up and explains why only 30 episodes aired over a single season.

IMDB Rating: 6.7 (16 users)

The actors and their roles:

Roger Smith - Lieutenant Douglas "Mister" Roberts

Steve Harmon - Ensign Frank Pulver

Richard X. Slattery - Captain John Morton

George Ives - Doc

Richard Sinatra - Seaman D'Angelo

Ronald Starr - Seaman Mannion

Roy Reese - Seaman Reber

Wackiest Ship in the Army

NBC (1965 – 1966) 60 minute comedy series

This series was about an old, twin-masted, wooden schooner that was used by the U.S. Navy during World War II to sneak spies behind the Japanese lines-- but it's the wackiest ship in the Army. Get it? Now imagine each comedic episode stretches for 60 minutes and it's easy to see why this only ran one season of 29 episodes.

IMDB Rating: 8.4 (64 users)

The actors and their roles:

Jack Warden - Major Simon Butcher

Gary Collins - Lieutenant Richard P. "Rip" Riddle

Mike Kellin - Chief Petty Officer William "Willie" Miller

Rudy Solari - Gunner's Mate Sherman Nagurski

Don Penny - Pharmacist's Mate Charles Tyler, ship's cook

Mark Slade - Radioman Patrick Hollis

Fred Smoot - Machinist's Mate Seymour Trivers

Charles Irving - Admiral Vincent Beckett

Bill Zuckert - General Cross

Convoy

NBC (1965) 60 minute drama series

This dramatic series was about the men of a merchant freighter and a destroyer escort in a convoy carrying men and supplies across the Atlantic during the war. Its Friday night time-slot of 8:30 to 9:30 opposite the likes of “The Addams Family” and “Hogan's Heroes” doomed it to one season of 13 episodes. Unfortunately, the merchant marine never inspired the imaginations of most people, but consider this: of all the services (including army, navy, marines and air force), it had the highest death rate during World War II.

IMDB Rating: 6.7 (17 users)

The actors and their roles:

John Gavin - Commander Dan Talbot

John Larch - Merchant Captain Ben Foster

Linden Chiles - Chief Officer Steve Kirkland

James T. Callahan - Lieutenant Dick O'Connell

Horst Ebersberg - Juergens

Michael Stanwood - Myers

By the way, fans of the soap opera The Young and the Restless might recognize Eric Braeden, who plays the soap's patriarch Victor Newman, as "Rat Patrol's" (much) younger German nemesis Hans Dietrich.

Rat Patrol

ABC (1966 – 1968) 30 minute action series

This show was about three American soldiers and one British commando who used their 50-caliber-armed jeeps in fast hit-and-run attacks against Rommel's Afrika Corps in North Africa. Its name came from the “Desert Rats”, as some of the British troops were called. As a matter of fact, some Brits were offended at the American to British ratio here-- or that there were any Yanks in it at all. It was cool at first but even jeeps roaring over the tops of sand dunes, guns blazing, gets old after a while.

IMDB Rating: 7.7 (359 users)

The actors and their roles:

Christopher George - Sergeant Sam Troy

Gary Raymond - Sergeant Jack Moffitt

Justin Tarr - Private Tully Pettigrew

Lawrence P. Casey - Private Mark Hitchcock

Eric Braeden - Hauptmann (German Captain) Hans Dietrich

Garrison's Gorillas

ABC (1967 – 1968) 60 minute action series

Prisoners get a chance to fight the Jerries in return for presidential pardons. Sound familiar? Obviously inspired by 1967's “The Dirty Dozen”, this show lasted one season of 26 episodes.

IMDB Rating: 7.2 (133 users)

The actors and their roles:

Ron Harper - Lieutenant Craig Garrison

Rudy Solari - Casino

Brendon Boone - Chief

Cesare Danova - Actor

Christopher Cary - Goniff

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Comments 29 comments

carol7777 profile image

carol7777 4 years ago from Arizona

great listing of shows. Amazing none of them lasted a very long time. This is great how you found all these and shared. Love the pictures. Voted UP.


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa Author

Thanks, carol. I relied on my memory for most of them, but, as I researched, a couple of them were jogged free. I honestly don't remember "Convoy" (probably too busy watching Hogan's Heroes), but I wished I had. Since I've written a few hubs on the merchant marine of several nations during the war, I've certainly gained a new respect for those brave sailors.


Pavlo Badovskyy profile image

Pavlo Badovskyy 4 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

Sorry, can not say anything. Alas, have never seen anything of that...


rcrumple profile image

rcrumple 4 years ago from Kentucky

I remember enjoying many of these shows. Convoy is the only one that is new to me. The Wackiest Ship... was a great mixture of comedy and action that made Sunday nights great. It seems like I had to fight my dad to watch it as he preferred The High Chaparral. The Rat Patrol was sometimes great, and sometimes very boring, at least to a youngster. Combat and McHales Navy were the all time favorites in the household. It seems as though there was another one that ran in almost the same time slot as Combat in the early 60's, but the name escapes me now. Great Hub! Brings back many memories!


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa Author

Hi Pavlo! Yes, I doubt American World War II shows would have been seen in the Soviet Union-- except maybe in the Kremlin :)


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa Author

rcrumple, you know I have that feeling, too, but, for the life of me I can find no reference to a "competing" show. I thought it had something to do with Lieutenants, but I see nothing. If anyone has a thought, I'd love to round this out to Ten shows! Thanks for the great comment.

Dammit, I'm going to do some more research.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England

Well I've heard of these shows but was too young to have watched any of them, maybe Hogan's Heroes in the early 70's.

An interesting hub David.

Voted Up.


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa Author

Thanks for stopping by, Steve. I wish I could say I was too old to watch these. Sigh. Anyway, because Mr rcrumple put a bug in my ear, I will be adding one more to the list. I thought there was one more, but now that I found it it, I do not remember it.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM

I watched all these shows - Hogan's Heroes being my favorite one. What a walk down memory lane. I had to chuckle at the first paragraph where you explain we only had three broadcast channels to watch - what a hoot! Those were certainly the "olden days" LOL. Nice hub and very well done!


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa Author

Hi suzette. Yeah, how did we ever get by with three channels? And we had to get up and change the channel manually! And they were in black and white because we didn't get a color TV till the late Sixties. Thanks a lot for the comment.


aethelthryth profile image

aethelthryth 4 years ago from American Southwest

Well now I finally understand why I thought "12 O'Clock High" was a movie, and a very thought-provoking one, but mostly when I heard the name people didn't seem to be talking about a movie. Thanks for the educational tidbit.


Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 4 years ago from San Francisco

Wow... did that shake some cob webs loose. Thank you (really).


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 4 years ago from North Carolina

Right before reading this super enjoyable piece, I tried to think of the serious WW2 60s shows seen as a kid. Combat, which was a fave, and Rat Patrol were the only ones could think of. Remember a WW2 vet telling me back then he hated Hogan's Heroes and Gomer Pyle. In retrospect its easy to see why. David, is that a marine helmet Morrow wore on Combat?


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa Author

Aethelthryth: I am glad to have contributed to your store of knowledge ;)

Mhatter: I found it quite a trip down memory lane myself. Thanks for commenting.

Alastar: Yeah, Hogan's Heroes did tend to polarize vets, but I actually enjoy it even more now in syndication than when it was running. I don't know, it just seems like a great propoganda piece that's sometimes clever, sometimes not. And I love Sergeant Schultz. "I see nothing-- NOTHING" seems like a pretty sensible approach to a lot of situations. Don't know about Morrow's helmet, though, but thanks a lot for your comment.


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 4 years ago from North Carolina

Schultz was great with that enduring line- for sure. The show is fun an interesting and even more so to me knowing the backstory on Bob Crane now like we do. Maybe one day we'll solve the riddle of Sgt. Saunders camouflage- marine style looking helmet David lol.


Mr Deltoid 1966 profile image

Mr Deltoid 1966 3 years ago from New Jersey

I have fond memories of Rat Patrol.......and most of the other shows, too.

Hogans Heroes never quite clicked with me, however....I duno, I think its the whole wacky nazi's thing.....not that Im a prude.

Good Hub, thanks.


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 3 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa Author

Hi again, Mr Deltoid. I hear what you're saying-- what's so funny about Nazis? Actually, I came to appreciate Hogan's Heroes more after learning Werner Klemperer only took the role of Klink when he was assured the Nazis never came out on top and that they were always buffoons.


JQ240SX 3 years ago

Does anyone remember a one episode TV pilot, that depicted the marines in the pacific theater, called "Assault?" I believe one of the stars was James Whitmore.


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 3 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa Author

Hmmm... that does not ring a bell, but the image of James Whitmore as a marine does. Anyone else?


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York

What a great synopsis of these well known shows! I have seen them all but like many Hogans Heroes was my favorite...did you know it was said to be based ( loosely of course) on the award winning movie, Stalag 17. This was a fun and nostalgic read.

Voted up, useful, and interesting.


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 3 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa Author

Thanks, tillsontitan. As a young kid, Combat was my favorite, but watching Hogan's Heroes after all these years, I appreciate it more and more. It was a lot more than hijinx in a POW camp.


Robert Sacchi profile image

Robert Sacchi 22 months ago

Thanks for the look back.


Michael Skaggs 19 months ago

Let me add some more information to you article. You missed three other shows. "Blue Light", Broadside", and "Jericho". "Blue Light" ABC, was about an American journalist who did broadcasts for the Nazis and had a bounty out on him. What was only known by the higher ups in Washington and London was that he was really working for the Allies. "Broadside" ABC, was from the makers of "McHale's Navy" about three women WAVES. (Please note the politically incorrect title.) "Jericho", (CBS's only other WW 2 program and no relation to the recent post-WW 3 series.) was about three commandos, each US, British, and Free French. It was the first show from the people who made "Columbo" and "Murder, She Wrote." "Wackiest Ship in the Army" was because the ship took it's orders from the US Army Command, thus the title. "12 O'Clock High" is the best of the best. I got into Army Aviation because of it. I'm just waiting for it to be released on DVD. "Convoy" was the last program on NBC to be in black and white, a network that boasted about all of color programs. As a result several affiliates wouldn't air it. "Rat Patrol" was actually banned in England, India, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand because they objected to the "America won the war in North Africa' story lines. Now to see if I can answers some questions. The show you may be thinking about is "The Lieutenant", (NBC) it was a modern day program from Gene Roddenbery". You can see many future "Star Trek" cast members in it. They told Roddenbery, "You can set an episode in Vietnam, but you can't call it Vietnam." Sgt. Sanders did not have a Marine helmet. It was a US Army helmet with a piece of cammo parachute on it for extra cover. "Attack" was a pilot from ABC. It was supposed to be "Combat in the Pacific". 1966 or 1967. The actor who was the spaceship pilot on "Land Of The Giants" was the star. I hope I was of help. I'll keep an eye out for any follow up questions.


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 19 months ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa Author

Michael, thanks for a great comment. I remember each and every one of the ten shows in my article, but the three you mentioned completely slipped my mind-- as if they didn't exist until I read your comment. But you are correct of course. Thanks again for your contribution and attention to detail.


Michael Skaggs 19 months ago

Thank you for your kind words and a great article that took me back down the TV highway of when I was younger. Also, I just remembered, the actor who starred in the tv pilot, "Attack", was Gary Conway. He was also in "Burke's Law".


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 19 months ago from North Carolina

Hogan's Heroes is an atrocity so far as I'm concerned as my uncle was badly wounded as a GI, taken POW and nearly starved to death in a stalag. He didn't ever talk about it. As a young boy I also knew some WW2 vets and 'Nam younger marines on leave back home or who'd service had ended who detested Gomer Pyle with a passion too.


Michael Skaggs 19 months ago

The story I heard about "Hogan's Heroes" was that they had to offer extra money to the guest stars because there were many in Hollywood who didn't like the idea of a comedy in a POW camp. That's why the Russian character left after the pilot. He reportedly said he only agreed to do the pilot because he never dreamed it would be picked up as a series. According to IMDB, there were four actors who did three different characters during the show's run.


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 19 months ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa Author

Thanks, Michael. And as I said in the article Werner Klemperer (Colonel Klink) who was a German Jew specified that the Nazis had to always be portrayed as buffoons in order for him to play the role.


Michael Skaggs profile image

Michael Skaggs 17 months ago

Here's an update for those who might be interested. There's a website called "tvshowsondvd.com" where you can vote for television shows you want released on DVD and they send in the information to the rights holders on the shows, networks, production companies, ect, each month. They also have a listing of all shows and their votes and if they are already on DVD. Out of the 10 shows listed and the three I mentioned, only Combat, Gallant Men, McHale's Navy, Hogan's Heroes, Rat Patrol, and Jericho (just this month) have been released on DVD. The others haven't. Their rankings on the unreleased list range from 255th for Twelve O'Clock High down to 4008th for Broadside. So everybody sign in and join tvshowsondvd.com and vote to get the other shows on video.

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