Season 1 Episode 2 Rear Echelon Commandos

Directed: Robert Altmann
Written: Richard Tregaskis
Released: 9 Oct 1962

The squad is relaxing in and around a barn somewhere in Normandy, France.

Sgt. Saunders, obviously exhausted, staggers into the barn where the rest of the guys are resting. Little John offers him some milk from a cow that he’s milking. That’s when one of the privates tell him about the “good news” of Kirby going to fetch the new replacements.

He comes in with three fresh replacements. Private Joe Gainsborough who used to be a cook, Private Wayne Temple Jr., who was a P.T. instructor and a ballet dancer in civilian life and Private Jerome Crown, who was a disk jockey at AFRS.

Amid objections by Saunders, Hanley orders Saunders to get a squad together to do a recon at a town called Marolles, Normandy, France.


Here is a plot that is often revisited by Combat, that of the point of view of a new comer to the actual rigors of life as a combat infantryman.

We get to experience the uncertainty and fear that these new guys felt as they go on their first mission.

Saunders frustrated with the new replacements

Before Saunders can take these men out, he has to make sure they know a little bit about handling Infantry equipment. The next scene cuts to them practicing throwing grenades into a lake. The instruction is “Pull pin, prepare to throw, throw”, which both Temple and Gainsborough got right. When it came to Crown though, he stumbled while throwing and the grenade fell between their legs. At which time, Crown ran out of the hole as fast as he could, leaving Saunders to scramble for the grenade and throw it just in time for it to blow a branch overhanging the water. This was a pretty funny scene actually.

Saunders takes a patrol out with Caje and Kirby and the three new men, not expecting any trouble but issuing each man 2 grenades regardless.

They arrive at the entrance to the town and Saunders doesn’t see anything. He then tells Kirby and Temple to go around one way, Caje and Gainsborough another and himself and Crown another way. This came with a bit of questioning and lip service on the part of Crown, which indicates that he has still a lot to learn.

Entrance to Marolles with a honking goose guarding the entrance.

I don’t know where they filmed this village. In IMDB it says the MGM Studios. It’s used quite a bit in other episodes as an example of a typical French village with a church steeple in the middle of it.

All three replacements prove to be hapless on their first patrol. Temple freaks out when he sees a couple of dead Germans, being admonished by Kirby. Gainsborough is so nervous, he trips on some stairs and drops his M1 rifle. Crown never checked the areas that he was supposed to and was caught not checking it by Saunders.

They had all previously used a dress shop as the meeting place. Saunders, Kirby and Caje left the replacements there and left to check out the village by themselves. Caje was ordered to keep an eye out on the far entrance and if he heard any gun shots to go back to their lines.

While Kirby and Saunders is out inspecting buildings, Crown is eating a K-Ration and complained about it and then built a fire in order to heat it up.

Saunders saw the smoke coming out of the smoke stack, rushing back to the dress shop and extinguishing the fire. In the mean time, a German machine gun team sees the smoke and also Kirby standing in front of the dress shop. The machine gunner opens up on Kirby, wounding him in the shoulder.


At this point, I want to ask what kind of machine gun the Germans are using. Is this a Maxim Gun? Because it has the ribbed water cooler for the barrel.

Saunders rescues Kirby and then tells Crown that they’re going to try and get a grenade in to the machine gun position. Gainsborough volunteers but Saunders is adamant that Crown needs to go out since he’s the one that got them into trouble in the first place.

While trying to sneak into position, Crown takes a round of machine gun fire, which eventually hits Saunders in the leg, wounding him.

That’s when Gainsborough goes out in his attempt to help Saunders. He’s the least likely of all of them to show courage to confront the enemy. Although, his efforts were soon defeated when he ignored even the most basic training of running from cover to cover. He simply walked out into the machine gun’s field of fire, getting cut down and he fell into the canal.

Next, Temple comes running out and upon seeing Gainsborough in the water, he panics and leaves his helmet and M1 lying there and runs towards Saunders and Crown.

Temple then comes up with an idea of climbing from rooftop to rooftop in order to lob a grenade into the window where the machine gun team is located. He swims across the canal, using boats as cover. He also retrieves a line with a hook on the end to aid in his climbing.

He successfully navigated the rooftops and was almost to where he needed to go when one of the machine gun team armed with a Gew 43 aims at him. Crowd then shows his meddle and shoots the German. Temple then lobs the grenade into the window, blowing them up.

Back at the aid station, Hanley tells Saunders that they’re getting 5 new replacements and for Caje and Kirby to break them in. Saunders then says that it’s okay, Temple and Crown can both show them the ropes and Gainsborough, if he didn’t get it.

Saunders is wounded for the first time this episode.
Kirby is wounded for the first time in this episode.
Crown killed a German
Temple killed 2 Germans
Gainsborough gets killed



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