Directed: Burt Kennedy
Written: Robert Hardy Andrews
Released: 16 Oct 1962
Starts off with a narrator describing the battle lines in Normandy, France (or lack thereof) and how many soldiers were forced to take control of the situation themselves.
The action is around Gavray, France. (It took me awhile to find the name of this town because it was difficult to hear the narrator when he mentioned it. It was only when they cut to the Sgt. Dane’s tank track running over a “Gavray” sign, is when I finally knew for certain)
This episode was probably my least favorite of all the Combat episodes. The reason for this is primarily because of the reason behind Sgt. Dane’s (played by Jeffrey Hunter) erratic and aggressive behavior towards the church which will be explained.
Saunders squad, with Lt. Hanley leading is patrolling up a country road headed towards Gavray.
All of a sudden, a machine gun nest spots them, along with a Sniper hiding in a tree above them. They both open up on the squad, not hitting one guy. Everybody hits the deck on both sides of the road.
Another example of the German’s lack of marksman skills and their lack of basic ambush tactics. (I’m just being sarcastic)
While they’re being pinned down, Sgt. Dane’s tank comes rolling up and he blows the machine gun nest up. Saunders (or Hanley, I couldn’t tell) took out the sniper as well. He was dressed in camouflage but was up in a tree, not making it likely that he would’ve survived the encounter.
Once they roll into Gavray, they get into another firefight and Dane was able to blow out a machine gun nest in a window, stopping the threat. After that, he unexpectedly points his tank gun at the church steeple and blows that up as well.
Dane sees a truck with oil drums on the back of it but was disappointed when Saunders points out that they’re all empty. When he was in a fit of frustration, throwing drums around, is when they notice a little boy and an old priest sitting there. The old priest was injured on his shoulder which resulted from Dane blowing up the church steeple.
The old priest keeps repeating in French that the Germans weren’t there. Saunders is suspicious because he seemed to be repeating his statements by rote.
They cut to a German overlooking the encounter through a church window and into the interior of the church where we see the entire town standing in the basement with German guards looking over them.
This German is played by Hans Difflipp, who appears in a total of 7 episodes of Combat as a German.
This is one of the few episodes in which I actually saw another Tommy Gun. Dane had one for his tank weapon, which makes sense. He’s carrying it as he looks around the town.
While Saunders is talking to the tank crew, he discovers that Dane used to study for the priesthood but he didn’t make it for some reason. Dane comes into the shop where Saunders is and while talking, Dane tells Saunders about what happened with his priesthood studies. This is when Dane confesses to Saunders that he was one week prior to taking his final vows, when he got into a fight. Also that it wasn’t the first time that he had trouble.
At this point, the internal war that Dane is fighting is quite apparent. He says that he wanted to go back and asking them if they would forgive him. That he thought that they would have. I’m not sure who he is referring to but if he really wanted to be a priest, what he really needed to do was to forgive himself.
Dane then starts for the door where the priest is lying down. Saunders wants to know why he wants to go in there and Dane tells him that he wants to say confession. Saunders then lets him go in and see him.
Dane begins to make his confession to the old priest in front of Hanley, Saunders and Doc. Hanley, deciding that there isn’t any threat, gives them privacy.
Dane kneels down to confess to the father. Since the father speaks no English, Dane asks the father to forgive him for what he had done to him. Presumably, collapsed the steeple and injuring him, but I think there’s more meaning behind this confession.
Doc comes rushing to get Hanley because the priest has something to tell him. He tells him that there’s Bosch in the eglise, which means church.
Cut to Dane in the church who pulls a .45 on the German lieutenant and another German. In the mean time, a German cuts Dane down with a sub machine gun.
In comes Saunders and Hanley, who kill two more Germans. Actually, only Saunders killed them because Hanley never fired a shot.
Saunders goes down the stairs and machine guns the radio operator and the people cheer in relief and come out of the basement.
The last scene is of Dane dying at the altar and dropping his crucifix with his dying hand draped over it. Perhaps, this was some sort of dying atonement for all the killing that he’s done?
In my opinion, if Dane was sincere about his Catholic faith and about wanting to be a priest, there’s certain sins that a few Hail Mary’s aren’t going to fix. Also, there’s the issue of the priest not understanding his confession, so was it even valid?
Saunders killed 3 Germans and possibly 1 Sniper but it may have been Hanley
Wiggins gets killed (the guy with the puppy)
One other guy got it in the doorway but I wasn’t sure who.