Little John was one of the main squad members throughout all 5 seasons of Combat.
He was the quintessential gentle giant. You hardly ever saw Little John get mad about anything. He did get angry in one episode (Conflict) against Caje, but that was the main plot because the squad had been going on without any rest for 3 days in the rain. It would make anybody cranky, even Little John. What was interesting though, was that even in that episode when he threatened to break Caje in two, it was hardly believable.
Little John always meant well. He’s the guy that you would ask to look after your puppy for you. He was also the guy that would go out of his way to help a buddy out. This willingness to help a buddy has gotten Little John yelled at by Saunders on more than a few occasions. Saunders being the sort of Sergeant that believes everybody needs to pull their own weight no matter what.
You had to love how that helmet always looked like it was too small for that big head of his. I often wondered if they purposely made the helmet look like that but I’ve taken close looks at them and they look the same as all the other guys. You never saw Little John using a helmet cover on his helmet. They were always bare.
In the earlier seasons, he had a squad buddy named Billy Nelson. They would play off of each other like big brother and little brother, often in a comical fashion.
A typical exchange would be –
Little John: What’s wrong Billy?
Billy: You’re gonna be mad at me Little John, ’cause I did it again.
Little John: What did you do Billy?
Billy: I thought the pin was loose in the grenade and I was trying to tighten it when it fell out and now I can’t find it.
(Billy was stuck holding the grenade together by hand until they found the pin)
Funny thing about Little John. You never actually hear what his full name was. Obviously he got called “Little” because he was so big.
He was played by Dick Peabody who was six feet six inches tall.
A great synopsis of Dick Peabody and how he got the role from IMDB –
He is best remembered for his role of ‘Army Private Littlejohn’ in the World War II television series, “Combat!” (1962 to 1967). Born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1942, during World War II, he joined the United States Navy, and was discharged in 1945 as an Electronic Technician. Using his GI Bill, he studied electrical engineering at the University of Kansas City, but switched to acting because he wanted fame and attention. After graduation, he held a series of jobs producing screen advertising and making television commercials, until he was noticed by director Robert Altman, who recommended he be hired to make educational and industrial films. He moved to Kansas City, where he worked as the news anchor, then moved to Denver, where he worked as a radio show host and later, as a television producer. Bored with what he was doing, despite being successful, he decided it was time to move to Hollywood, and quickly found work two days after arriving in Hollywood, when Director Robert Altman offered him a role in a new television series, “Combat!” (1962-1967), and he quickly signed on. After this role, he continued to act in a series of prime-time television shows and in six movies, including “MacKenna’s Gold” (1969), “Support Your Local Sheriff” (1969), and “Your Money or Your Wife” (1972). At six feet, six inches tall, he enjoyed playing villains, and reported that leading actors liked having him as a villain because they would not look like bullies when they beat him up in a screen fight. In 1985, back pain ended his television career, and he moved to El Dorado County, California, where he resumed his writing career, writing a weekly column, “Peabody’s Place,” for the Placerville, California, Mountain Democrat newspaper. His columns would cover reminiscences of Hollywood, as well as various social and political topics. In 1996, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and continued to remain active until his death. He died in his home in Camino, California, from prostate cancer.
– IMDb Mini Biography By: Kit and Morgan Benson