Season 1 Episode 18 – Next In Command

Written and Directed by Burt Kennedy
Released: 5 Feb 1963

This story is about a replacement Corporal that joins the squad name Corporal John Cross. He is played by Ben Cooper.

They start off in a fire fight with a tank that has the squad pinned down. The guy with the radio gets it and Saunders has to risk his own life to get to the radio to call the tank in, however, the radio won’t work so Saunders falls back while the tank wheels up to his position and then runs over the radio.

The guys are ordered to take a farm house on the road to Vebray. They are to go up there and if there are any Germans, to take and hold the high ground.

Kirby keeps griping about the “new guy” coming into their squad that hasn’t walked a mile with the squad while not promoting anybody from within the group.

Saunders talking to Cross
Cross thinking he’s getting the 3rd degree from Saunders

There’s some cutesy exchanges between Little John and Billy Nelson. Burt Kennedy directed episodes tend to incorporate some exchanges between them. In this one, Little John decides to bring his bicycle with him and has Billy packing one of the tires for him because they couldn’t fit the bike in the back of the mess truck like Saunders suggested they do. Once again, Billy Nelson confesses to Little John that “I did it again, but it wasn’t my fault…” type of cute confession and we find out that Billy had let the tire go flat while carrying it. We get taken into this comic “bike tire repair” arc for a few scenes.

Going up to the farmhouse
Saunders, Cross and Kirby going up to the farmhouse

They manage to get to the farm house without any problems. Saunders, Kirby and Cross are searching it and Saunders and Cross go down into the basement to check it out. We then see a German with a bayonet sneaking up behind Saunders as if to stab him and then we see a M1 shooting him a few times and Saunders turns around and does 2 long blasts from his Tommy gun killing 2 Germans. Kirby then yells at Cross saying that he wanted the German “to take” Saunders. Cross claims that his M1 jammed and he couldn’t fire, which Saunders proved wrong by firing off an entire clip of ammo out of it.

I couldn’t tell how many Germans were down in the basement but it appeared to be 2. One that almost killed Saunders and another one that was hiding behind the wine rack.

After Saunders, Caje and Kirby gets back from burying the dead Germans, he takes Cross in the other room to talk about what happened in the basement.

All of a sudden, they see a couple of Germans come up to the farm house with a mule loaded down with supplies, probably an advanced guard for an O.P. that will be set up there.

Saunders tells Cross to go take the one in the barn, while him and Caje takes the one outside. I don’t know why Saunders tells him to take care of the one German by himself so soon after he dropped the ball down in the basement. Cross froze up when the German in the barn went out the door and didn’t fire. He then fired off a couple of shots to make it sound like he got the German after which he lied to Saunders about “getting him”.

The squad is keeping watch inside the farmhouse. Saunders looks around for Cross and looks down in the basement to find him drinking the wine and getting drunk. That’s when Cross gives Saunders a drunken confession about what happened in his old unit. He told him about shooting a fellow squad member by accident and how he was wallowing in guilt about it. After Saunders threatens to throw the book at him, they yell down that they have company in the form of Germans.

A firefight ensues. The Germans set up a mortar position and are lobbing mortars down on them inside the farmhouse while the guys are desperately trying to fight them off.

Kirby gets knocked down and Cross, after coming out of the basement, sees his rifle laying there. He picks it up and Saunders sees him leave out of the back way and Saunders goes chasing after him.

This scene was pretty unlikely. Saunders should have just let the guy go instead of chasing after him and risking his own life.

Cross sneaks down the hill. I say “sneak”, but is more like “stumble” because he was still drunk and it was only the luck of the drunk that guided him to the position right behind the mortar team. He attacks the team with his M1 and empties the clip into them. Unfortunately, one German with a MP-40 managed to get a burst into Cross before Saunders mows him down with his Thompson.

Saunders killed 3 Germans.

Cross killed 3 Germans (in the mortar team) and another 4 Germans in the tank (if you consider the typical tank team is 4 men) 1 driver, 1 loader/gunner, 1 mechanic and 1 commander

Kirby got knocked down but don’t know about injury

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