The Rat Patrol

1966 | United States

More a case of "The Dirty Quartet" than "The Dirty Dozen", the World War Two action/adventure series The Rat Patrol ran on the ABC network in the US from September 12th 1966 to September 16th 1968. 

With an utter disregard for historical accuracy, the unruly elite team of misfits consisted of four young men, (three Americans and one Englishman), fighting General Rommel's elite Afrika Korps in the North African desert as part of the Long Range Desert Group. Tough, unorthodox, Sgt. Sam Troy (the excellent and charismatic Christopher George) was the head rat, Jack Moffit, the team's British demolitions expert was played by Jason and the Argonauts co-star Garry Raymond, whilst the remainder of the US contingent was made up of Lawrence P. Casey as the young private, Mark Hitchcock, (a man trying hard to live down a reputation for being a "sissy") and Justin Tarr's Tully Pettigrew, a charming con-man with a decidedly deadly edge. 

The Patrol's main mode of transport were two machine-gun-mounted jeeps, while the on-going villainy was supplied by the character of Capt. Hauptman Hans Dietrich, C.O. of a German armoured unit, played by German actor Hans Gudegast (who, following a name change to Eric Braden would go on to enjoy a successful movie and TV career ranging from the on-going central character of Victor Newmann in popular daytime soap The Young and the Restless to a featured role in James Cameron's water-logged movie blockbuster Titanic). Variety was sometimes added to the dramatic mix by means of having the two antagonistic groups of combatants join forces against the common enemy, the bloodthirsty native Arab tribes who inhabited the region. 

Bringing an added element of authenticity to the series was the fact that it was filmed far away from the overly familiar backdrop of the LA studios back-lot, in the actual deserts of Spain where a great deal of war material left over from the filming of the movies Battle of the Bulge and The Great Escape further enhanced the show's air of reality. 

Although very much riding to success on the blood-spattered coat-tails of the then current vogue set by the big screen war movies, The Rat Patrol benefited from a potent combination of good acting, tough, hard edged writing, and the sun drenched desert locations, which aided immeasurably in providing a persuasive air of action packed believability to the series.

Published on January 24th, 2019. Written by SRH (2001) for Television Heaven.