Military Sitcom's of the 1960's

by Guy Belleranti
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The 1960's saw the production of several situation comedies that revolved around the U.S. Military.

One of the best was McHale's Navy. Running from 1962 to 1966, the series was set in the Pacific Theatre during World War II. It focused on the misadventures of the crew of PT-73.

Ernest Borgnine played Lieutenant Commander Quinton McHale. Tim Conway was his second in command Ensign Charles Parker. McHale, Parker and the rest of the men were under the command of Captain Binghamton (wonderfully played by Joe Flynn).

Binghamton wanted to rid himself of the PT-73 crew, and especially the easy-going, regulation ignoring, con artist master McHale. His attempts to do so, however, always failed.

Conway's performance as the gentle, bumbling, incompetent Ensign Parker was often hilarious. Indeed, the show made him a star, and led to more of his great slapstick on the late 60's/1970's Carol Burnett Show.

McHale's Navy was so popular during its run that it spawned two feature films with the TV shows cast: McHale's Navy in 1964 and McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force in 1965.

Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. was another military sitcom of the era. The series followed the misadventures of Gomer Pyle after he leaves Mayberry and The Andy Griffith Show to join the U.S.Marine Corps. The bumbling, but lovable Gomer ran into all sorts of problems, but thanks to his good-nature things always turned out fine in the end.

The program ran from 1964 to 1969, and featured Jim Nabors as Gomer. Frank Sutton played hard-nosed Drill Sergeant Vince Carter. Ronnie Schell was Private/Corporal Gilbert "Duke" Slater, Gomer's best friend in the Marines. Some of Gomer's friends from Mayberry, including Andy (Andy Griffith), Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier) and Opie (Ron "Ronny" Howard), paid him visits in guest appearances.

A third military sitcom of the 1960's was Hogan's Heroes. Running from 1965 to 1971, the program was set at Stalag 13, a World War II prisoner of war camp for Western Allied prisoners.

Bob Crane starred as Colonel Robert Hogan. Some people criticize the program for trivializing war, but the program was really just a spoof that made fun of the Nazis.

Hogan and his men had a network of secret tunnels to the outside of the camp and had radio contact with the Allied command. Aided by the bumbling German leadership, Hogan and his men used the camp to sabotage the German war effort.

Also starring in the program were Ivan Dixon as Sergeant James "Kinch" Kinchloe (who handled the radio, telegraph and other electronic communications), Larry Hovis as Sergeant Andrew Carter (bomb-maker), Richard Dawson as Corporal Peter Newkirk (conman and forger) and Robert Clary as Corporal Louis LeBeau (chef who cooked exotic meals to distract the German officers).

Werner Klemperer played Colonel Wilhelm Klink, a bumbling German officer, and John Banner was the incompetent German guard Sergeant Hans Schultz. When aware of possible shenanigans by the Allied prisoners Schultz would look away and say "I hear nothing, I see nothing, I know nothing".

All three of these military spoofs were highly implausible, but they sure entertained a lot of people in the mid to late 1960's.

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