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Top 10 World War II TV Series

Anne Gould Northgraves - March 13, 2010



World War II might be the "popular" war, but it's rarely the subject of popular TV series. Of course, Hogan's Heroes and McHale's Navy had long runs in the 1960s, but the military battlefield is covered with dead bodies of short-lived WWII dramas -- and a few comedies. And since the 1960s, the subject matter of war has largely been ignored in TV series. There are a few exceptions: M*A*S*H (Korean War); China Beach and Tour of Duty (Vietnam War).

On Sunday, March 14, 2010 at 9pm ET/PT, HBO premieres the first installment of its 10-part WWII miniseries, The Pacific. In honor of this event, TV Tango selected the top 10 World War II TV sitcoms and dramas. No miniseries. No TV movies. No documentaries. Just scripted TV series.

Series: McHale's Navy


Deployment: 1962-1966 on ABC

War Is Hilarious: Hawaiian shirts, vodka, and gambling. McHale didn't exactly run a tight ship and probably deserved a BCD (Bad Conduct Discharge), but he was always able to outsmart 'Old Lead Bottom.' Fun Fact: Ernest Borgnine once trained at the Naval Station Newport in Rhode Island.

Series: Combat


Deployment: 1962-1967 on ABC

War Is Hell: Fighting for four years to get out of France...and failing! That's truly hell. King Company spent every episode dealing with the consequences of being in an embattled foreign land far from home -- with tours of duty by guest stars, such as Lee Marvin, James Coburn, and Charles Bronson.

Series: 12 O'Clock High


Deployment: 1964-1967 on ABC

War Is Hell: This drama focused on a WWII US Air Force group based out of England, and it proved to be quite a deadly killing zone -- the actors' careers were even caught in the crossfire. After the first season, lead General Savage (Robert Lansing) was killed off in favor of a younger counterpart and most of the supporting cast was dishonorably discharged.

Series: Rat Patrol


Deployment: 1966-1968 on ABC

War Is Hell: Allied soldiers fight the Germans in North Africa - only to find out the leader of the German opposition is actually an anti-Nazi who looks like Victor Newman from Young and the Restless. Fun fact: Soap-opera staple Eric Braeden was still known as Hans Gudegast, and he portrayed Hans Dietrich, the honorable, anti-Nazi, German officer.

Series: Dirty Dozen: The Series


Deployment: 1988 on FOX

War Is Hell: The Dirty Half-Dozen? Doesn't have quite the same ring, but this series lasted only six episodes before it was killed in action. Even though it had the same title as the 1967 theatrical film, the series lacked star power and good storylines; so FOX sent it back to boot camp.

Series: Broadside


Deployment: 1964-1965 on ABC

War Is Hilarious: Women run a motor pool on Ranakai Island, a South Pacific Navy outpost, where the humor is a bomb -- not the bomb -- which is why the series went MIA after only one season. Though short-lived, it boasted the talent of Kathly Nolan (of The Real McCoys), Dick Sargent (Darrin #2 on Bewitched) and Sheila James (Zelda on Dobie Gillis and now CA State Senator).

Series: The Gallant Men


Deployment: 1962-1963 on ABC

War Is Hell: William Reynolds, future star of The FBI, headlined this single-season series about soldiers fighting in Italy. By regularly using stock footage and scenes from Warner Bros. war films, this program was particuarly hellish for viewers.

Series: Garrison's Gorillas


Deployment: 1967-1968 on ABC

War Is Hell: KBA should mean 'killed by ABC' instead of 'killed by artillery.' In ABC's seventh WWII series -- yes, its seventh -- of the 1960s, Garrison and his rag-tag group had one season to travel across Europe killing enemies before the series was sent home in a body bag. Fun Fact: This program has the distinction of being related to two others on this list -- it was a blatant rip-off of "The Dirty Dozen" and it was originally filmed as an episode of Combat.

Series: Baa Baa Black Sheep


Deployment: 1976-1978 on NBC

War Is Hell: Marine Corps Major Greg 'Pappy' Boyington takes a group of misfits and molds them into the most fearsome fighter pilots in the Pacific. This series is loosely based on the actual Black Sheep Squadron, which fought for only 84 days and disbanded when Pappy was shot down. After its first season, the series was also shot down only to be redeployed on a second combat tour as schedule filler.

Series: Hogan's Heroes


Deployment: 1965-1971 on CBS

War Is Hilarious: Really, what's funnier than watching incompetent Nazis deal with their Allied POWs? With Col. Klink and Sgt. Schultz in charge, these two truly heard nothing, saw nothing, and knew nothing while Hogan (Bob Crane) and his troop were really running a base of operations under the incompetent noses of their German captors. Survey says...comedy genius!


Anne Gould Northgraves is a student at Ithaca College, majoring in screenwriting with a minor in learning to live with no money. Her passions include "Lost," the Red Sox, and amassing knowledge of everything about every film and television show.