Hell Hath No Fury like a Sergeant Scorned

A character sketch of Sergeant Saunders
by Othello

Beneath that gruff exterior is a guy who —
aw, just shut up and do like the man says ...

"The Germans have a word for it: Schrecklichkeit. It means ‘frightfulness.’ "

A British bomb disposal officer talking about the timing device in a German five-hundred-pounder? Try again. Actually, this was an anonymous GI we overheard in a café somewhere in France, describing the temper of one Sgt. Chip Saunders. But the said GI was not unaware of the origins of the phrase. "Personally," he added, "I’d rather take my chances with the bomb."

Hold on, buddy, hold on. You asked about the danger in this sector, didn’t you? Well, we’re telling you.

This sergeant, see ... there’s a lotta dogfaces ‘round here that would agree with that GI. We’ve heard the stories – terrible ones. Yesiree, terrible tales have emanated from King Company’s Second Platoon about The Wrath That Is Sarge – how cocky Cinci deejays, arrogant politicians, obnoxious boxing managers, recalcitrant jazz drummers and know-it-all noncoms have all been leveled by combinations of deadly dirty looks, lots of collar-grabbing and ferocious chewing outs. (Just imagine what this Saunders’d do if he really didn’t like you. But then, the Krauts can testify to that.) And it ain’t just the surly types and the slouches who get taken to task by Saunders. We hear one of his best soldiers once got the Patton treatment from the Sarge.

So it’s prob’ly safe to say (as long as the man’s out of earshot, mind you) that more than one goldbricker along the way, having run afoul of His Tempership, has secretly wished harm – as in, the permanent kind – to Saunders. Mind you, we would counsel all such plotters that they may as well hold their breath waiting for a discharge, or a date with Betty Grable, or a week without Spam or any other utterly impossible scenario, as count on ole Sarge gettin’ bumped off.

Just consider the numbers: he’s been wounded more than thirty times, and the Allies aren’t even out of France yet. ("Hey, Sarge, spare a Purple Heart?") This is one indestructible joe. And yet, for all those bullet wounds and burns and beatings and falling beams, it isn’t as if the guy spends all his time in the hospital, either. Seems his average time relaxing between a set of clean sheets is about three minutes before the fadeout occurs and, bam, just like clockwork, he’s back for the next patrol. (What kind of vitamins are they giving him anyway???)

In addition to his amazing recuperative powers, there’s a lot about the Sarge that remains mysterious to us mere mortals. Like where he really comes from (Cleveland? Illinois? out West? all three?), what he did before the war (shoe clerk? nahhh), why he never seems to have any noncom buddies (except the kind that die in the first five minutes), and just what exactly was in that literary-looking book he was once seen reading. Could it be, this battle-hardened warrior par excellence is also a lover of belles lettres? Perish the thought. We’d prob’ly be right in supposing that a guy like Saunders would rather be taken prisoner with his pants off than be caught by his men reading lines like, "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways." Contrary to rumor, there are fates worse than death by army cuisine, even for sergeants.

Still, even though none of us has figured this guy out, you know Sgt. Saunders has to belong to somebody and come from somewhere back in the States, and you know that someday, when this lousy war is over (as in, 1980), he’ll go back home and take up an occupation that may or may not involve lots of collar-grabbing and chewing outs. Football coach, maybe? Flatfoot? Bodyguard for "Swoonatra"? (Hey, driving off hordes of maniacal bobby soxers can’t be that different from defending a position against hordes of maniacal Germans, can it?)

Well, we can rule out at least one future line of work for this guy – he’ll never run for public office (way too high-minded and moral). But you gotta admit, he does have one thing in common with politicos – he feels compelled, on a regular basis, to speechify. And how. Even worse than being caught by one of Saunders’ dirty looks, it seems, is being caught by one of his (for lack of a better phrase) motivational tirades. You just hope your blood isn’t pooling in your ankles by the time he gets done motivatin’.

Well, that’s the scuttlebutt.

What’s that, soldier? You say you’re headed for Second Platoon? (smothered snicker) Good luck, buddy. And, uh, enjoy the view from the ground when Saunders cuts you down to size.

Just remember – you never heard any of this from us.

Copyright © 1998 by Dorothy Spangler. All rights reserved.
Characters from the television series COMBAT! are the property of ABC-TV

Other Combat! character pieces:

A Sergeant Scorned
Have Beret, Will Travel

The Real Rebel in the Outfit
Boy-Next-Door Goes to War
Big Buddy With a Big Heart
Careful, You Might Want to Salute Him

Also on this level of the website:

About Vic Morrow
Vic Morrow Biography
Vic Morrow Interview: The Good Samaritan
Vic Morrow filmography - TV and Movie roles
Books about Vic Morrow - his Life and Death
Vic Morrow Interview: TV Color Blind
A Sergeant Scorned
About Saunders
Saunders: episodes he appears in
Woundings: Saunders
Vic Morrow Photo Gallery



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