The following are "field reports" about the mini-RECON held in April of 1999. Many Combat! fans, along with Pierre Jalbert, visited several locations where episodes of Combat! were filmed.
In photo: Marty Black, Pierre Jalbert, Craig Covner. Photo by Chuch Schauer.

Othello's Field Report

Date: Tue, 20 Apr 1999 21:58:51 -0700
From: "d.spangler"
Subject: A Walk in the Sun (April Mini-Recon)

Well, if you've been keepin' up on the weather conditions in the Southern Cal sector of the front, you might've noticed that it's been real July-ish out there for several days now.  Gee, all that super-dooper 90-plus weather arrived just in time for our April 17-18 Mini-Recon, which is why I'm titlin' this adventure "A Walk in the Sun."


Pierre chats with Janice (Red Three) and Dorothy (Othello)
Photo by Dion Osika (Dodger)
Red Three and I hitched along together to the first location Saturday morning — Bronson Canyon.  We were conspicuously late, and found the rest of the gang standin' around in the shade waitin' for us.  Present were Dodger, Marty, GI Jive and his son Chuck Jr., Don and his son Dan, Green Recruit, M41 and, most pleasant of surprises, none other than Caje himself!  When the gang was all assembled we hoofed it a short distance to the Bronson Canyon quarry, where scenes from eps like "Breakout" (the dozer-to-be-reckoned-with sequence) and "Thunder from the Hill" were shot.  Caje, always full of stories, told us how he and the others had climbed to the top of the quarry the *hard* way, up the nearby steep path.  Naturally, several of the gang had to test themselves and try out the path personally, whereupon reaching the top, they waved to the rest of us below.  (I say "rest of us" 'cuz guess where I was?)

Chuck, Mike, Marty, Craig, and Teri Photo by Dion Osika (Dodger)
The next Bronson Canyon spot we hit was the concrete basin where Sgt. Decker (Tom Skerritt) turned yeller and abandoned our wounded Sarge in "The Gantlet."  The basin walls incline somewhat (if you remember, Sarge tried to climb 'em and couldn't) and the two boys in our group in particular enjoyed running up one side and down the other.  By now it was midday and the sun was hotter than ever.  We all agreed to wrap things up at Bronson and head on over to Franklin Canyon for lunch before doing any more reconnoitering.

After a brief trip to a local market, we caravanned to Franklin and went to the lower reservoir where we had a delightful picnic under a tree. Dodger, just back from France (lucky dogface!), showed us all his excellent photos.  Caje oohed and ahhed the shots of the classic architecture of old Paris and the incredibly green fields of Normandy with their simply beautiful/beautifully simple farmhouses.  Most impressive was Dodger's most thorough work matching then-and-now snapshots of actual sites from WWII pictures.  He found, for example, the exact window where a GI in one particular pic had been resting for a few moments, taking a drink.  It was a detective job worthy of the renowned Sherlock Holmes.  But such minute attention to detail we have, of course, come to expect from our own Mr. Encyclopediahead!

After lunch, Marty drove Caje back home while Dodger led the rest of us on a replay of the Franklin tour from last year's Recon, mostly for the benefit of Don, who hadn't been able to attend last year.  A small emergency occurred when Don's 8-year-old son accidentally locked the keys in their car.  Father was incredibly patient considering it was 95 degrees out and there seemed about as much chance of an ice cube surviving in hell as there did of the Auto Club finding us in that very remote Franklin location.  (But, with what turned out to be incredibly lucky timing, our group decided to continue the tour anyway and was emerging onto the main road *just* as the Auto Club truck passed by. Problem solved!)

Marty and GI Jive eventually returned with Marty's heavy weapons attachment — a metal detector and a garden rake from K-Mart.  It is Marty's ambition, understand, to dig up every last casing at Franklin expended during the many episodes shot there ("The Letter," "Run, Sheep, Run," "The Ringer," "The Brothers," "Point of View," "The Long Way Home," "Nightmare on the Red Ball Run," "Masquerade" and others, too many to list).  But since Marty's ambition results in some nifty souvenirs for the rest of us, who are we to complain?  This time around, he unearthed a dream-lode of .45s near the Debris Basin. When we finally called it quits at Franklin, Marty (like some ole bear buryin' his rotten food stash for later) buried his rake in a secret location so he could use it again the next time he visits.

We broke for a couple hours' R&R before dinner, and at 1830 hours we all met again at Chin Chin's, a Chinese restaurant in Culver City.  This time not only Caje but Caje's wife joined us for our meal.  Before we knew it, four whole hours had flown by and it was time to bid bon soir to everyone.  Yours truly was suffering from a bad headache and I *had* to get adequate rest for the next morning, in order to prepare for a top secret undercover operation ....

Pierre with very happy fans: Dorothy, Janice, Teri, and Michael Malone in the background.
Photo by Dion Osika


Othello, late again?  Yup.  I whipped into Hillside Cemetery 10 minutes tardy (but just 5 mins to spare) where Marty, GI Jive and son, and M41 had rendezvous'd to pay their respects to Vic Morrow at his gravesite.  We then commenced our highly dangerous undercover assignment:  Operation Love-Nest!  Objective:  Infiltrate and reconnoiter the guarded and gated condo complex, formerly MGM's Lot 3, to see if any recognizable landscape remained.

Our plan was for Marty and me to pose as husband and wife and to look at one of the condos for sale, thus gaining entry to the complex and access to all the grounds appertaining thereto.  I had done some prep work for our secret mission several days before by calling the realtor and setting up an appointment to view the condo in question at 1030 hours Sunday morning.  By a stroke of good luck we arrived several minutes before the realtor did, and thus *both* of our vehicles (Marty's, plus M41's) were granted entrance into the complex.  When the unsuspecting realtor arrived, GI Jive and M41 scooted off at the last minute, narrowly avoiding detection.  Marty and I were confident that they would be able to successfully photograph the complex while the two of us distracted the realtor.

To complete my disguise as Marty's better half, I had gone to the Spy Costume Department and borrowed a wedding ring from Red Three.  The realtor escorted us to the property for sale, and Operation Love-Nest was now in full swing.  Marty asked all sorts of questions about utilities and HOA dues while I left no closet nor cupboard drawer unopened.  I must admit, we were so good we almost fooled ourselves into buying the dang place.  It was a good thing Marty didn't have his checkbook on him — otherwise, the REAL Mrs. Marty Black would have had some serious griping to do when he returned home!

And then, in one of those quirky turns of events that could happen only in Combat!-land ... the owner of the condo turned out to be a WWII vet, one former Lt. Dick Pappin, heavy weapons platoon leader in the 2nd (Indianhead) Division.  Marty had only to bring up the subject of WWII with the most affable Mr. Pappin, and the war stories just came pouring out.  That, alas, was my only regret from our whole adventure — that we had to fool such a tremendously nice man — but it was too late to blow our cover and reveal our true identities.  After spending a good 20 minutes with the realtor and Mr. Pappin, Marty and I said our farewells, and exited the condo.  We joined up again with GI Jive and son and M41 elsewhere in the complex, and the five of us did some more reconnoitering of the grounds.  We didn't find much (do I hear a "toldja so" from Dodger?) but it appears that the pond (seen as the river in "One More for the Road") is the same as on the MGM Lot 3, though it was re-landscaped when the condos were built in 1973.  Some original trees appear to remain, but most everything has changed.

However, our infiltration did net us some satisfactory information regarding what is and is not still there from the old lot, so overall, Operation Love-Nest should be considered a success.

After a quick stop at another nearby location, the remains of what was probably Eucalyptus Road, and an even quicker lunch (GI Jive was on a tight schedule to catch his plane), Operation Love-Nest was formally concluded when I told Marty I wanted a divorce.  My spying partner took it all in stride with good humor.  "Well, it was a sweet romance while it lasted," he said with a chuckle and a grin.

And, like all slick spies, the five of us then scattered in different directions, leaving (hopefully) no trace of our underhanded manueverings for the Krauts or the realty company to stumble upon at some later time.

This ends the report!

Good tuh be back with ya, troops.

Othello out

Dodger's Field Report

Date: Wed, 21 Apr 1999 15:22:51 -0700
From: Dion Osika
Subject: "Slap happiest people I ever saw..."

Inside the quarry area Pierre recalls location spots from 30 years ago.
Left to right: Chuck (with back to camera), Dorothy, Teri, Janice, Mike, Marty, Pierre, Craig Photo by Dion Osika (Dodger)

Dodger here...

The line above is from 'A Walk in the Sun," spoken by Private Tranella about the two Italians the platoon interrogated. And in keeping with Othello's very appropriate reference to a great film and an even better weekend, here are my recollections of the Walk in the Sun.

"It was just a little walk in the warm Italian sun..."

It was warm, very warm for a fella that had left Paris on Wednesday with a light snow falling.  After trying to recover from a 12 hour flight and jet lag, I left for LA early Saturday morning. but 330 AM was the same as 630 PM Paris time so I was still operating to my Paris clock. Arriving in the LA basin, I could tell it was going to be a hot day.

I ran up to rendezvous at Green Recruit's foxhole and found Teri preparing the picnic lunch. We then traveled together in her spiffy red convertible to Bronson Canyon. To our dismay, the parking lot was empty, with the exception of Don Roberts and his son, Daniel. And after 10 or 15 minutes waiting we were really beginning to worry if  this was going to be a bust. Soon Mike Malone (M-1) arrived and then we saw Marty drive up with Pierre, Chuck (GI Jive) and Chuck Jr and soon after Dorothy, Janice and Craig Covner.

We gathered our cameras, hats and water bottles and hiked up to the quarry, where a film crew were busy cleaning out the cave area from filming a TV show (X-Files?). Pierre recognized the area, he said he had not been back in 30 years and pointed out trails and areas they climbed during the filming. Marty, always quick to take advantage of any situation to show off,  began lifting 600 lb boulders left lying around by the prop department. Then in his best Jack LaLanne imitation, Marty said he was going to climb to the top of the quarry in 5 minutes. I thought he was bragging, but sure enough, in 5 minutes he and Craig were 'hallooo-ing' every one from the rim of the quarry.

We left and visited another site from "The Gantlet" and then decided to move on to Franklin Canyon. Those of you fortunate to have met Pierre at Recon know that he can talk for hours on end. Those also who know Marty know him to be just as animated. It wasnt surprising to find that it took more than 15 minutes to transpire from the time we made the decision to leave till Marty finally hustled Pierre into the front seat of his car.

A group photo at "The Gantlet" site.
Left to right (front): Mike, Janice, Pierre, Dion, Chuck and Chuck Jr
Back row:  Teri, Craig, Don and Daniel
Photo courtesy of Dion Osika (Dodger)
Marty is a Captain at American Airlines and I gave Marty a hard time by telling Teri to ask him... "Do you ever get the plane out of the gate on time?'"  Poor Teri had developed a case of back spasms and asked me if I would drive her car to Franklin. While she sat in the passenger seat to recover, I had the time of my life zipping around in her red convertible. It sure beats driving the "Clampett-mobile" as Marty has christened my beat up Pickup truck.  After gathering last minute picnic items at  a local supermarche, I took the point in our caravan to Franklin Canyon.

We drove past the Upper Reservoir and to the Lower Reservoir area, where a large picnic ground is available.  A departing family yielded two tables under the shade of a tree and we all sat down for a two-hour picnic lunch.

I spent most time trying to capture the scenes on film and the conversations went in many directions. The wonderful thing was that everyone was enjoying the spirit and the moment of the day. As the lunch ended and after an appropriate time to allow Pierre to answer anyones questions, I brought out the photos from my recent trip to France and shared them with all. Pierre commented on each and everyone, the man truly loves France, its history, architecture  and culture. In a small way I think the photos affected his desire to want to do a France trip next year, Marty will say more about this as he researches the logistics.

We made final plans for dinner later in the evening and then Marty whisked Pierre back home. The rest returned to Upper Reservoir and we re-toured the sites for the benefit of Don and his son. Daniel, who watches Combat! with his father. Daniel asked who Pierre was?  Don explained to him..."he played Caje on Combat!"   Daniel asked "Who plays Caje on Combat! NOW?"  Marty returned and began his 'strip mining' project with a rake purchased at the local K-Mart. Teri speculated on how Marty was going to get it on the airplane for his return flight. I informed her that, knowing Marty as I did, he would most likely bury the thing somewhere and dig it up for use later. We entered the Debris Basin area to spot Craig, Chuck and his son sweeping an area near the trail with the metal detector. Marty wasnt with them, and we heard noises from the brush across the Basin. Sure enough, there was Marty putting the finishing camo touches on his 'rake cache' near a batch of fallen tree trunks.

Marty was going to move to another area and dig or show Chuck the site, but the afternoon sun was really beating down and Teri was still dealing with a painful back so we decided to leave and rendezvous later at the restaurant. When we arrived at the restaurant later we sat at the opposite end of the table from Pierre, so we were not getting much of the conversation. Pierre had an animated discussion going with Chuck on his left and Janice on his right. At our end of the table were Mike, Dorothy, Teri and myself and we enjoyed the meal and conversed among ourselves.

Marty brought up the French tour once more and I gave him some inputs about my experiences. As dinner was winding down and desserts were done, I suddenly looked up to find Pierre had moved to the chair next to me. He sat down and began telling me how excited he was about the concept of a trip to France and how my photos have peaked his desire to do it. He also flattered me by saying he really wanted to do the trip as I had done, with spending quality time at various places but staying at Bed and Breakfast spots locally. When he asked if I were going to participate, I said it was unclear if I could make it. Immediately he responded, "But you must make it, can't you see that you're the one to lead this effort?"  This flattering statement took me by surprise!  Take the point Dodger, is what Pierre was saying....

Unfortunately time had slipped by and we were soon outside bidding farewell to one another. It was a great day, with friends, old, new and unexpected.

Thanks especially to Janice for suggesting we do this, and arranging for dinner accommodations, Dorothy for finding time in her very busy schedule between moves, Teri for letting me drive her car  on the twisty road into Franklin and enduring the hot afternoon with a sore back, Chuck for coming all the way to California once more and Southern California fans Craig, Mike, and Don, who really have no excuse for allowing out-of-towners like Marty and I to have to trek to LA to find the lost Combat! sites.

A special thanks to Marty, a friend now for over two years, for his enthusiasm and  talent to convince Pierre and Joy to find the time to spend with the little group this last weekend.

Dodger out......

Marty B's Report

Date: Wed, 21 Apr 1999 20:07:52 EDT
Subject: Picking up Pierre, pulling Chuck's leg...

Marty Black and Pierre Jalbert at Franklin Canyon
Photo by Dion Osika
Dodger asked me to relate the story of picking up Caje for last Saturday's "walk in the sun."

On Thursday, I had met with Pierre and Joy to discuss their expectations and desires for the proposed France recon idea.  At that time, I mentioned that a small group of fans would be walking around the Bronson Canyon quarry on Saturday, where one episode and parts of three others had been filmed.  Pierre said he hadn't been there since the Combat filming, and he would like to join us!  What a thrill!  I told him that I'd pick him up on the way, with Chuck Schauer (GI Jive) and his son in my rentacar.  Pierre remembered Chuck from the September Recon, and devilishly asked me to keep the pick-up a secret, so that he could surprise him.

On Saturday a.m., I headed for Pierre's house, and since Chuck didn't know the way to Bronson Canyon, he was blissfully enjoying the detour.  As I turned onto his street, I told Chuck that I was "a bit lost" and needed to stop and get directions.  I then swung through the open gates of Pierre's driveway and began climbing the steep incline.   Chuck, a retired Chicago policeman, and well aware of the paranoia that LA people have about the privacy of their homes, looked at me blankly and said something like "you can't do this."  I replied, "I just wanna ask these people for directions."

We came to a halt, and I spied Pierre lounging on a hammock.  I said, "Excuse me, sir, but can you tell me how to get to Bronson Canyon?"  Pierre stood up smiling, and Chuck's jaw hit the seat!  He then leaped out of the car quicker than a Chicago hoodlum can steal one! 

We had hoped to surprise the entire gang at Bronson with a similar routine, but it didn't work out as I had planned....But, as most of us know, Pierre is a great "sport," and for being 74 years old, still likes to have fun!  

It was a great weekend!- Thanks to all for making it such, especially our two wonderful story-tellers, Dodger and Othello!    My only regret was that my brief marriage to Othello didn't even last as long as Dennis Rodman's!....

Marty B.