The Rat Patrol is an American action and adventure television series that aired on ABC between 1966 and 1968. The show follows the exploits of four Allied soldiers — three Americans and one Englishman — who are part of a long-range desert patrol group in the North African campaign during World War II. Their mission: "to attack, harass and wreak havoc on Field Marshal Rommel's vaunted Afrika Korps".
The show was inspired by and loosely modelled on David Stirling's British Special Air Service (SAS) which used modified Jeeps armed with machine guns as their transport through the treacherous desert terrain, and Popski's Private Army, there were no similar American units at the time. The title of the program refers to the nicknames given to some of the British Commonwealth forces in the North African campaign (Rats of Tobruk or Desert Rats). Consequently, at the time of the original telecast many British viewers took offense at the dominance of American characters on the program, the result being that the show was pulled from the BBC after six episodes. (The series was later shown on British satellite television in the 1990s.)
The four members of the Allied patrol were:
Notable enemies included:
For a few episodes during the second season, the storyline required the temporary absence of Tully. Three different characters took turns rounding out the Patrol until Tully returned:Peterson (Darwin Joston)
Andy (Mac McLaughlin)
Bo Randall (Bo Hopkins)
A Rat Patrol soldier named Cotter (played by Whitey Christy) is shown being hit by enemy fire and slumping over his machine gun during the opening action sequence of the pilot episode, "The Chase of Fire Raid". The resulting vacancy allowed for the addition of Moffitt to the team.
A total of fifty-eight 30-minute episodes were produced by Mirisch-Rich Television Productions (when Lee Rich left the partnership during the second season, the company name changed to Mirisch T.V. Inc.), a subsidiary of United Artists Television, in association with Tom Gries Productions Inc. (Tom Gries, Inc. in season two). Just as The Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode titles included the word "Affair", all Rat Patrol episodes titles had "Raid" e.g. "The Do or Die Raid", "The Lighthouse Raid" or "Mask-A-Raid".
Part of the show's first season was filmed in Almería, Spain, with the rest in the United States.
The three-part story arc "The Last Harbor Raid" was released theatrically in some venues under the title "Massacre Harbor".
As a leverage tool against the actors asking for raises, each major cast member was, after the first season, shown a separate prospective script in which he was killed in action.
Christopher George suffered a heart contusion when a jeep overturned on him during filming in January 1967. The injury contributed to his death in 1983.
As was usual for productions of the era, other equipment was substituted for original ones. The German vehicles were actually American Patton tanks, M7 Priest self-propelled guns, M3 Half-track and M35 2-1/2 ton cargo trucks painted in desert sand colors.
Perhaps the most-remembered visual was a jeep jumping over a sand dune, seen in the opening credits and other scenes in the series.
The submachine guns used by the squad were unusual. Because the first season had been filmed in Spain, the producers obtained several fixed wood-stock versions of the Spanish Star Z-45 (9x23mm Largo) submachine gun from the Spanish Army, in an apparent attempt to imitate the look of the WWII .45 Thompson submachine gun. This was changed in later first-season episodes when Thompsons were finally made available.
During the series, Sgt. Troy wore an Australian bush hat (the hat is actually a Rhodesian bush hat, different puggaree, two part chin strap, the crown of the hat is NOT rolled in the approved 2nd AIF manner and the "rising sun badge" is worn too high on the upturned hat brim). When the show aired in Australia, veterans of both World Wars there were critical of an American actor wearing such an important symbol of Australian courage and sacrifice. It was seen to cheapen and sensationalize the memory and spirit of those ANZACs who died fighting fascism. George, a U.S. Marine Korean War veteran, and of Greek extraction, said he insisted his character wear the slouch hat to honor the Australians who fought in Greece. Larry Casey stated in an interview that Tom Gries' original idea was that each of the characters would be from a different country and wear a different hat. However this was changed, and with Christopher George wishing to wear the Slouch Hat, his American helmet was given to Justin Tarr.
The Rat Patrol appeared on television between 1966-1968. The 58 episodes are split up into two seasons; 1966-1967 (32 episodes) and 1967-1968 (26 episodes).
MGM Home Entertainment has released both seasons of The Rat Patrol on DVD in Region 1. The First Season is also available on Region 2 DVD. On May 13, 2008, MGM released a seven-disc boxset of the complete series.
Dell Comics published a comic book series that lasted six issues (1967; one issue in 1969). These had photo covers taken from the television series.
5 books were released by Paperback Library.1. The Rat Patrol by Norman Daniels
2. The Rat Patrol #2 in Desert Danger. by David King
3. The Rat Patrol #3 in The Trojan Tank Affair. by David King
4. The Rat Patrol #4 in The Two Faced Enemy. by David King
5. The Rat Patrol #5 in Target For Tonight. by David King
6. The Rat Patrol #6 in the DESERT MASQUERADE. by David King
1 book released by Whitman
The Rat Patrol, The Iron Monster Raid. by I G Edmonds
Like The Fugitive, The Rat Patrol was one of the few primetime dramatic series of the era to use a library of music instead of having specific episodes scored. Dominic Frontiere, who replaced Alex North when he was fired during post-production of the pilot (along with series creator Tom Gries when the pilot went over-budget), wrote the series theme and music library, conducting the Graunke Symphony Orchestra. La-La Land Records issued a limited edition album of Frontiere's music in 2011, and a second volume in 2014 featuring more Frontiere music and North's unused score for the pilot.