My brother Ken was still on his war comic kick, and so this issue of G.I.COMBAT came into the house, eventually to wind up in my possession. In the 1970s, particularly at DC, there was still a robust publishing plan for genres apart from super heroes: war comics, western comics, romance comics (although those were swiftly dying out), tons of watered-down horror comics and humor comics, both of the teen and Friendly Ghost variety. None of it much interested me, though–I was an avowed super hero fan. And despite some very nice artwork, I myself never dreamed about going into combat and shooting it out with enemy forces.
The Haunted Tank was a long-running series, one that kept a toe in the supernatural realm while still providing military adventures. In this particular story, it’s the anniversary of the day when General Jeb Stuart, the spectre who haunted the tank and his descendant tank commander Jeb Stuart, had been awarded a medal for bravery by General Robert E. Lee. The spirit longs for action one last time, and his desire appears to be granted as, moments later, a figure parachuting out of a shot-down recon plane appears to be the General in the flesh.
The crew–most of whom have never seen the ghost that haunts Jeb and the tank, are nonetheless surprised. But the General denies being a ghost. He takes command of the tank in order to complete his mission: to take a nearby town so as to provide an accessway for the allied forces to be resupplied. Leading from the front, or at least the top, the General orders the haunted Tank to move out.
Using the unfortunate destruction of an allied Destroyer as cover, the Haunted Tank is able to get by the enemy gun emplacements and enter the town. But now they need to knock out the enemy positions so as to allow their ships access to the port. The General intends to float fuel barrels down the river and then detonate them when they’er near the enemy positions, but the barrels prove to be empty, devoid of fuel. Undaunted, Jeb has a crazy idea, and the crew lashes dozens of the empty barrels to their tank.
You guessed it! Jeb plans on floating the tank itself down the river to fire upon the enemy guns. We’ll put aside for a moment just how many barrels you’d need to achieve buoyancy for something the weight of a tank–just go with it! The Haunted Tank at first gets hung up–it’s low tide and it touches bottom, getting stuck in the mud, a sitting duck. But eventually, after tense waiting, the tide comes in and they float down the river, and are able to complete their assignment. Apparently the enemy gunners didn’t think to look for tanks on the river.
Having done so, the Haunted Tank rolls into town, taking out the enemy emplacements one by one. But the General is hit, and it’s a fatal wound. He implores Jeb to leave him by the roadside and finish their objective–and he gives Jeb a medal to remember him by. Of course, it’s a Confederate medal. Oo-wee-oo!
The back-up story is another installment in the O.S.S., which functioned as a catch-all for one-off stories of heroism and absurdity. This one is a prime example. Pilot Hugh Foster is shot down behind enemy lines, and as a decorated officer, the S.S. intends to conduct him by train behind the lines to be interrogated. But Foster has artificial legs that’ve been destroyed in the crash, and he asks his foolish captors to radio London to get them to drop replacements to him–thereafter, he’ll cooperate with them. The idiot Nazis go along with this, having no sense of the obvious story that they’re trapped in.
I don’t even need to tell you how this one ends, do I? Yes, Foster boards the train and meets with the S.S bigwig. And yes, he escapes leaving his artificial legs behind. And yes again, those legs now contain explosives that wipe out the train and the company of idiot S.S. officers who didn’t even think to check the legs out before they gave them to Foster. Let’s face it, they deserve what they got. And Foster, now legless and trapped behind enemy lines, is certain that the French Underground will pick him up.