My brother was still reading the occasional war comic during this period, and so there were a few issues of SGT FURY that he bought which eventually wound up with me. This one came from the drugstore’s Big Bin of Slightly Older Comics, and was the oldest issue we’d find for a while. Fortunes had dimmed on SGT FURY by the 1970s, and while the series was still being published, it was only as a reprint title, once again presenting past glories. Although, since WWII had been over for 30 years at that point, all glories in the War books would have been past ones.
The particular story reprinted in this issue featured the return of Fury’s regular enemy Baron Wolfgang Von Strucker, a Prussian military officer fighting on the Axis side who led his own team of soldiers in parallel to the Howling Commandos. I must admit, I often had a tough time taking Strucker seriously in these days, as to my eye he resembled nothing so closely as Werner Klemperer’s delightful portrayal of Colonel Klink, the ineffectual Commandant of Stalag 13 in HOGAN’S HEROES, then in syndication.
The story opens with Fury getting briefed by Happy Sam Sawyer about the Howler’s next mission. The Nazis are attempting to crush resistance in the occupied French town of Cherbeaux, so the Howlers are being sent in to give aid to the underground and to foul up the enemy. Baron Strucker has been given command of the town, and despite his personal misgivings–he’s a proud Prussian military man and doesn’t like waging war on helpless regular citizens–he stands ready to do his duty. He orders that one citizen will be sent to the concentration camps every day that the resistance continues to operate.
SGT FURY was different from all of the other war comics then on the stands in that it was somehow less realistic, and more concerned with adventure than the horrors of war. In effect, it was more of a B-Movie about the conflict. There’s a lot of gunplay, but few if any injuries, and fisticuffs and brawling makes up a lot of the fighting, with nobody particularly getting hurt. It’s a bloodless conflict, with the feeling of children playing war on the playground, as happened a lot in the 1970s. SGT FURY maintained the tenor of the super hero books in that regard. So, as ordered, Fury and the colorful Howling Commandos enter the town and begin causing mayhem for the Nazis, getting into scraps like the one depicted above.
There’s a bunch of rinse-and-repeat in the story at this point, as we watch the various Howlers get into one fight after another, playing havoc with the German military in a manner that wouldn’t have been out of place on HOGAN’S HEROES. Essentially, the entire Nazi occupation force can’t lay a glove on eight Commandos, who waltz in among them and being blowing up everything in sight. And with each act of sabotage and destruction, baron Strucker grows ever more furious.
And if Strucker’s feeling this badly, how must Hitler feel about this turn of events? You need not wonder, for the scene shifts to Germany, where the cartoonish Fuhrer rails to Goebbles and Goering about Strucker’s failure. He summons the baron back to Germany to explain in person–and when Strucker shows reticence to condemn innocent civilians to death, Hitler loses his mind and tells him that either he carries out the order or he’ll be among those who will perish. Strucker doesn’t like the taste of it, but he has no choice but to annihilate the town in retaliation.
So Strucker orders his men to seal off the town and to plant explosive charges in all of the buildings–the amount of TNT necessary to do so must have been enormous, to say nothing of the time needed to wire it all up. But anyway, as the zero hour approaches, Strucker isn’t sure that he’ll be able to pull the fateful switch and destroy the town–that is, until an informer tells him that it is Fury and the Howlers who have been fighting back against them. With his old enemy involved, all of Strucker’s hesitation vanishes, and he prepares to pull the switch and blow up everyone. But at this point, Fury breaks into Strucker’s HQ–he and the Howlers have wired up the Nazi headquarters with their own explosives, and Fury will set them off if Strucker tries to throw the doomsday switch. It’s a Mexican stand-off as the story is To Be Continued! I don’t think I ever read the conclusion of this tale, but given that both Fury and Strucker went on to be in countless later comics, I’m guessing that they both came out of things all right.