"No one could know Serling, or view or read his work, without recognizing his deep affection for humanity ... and his determination to enlarge our horizons by giving us a better understanding of ourselves." Gene Roddenberry
"the ultimate obscenity is not caring, not doing something about what you feel, not feeling! Just drawing back and drawing in; becoming narcissistic." Rod Serling
Sent to the Pacific Theater in Word Ward Two, Serling was sent to the 511th's demolition platoon, nicknamed the 'death squad' for its high casualty rate. According to Sergeant Frank Lewis, leader of the demolitions squad, "He screwed up somewhere along the line. Apparently he got on someone's nerves." Lewis also noted that Serling was not cut out to be a field soldier. "...He didn't have the wits or aggressiveness required for combat." At one point Lewis, Serling and others were in a firefight trapped in a foxhole. As time passed and they waited for darkness Lewis noticed that Serling had not reloaded any of his extra magazines. Another example of how Serling was a dreamer in a harsh reality was that he would go off exploring on his own, against orders and then get lost."
Serling's time in the jungle would shape his writing and his political views for the rest of his life. He witnessed death every day while in the Philippines, both at the hands of the enemy and through random events such as those that killed another extroverted Jewish private named Melvin Levy. Levy was in the middle of a comic monologue as the platoon sat resting under a palm tree when a food crate dropped from above, decapitating him as the men watched. Serling led the services for Levy and created a Star of David over his grave. In his future writing career Serling would set several of his scripts in the Philippines and use the unpredictability of death as a source for much of his material.
Serling marched away from the successful mission in Leyte with two wounds including one to his kneecap but neither was enough to keep him from combat when General MacArthur used the paratroopers as they were intended on February 3, 1945. Colonel Haugen led the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment as it landed on Tagaytay Ridge, met up with the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment and marched into Manila. There was minimal resistance until they reached the city where Vice Admiral Sanji Iwabuchi had barricaded his 17,000 troops behind a maze of traps and guns and ordered them to fight to the death.
The next month witnessed Serling's unit involved in a block-by-block battle for control of Manila. As portions of the town were freed from Japanese control the civilians showed their gratitude by throwing parties and hosting banquets. During one of these parties Serling and his comrades were fired upon and many people, both soldiers and civilians, were killed.
Serling, still a Private after three years, caught the attention of Sergeant Frank Lewis when he ran into the line of fire to rescue a performer who had been on stage when the artillery started. As the troops continued to move in on Iwabuchi's stronghold Serling's regiment received a 50 percent casualty rate, with over 400 men killed. Serling was wounded and three of the men he was with were killed by shrapnel from rounds fired at him and his roving demolitions team by an anti-aircraft gun. He was sent to New Guinea to recover, but soon chose to return to Manila to finish 'cleaning up'. Private Serling's final assignment was as part of the occupation force in Japan. For his service to the U. S. Army he was awarded the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, and the Philippine Liberation Medal.
Serling's Army combat service affected him deeply, and also influenced much of his writing. His wartime combat experiences left Serling with nightmares and flashbacks which would plague him for the rest of his life. He was quoted as saying, "I was bitter about everything and at loose ends when I got out of the service. I think I turned to writing to get it off my chest."