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Coward

"They Called Him Coward!" is a story that originally appeared in Commando issue 2 (June 1961); it was later reprinted in issues 2531 (January 1992) and 4445 (November 2011). It was written by Castle and drawn by Bonato, with a cover by Ken Barr.

Plot (spoilers)Edit

In World War II, an Australian ship off the coast of New Guinea is attacked by Japanese planes. The boat catches fire and the crew put it out - but Bob Palmer, the only Englishman on board, is frozen by fear: the fire reminds him of a blaze which killed his father when he was a child.

Bob is reprimanded by the sergeant, Fettis, but before he can be court marshalled the ship is torpedoed by a Japanese subamrine and sinks. Bob and a second man, Bluey Clark, make it onto a lifeboat; they see a crew member in the sea and Bob rescues him. He turns out to be Sergeant Fettis, and despite owing Bob his life, he makes it clear that he still regards Bob as a coward.

The three men make it to the shore of New Guinea and are taken captive by natives. The natives turn out to be in league with the Japanese and alert a patrol; Bluey knocks out the guard and they escape.

Trapped in the jungle, the three come across the Japanese patrol and successfully ambush it, stealing its jeep and guns. However, they soon find out that they have no spare ammo with them. They later find a Japanese supply depot; Bluey knocks out the guards and raids it for ammunition.

Fettis and his men drive through the camp, attacking the soldiers as they go, and destroy a persuing truck by collapsing a bridge.

Taking a break, Fettis hatches a plan: if they carry on to the other end of the island, they may meet the other ships in the task force that was sent there.

They reach their destnation, and Fettis insults Bob by giving him driving duties ("that'll leave me and Bluey free to do the fighting work you don't like"). The coast turns out to be home to a Japanese observation post, and the truck runs into a patrol; Bob's only choice is to speed up and run the men down, crashing the truck in the process. Fettis is injured.

While Bluey fights off the soldiers, Bob carries Fettis to relative safety. From their vantage point the three drive the Japanese away, inadvertently starting a fire in the process. They then see the task force arriving.

Bob makes a dash for the observation post's radio hut, hoping to reach it before its occupants - their vision obscured by smoke from the fire - see the ships. But to do so he must make it past the fire himself. Facing up to his fear, he destroys the hut with a grenade.

Japanese reinforcements arrive, but the Allied troops land in time to fight them off. Fettis, finally convinced of Bob's bravery, personally commends him to his superior.

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