In an interesting turnaround, Frank Sutton, the actor whose best known role was playing a Marine sergeant, could not pass the Marine Corps. physical during WWII and ended up serving in the Army. While serving in the U.S. Army, Sutton distinguished himself by taking part in 14 assault landings, including Leyte, Luzon, Bataan and Corregidor.
Carter's decorations are: Bronze Star (2), Purple Heart, Navy Presidential Unit Citation (2), Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal (3), World War Two Victory Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal (4 Campaigns), UN Service Medal and a Korean Presidential Unit Citation. In addition, Carter wears Expert Rifleman and Expert Pistol marksmanship badges.
During the run of the show, Gomer's highest ranking was private first class. In 2001, the U.S. Marines honored Jim Nabors with an honorary promotion to lance corporal. In 2007, the Marines honored him a second time with an honorary promotion to corporal.
Andy Griffith said that when they were trying to come up with an idea for a spinoff for Gomer, they wanted the toughest location or situation they could put him in; so they came up with the Marines. The idea was to pit Gomer's gentle character against the tough setting and it worked.
The pilot, which aired as the season four finale of The Andy Griffith Show (1960), placed the base as Camp Wilson in North Carolina. However, when the series was launched the location was changed to Camp Henderson in California.
The show ended after 5 seasons despite good ratings because series star Jim Nabors announced he wanted to do a musical-variety show, which became "The Jim Nabors Hour," running from 1969-1971. The producers considered continuing "Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C." using the remaining regular cast (much as "The Andy Griffith Show" became "Mayberry R.F.D." after Griffith left), but when Frank Sutton and Ronnie Schell both announced that they were joining Nabors on his new show, the plans were dropped.
The only regular character associated with the platoon not to get promoted during the series run was Gunnery Sergeant Vince Carter. All privates in the platoon were promoted by the end of the first season 2 episode.
Originally, CBS rejected the show because they felt that many female viewers would be put off by a show with a military theme. However, when producer Danny Thomas threatened to take the show to NBC, CBS changed their minds.
Lt. Col. Gray's medals are: Silver Star, Navy & Marine Corps Medal, Legion Of Merit (Legionnaire), Navy Presidential Unit Citation, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal, World War Two Victory Medal, Asiatic/Pacific Campaign Medal (3 Campaigns), Navy Unit Commendation, Korean Service Medal (4 Campaigns), UN Service Medal and Korean Unit Citation.
Camp Henderson, the setting for most episodes, is loosely based on Camp Pendleton in California. Camp Pendleton is, however, a much larger military installation than one would gather from the modest back lot simulation used for shooting purposes. 100,000 marines and civilian personnel are presently stationed at Camp Pendleton, and no commanding officer of Camp Pendleton has ever held a rank lower than that of lieutenant general.
Although Gomer joining the Marines was originally depicted in a 5th season episode of the The Andy Griffith Show, this was apparently ignored when the series began filming its regular run. In the Griffith episode, the character of Sgt. Carter is introduced to both the audience and Gomer. Andy Taylor tells Carter a few tall tales about Gomer's lineage in hopes he will treat him better. However, in the first regular GPUSMC episode, Gomer is seen getting a signature military haircut still in his civilian clothes. Carter has never met him.