In the movie, “Fury“, U. S. Army Sgt. Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt) commands a tank with a five-man crew in the storied 66th Armored Regiment in the 2nd Armored Division, as it is invading the heart of Germany in April 1945 – just days before the Nazi surrender.
Trivia question: What kind of tank is Pitt commanding?
In the movie, it was a Sherman M4A3E8, more commonly known as an “Easy Eight”.
If the movie was based on a real character – and supposedly it is not – Collier would not have been driving an Easy Eight. And he wouldn’t have been fighting a German Tiger TI – but we digress.
In the film, since a point is made in the movie that Collier loves his tank, and he and the crew have named it “Fury” – the name they’ve painted on its 76 mm gun barrel. Supposedly, they’ve all been fighting together – in Fury – since the North Africa campaign in 1942. If that was so, Fury would have probably been a much earlier model M4 Sherman, like an M2 or M4A3, each of which went into production in 1942. But with a 50 percent casualty rate in most mid-WWII tank battles, an earlier M2 or M4 model that survived 3+ years of combat would have been unheard of. (In fact, only one Sherman tank – a Canadian one – is known to have survived as long as from June 1944’s D-Day all the way to May 1945’s V-E Day.)
In real life, the Easy Eight, equipped with its 76 mm gun, was a relatively late addition to the war effort – only in production since late 1944. The Easy Eight featured a bigger gun and a better suspension. And they were not completely at the mercy of German tanks.
Production notes mention that Fury was designed and built by Henry Ford, and the German tanks were masterminded by Ferdinand Porsche. (Ergo, it was not a fair fight!) Yeah, okay, kinda sorta. Ford Motor Company didn’t design the Sherman, but it did build them – but only 1,690 M4A3s from June 1942 to September 1943. In all, about 50,000 were built for the war – and the vast majority of Shermans were built by General Motors and Chrysler.
The comparatively rare Ford-built Shermans were equipped with Ford’s 450-horsepower, 18-liter GAA V8 engine – originally a V12 knock-off of Rolls-Royce Merlin and Allison aviation engines that were supposed to be used in American planes. When the Navy turned the Ford V12 down – because they decided to use radial engines – Ford lopped off four cylinders and converted it into a tank engine.
I believe the tank used in the movie had a Ford engine, but it was not a battle-scared M4 from the North Africa campaign.
So why use (possibly) the wrong tank in a movie that insisted so much on realism and authenticity (okay, other than the men’s haircuts)? Probably because there aren’t many surviving WWII tanks available to today’s filmmakers.
The American tanks in the movie – ten were used – were all M4A3E8s and all came from the Bovington Tank Museum in southern England (if you go, “Fury” is the one with serial # T224875) where the movie was principally filmed.
That’s also where the filmmakers got the movie’s nearly indestructible German Tiger I tank (a.k.a. “Panzers”) – a relic that was out of production by 1945. But the one at the tank museum is reputed to be the only surviving Tiger 131 tank still in working order.
The Tiger was a feared fighting machine, but among the criticisms leveled at it was that it was heavy, cumbersome and over-engineered – you know, just like today’s German cars! (Just kidding. Sort of.) America’s Shermans, to their credit, were considered manueverable, reliable and quick on the draw (like a gunfighter – another relevant comparison).
But, the point is – regardless of some of the plot disconnects in Fury – by that time in World War II, Germany had far superior tanks (albeit fewer of them), and could blow most of the American tanks to smithereens. Earlier in the war, it was a much more even fight; but the Germans continued to improve their tanks, while the Americans stupidly did little in that regard. And the tank crews, like those in Fury, paid a terrible price.
November 1, 2014