Tank battle movies….and the true stories that inspired them


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Yesterday I watched the 1970 movie, Kelly’s heroes. For those who haven’t seen it, it was about a group of American soldiers in Germany, towards the end of the war that discovered that there was a huge cache of German gold being stored in a bank in a small town and they planned on stealing it. Clint Eastwoods band of thieves had a Sherman tank and they got into a battle with a German Tiger in the small village where the bank was.

Some fun facts: The two tanks were fun to watch, crashing through houses and brick walls, and generally blowing the hell out of a real town in Croatia. But the German Tiger tank was in reality a disguised Russian T-34.

At the end of it , I wondered if there was any basis in fact.
It turns out there was a true story that inspired the movie.

On Feb. 3, 1945, a massive Allied air campaign over Berlin wrecked much of the city’s important government fixtures. Among them was the Reichsbank, where Nazi Germany stored its gold reserves. Some 950 bombers flattened the German capital, exposing the bank’s vault.

Its valuable contents were left intact, but would not survive another raid like the one on Feb. 3. The vault contained Germany’s gold reserves, as well as those looted from Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Albania, Belgium, Italy, Holland and the Soviet Union. In all, there was more than $21 billion (in 2021 dollars) in the German Reichsbank.

The gold was moved to several locations, this is the story of one of of them.

Two captured OSS officers led the US Army to one of the locations.
The gold was buried in the mountains near Lake Walchen under a false tree stump and was discovered by U.S. armored engineers -- nine tons of it, 728 bars worth $15,000 each. They took the gold to a depository at the Reichsbank building in Frankfurt. But some of it never made it there.
Some 25 boxes of gold bullion, 1.25 tons, disappeared into thin air. It never was recovered, and there are no leads as to where it might have vanished.

If you’re interested in reading the whole fascinating story, here’s a link to the article,


The other movie, made in 2014, is Fury. About a tank battalion in Germany towards the end of the war. Led by Brad Pitt, playing a sergeant nicknamed Wardaddy. The movie had some exceptional fight sequences between the US tanks and German Tigers, and it was abundantly clear why the Americans lived in fear of the Tigers. Filmed from the perspective of being inside the Sherman tank during running gun battles, the drama is extraordinarily realistic.

I also wanted to see if this movie had any historical truth to it and it turns out it did,

“While the storyline is fictional, the depiction of Fury and its commander Wardaddy parallels the experience of several real Alliedtankers, such as the American tank commander Staff SergeantLafayette G. "War Daddy" Pool, who landed just after D-Day and destroyed 258 enemy vehicles before his tank was knocked out in Germany in late 1944.”

At the end of the movie the tank crew, inside their disabled tank get into a protracted fight with a German infantry unit.

“The last stand of the crew of the disabled Fury appears to be based on an anecdote from Death Traps, wherein a lone tanker was "in his tank on a road junction" when a "German infantry unit approached, apparently not spotting the tank in the darkness". This unnamed tanker is said to have ricocheted shells into the enemy forces, fired all of his machine gun ammunition, and thrown grenades to kill German soldiers climbing onto the tank. Cooper concluded: "When our infantry arrived the next day, they found the brave young tanker still alive in his tank. The entire surrounding area was littered with German dead and wounded."

Death Traps: The Survival of an American Armored Division in World War II is a 1998 memoir by Belton Y. Cooper.
“Cooper served with the 3rd Armored Division during World War II, and saw action from the Invasion of Normandy in 1944 through the Allied invasion of Germany in 1945.”

Fun facts about the movie: This movie was more historically accurate than Kelly’s Hero's. The German Tiger used to film this movie was the real deal. There are only a few Tigers left in the world and only one that is fully operational and this was it. Also the Sherman’s were real and all of the soldiers weapons were authentic.
If you like war movies and you have not seen this, I highly recommend it. 😎
I did military service building bridges for Tanks and Armored vehicles so Once sat in the Drivers seat of a Centurion

I can understand why nerves can fail the crews

One tank Commander that gets press in historical Magazines and So is Wittman


Can have military interest

I remember reading somewhere that he changed crew but never the Gunner
That was quick and did not miss. The sighs was adjustable . But he had it in a middle position
Moving forward On the eastern front the Tank commander had a sense for the dangerous places and when.
Spotted something shouted 11 o clock 800 meter the Gunner then adjusted his aim point on the number at bit higher if far away and lower if closer

A cunning Tank Commander and a quick and Accurate gunner ...

Shooting is an art in itself .I cant hit much with a hand gun the few times I have tried.