Among the vast pantheon of GIjOE collectors, there’s a die-hard subset of fans who also know a great deal about military history and the mighty armored tanks that command such a prominent role on the battlefield. We’re referring, of course, to those ardent armor aficionados appropriately (and affectionately) known as, “Tankers.” If you’ve never heard of, or used this particular appellation before, Tankers are those zealous individuals who can accurately recite the names, weaponry, and firepower stats of practically anything heavily armored or tracked. From the smallest Kettenkrad tractor to the largest modern Abrams M1A2 (and everything else in-between) their knowledge—is unassailable.
Many Tankers are also big military history buffs that can wax rhapsodic for hours about WWII’s Montgomery and Patton, recount battlefield strategies, the proper deployment of tanks during a “Blitzkrieg,” the rise and fall of Rommel’s vaunted Afrika Korps, clashes between SS Panzer Divisions and Russian Red Army T-34s at Stalingrad and Kursk, the pivotal Battle of the Bulge, the use of tanks in the Pacific theater against Japan, North Korea, North Vietnam, and most recently, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Wherever they’re deployed, tanks often prove to be THE deciding factor between a battlefield victory—or ignominious defeat. Not surprisingly then, films about tanks are almost invariably larger than life, exciting—and FUN.
Why are we bringing this up now? Because recently, Tankers, GijOE fans and amateur military historians have all begun to discuss the impending release of a new “tank-centric” motion picture called, “Fury,” which depicts the WWII exploits of a battle-hardened U.S. Army 2nd Armored Division tank crew (watch the film’s trailer at top). As you are undoubtedly already aware, movies about (or utilizing) tanks, are not unheard of in Hollywood, but pickings can be slim. As a result, fans of this particular genre typically have to wait about a decade or two between decent offerings.
But even if the script stinks (Tank Girl, anyone?), there’s just something about a tank movie that makes it hard to dislike. Let’s face it, they’re BIG. They’re brash. And well…they’re BEAUTIFUL! For alpha-male / leading man-type actors, to have a good tank movie “in your quiver” is a rare accomplishment, nowadays; worthy of more than just a little braggadocio. OOHrah!
Some of the better tank flicks that come to mind include Sahara, starring Humphrey Bogart, Saving Private Ryan starring Tom Hanks, The Battle of the Bulge, starring Henry Fonda, Tank, starring James Garner, Patton, starring George C. Scott and most recently, Fast ‘n Furious 6, with Vin Diesel. (Take a moment to enjoy the first 3 video clips of this article before proceeding.)
Fury stars well-known Hollywood heart-throb, Brad Pitt (last seen in the farcical Inglorious Basterds) and according to the brief description we found over on the Huffington Post:
“Pitt stars as a sergeant named ‘Wardaddy’ who leads a tank crew of American soldiers into Germany. (Jon Bernthal, Michael Pena and Shia LaBeouf are Wardaddy’s longtime battle comrades; Logan Lerman plays the group’s newcomer.) The whole thing looks comfortably familiar — a beat from “Inglorious Basterds” here, some from “Saving Private Ryan” there — but it’s never not compelling. “Fury” is set for release on Nov. 14, meaning it could either become one of Sony’s year-end awards contenders or simply a solid money-maker for the studio. Or maybe both: The last time Pitt and Sony teamed up for a film, it was 2011’s “Moneyball,” which earned $74 million at the North American box office and six Oscar nominations.”
It’s been quite a while since Tankers have seen a really good tank movie. It’s about time our heroes of the armored divisions were featured on-screen again. Heck, we were even excited to see that Abrams tank in the first episode of AMC’s The Walking Dead. Although it saw no “battle action,” it served as a main prop and temporary place of safety for the show’s beleaguered hero. Tank fan hopes are high that Fury will be a solid, well-researched and realistic tribute film to all the men who fought, died and served in the U.S. Army or Marine Corps tank divisions. Curious about what our fellow GIjOE fans are hoping to see (or NOT see) in this upcoming film, so we posed the question to everyone’s favorite GIjOE fan and resident tank expert, Dave “Tanker” Matteson (of Alabama), who kindly offered the following observations:
“Shermans and Tigers and Shermans, Oh my! I was asked by Mark to watch the trailer and then give my opinion on the upcoming movie, “FURY.” Am I qualified to review this movie? I believe so! Most people know me as “Tanker.” I spent time as a tank crewman in M1A1 tanks, about 8 years to be exact, as well as being a ‘tread head’ since the age of 8. For those who have seen Fury’s trailer (at the top of this article), the Sherman M4A2E8’s and the M4A3 are all, in fact, REAL. And yes, the Tiger Tank is also VERY real. All of the tanks used in this film are on loan from the Bovington Tank Museum in England where David Ayer, the film’s director, did most of his research.
The research Ayer undertook takes us back to WWII and inside a Sherman tank where its crew LIVED. Before filming, the crew was treated to a mini ‘Armor School’ where they had to learn the job of being a tanker. Then, once on the set, Brad Pitt actually lived with his crewmen in the tank they crewed for the duration of the filming of the battle scenes, totaling some 30 days.
Everything you’ll see onscreen is as close to real as it gets. This film is going to be for Tankers what Saving Private Ryan was to Rangers and Paratroopers. Generally, movie trailers are what doesn’t make the film. The good thing is, I have been following this production VERY closely, and it is definitely on the money. Being a tanker was the best job I ever had!” —Dave “Tanker” Matteson
Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks to Dave Matteson for his help with this article. We are FIRED UP about seeing Fury on the big screen this November. Until then, we leave you with this full-length tank episode of “Lock-n-Load,” starring everyone’s favorite Gunnery Sergeant, R. Lee Ermey. So, go grab a cup of Joe, put your feet up on the desk—and Enjoy!