been a number of World War II movies made in the last several years, in no
small part because the War veterans are rapidly dying off, and it gets
increasingly difficult to find eyewitness attestation. But few WWII movies are
as impactful as “Fury,” because it brings it down the level of one tank
crew on the battlefield.
their blood, sweat, and tears, their fear, their fury, and their foibles, and
even their random scripture-quoting, and we realize once again that in “the
greatest generation,” their stories are legion. It's just that we're hearing
this particular one for the first time.
course, the other way to do World War II movies is to focus on the grand
scale, and have the viewer watch generals debate strategy. Not so here. We
don't even see any generals. In fact, we hardly see any officers at all. The
tank crew is commanded by a Sergeant, whom they call Wardaddy (Brad Pitt).
He's been with most of this crew since Africa, and now they’re in
. They did lose one crew member, and now they have a new recruit, whom they
don't accept easily. They all realize how much they rely on each other to stay
alive. And the grizzled veterans are not yet sure they can count on this
rookie when the bullets start flying. And he hasn't helped matters by claiming
that he's a misplaced clerk/typist. Then again, they all started out as scared
untested civilians, and they all realize that their survival has in part been
due to their grit and determination and utter ruthlessness in combat. And the
other part has been pure, sheer, dumb luck, which is bound to desert them
sooner or later.
April, 1945. The Allies are pushing into
, the Russians from the East and the Brits and Americans from the West. The
Nazis have long since lost the battle for air superiority, and can only watch
helplessly while whole flotillas of Allied bombers pulverize their
now-defenseless cities. It's gotten to the point where not only are all the
roads clogged with refugees, their pitifully few possessions on their backs,
but the new military recruits are now old men, women, and children. Anybody
who can lift a rifle, point it, and shoot.
that also means that our pragmatic Americans can do nothing other than fire
back, no matter who they're facing, because if they don't shoot first and ask
questions later, they won't be around to be the ones asking the questions.
This crew has been in such close quarters for so long that they occasionally
get a little slaphappy. Sometimes maudlin. Eerily prescient. Unashamedly
affectionate. Ribald. Ornery. Alternately barking at each other and quietly
brooding. And yes, angry toward the Germans who keep taking them out, enough
to want to take them all out. Even the ones with their hands up.
occasionally the war-weary soldiers also want to demonstrate to each other
that they haven't become complete animals. After taking over a town, the Sarge
notices an attractive girl peeking out a window, and takes the new recruit
upstairs to meet someone who's not a hooker and not being treated like a spoil
of war. They put their guns down, and eat together on a lace tablecloth. They
tell quiet stories. They listen to classical music. They are now treating a
couple of anonymous members of the opposite gender with deference and respect.
For just a few glorious moments there, they feel almost civilized. But then
the shells begin to fall among them again, and the War which won't let them go
continues to shape not only who they are, but who they cannot allow themselves
one makes you feel like you can smell the stale sweat and fresh fear inside
the tank with them.
was right. War is Hell. Especially inside the tank named after him.
Ronald P. Salfen is the Parish Associate, Woodhaven Presbyterian Church,