Fury: Finally, a Real Tanker Movie?

By Mad Duo Chris

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The Mad Duo would just like to say…

Please, let this be as awesome as its potential. Please let these other guys make up for the fact that Shia’s in it.

Here’s what Mad Duo Chris has to say about it.

I wanted to be a soldier since I was a child. By the time I was in high school and nearing the age I could enlist, my father became terrified I would actually join up. He was a 1960s Air Force vet who hated every second of his service. So when Platoon came out in 1986, my father took me on opening weekend. His plan was simple. He’d expose me to the horrors of war, I’d recoil in terror and swear to never join the military, and my parents would someday see me walk across a university stage clutching a law degree.

Platoon was the most realistic war movie I’d ever seen. The combat was brutal. I was mesmerized by the final battle. The crowd left the theater in stunned silence. When we reached our car, my father quietly said, “I hope that changed your mind about joining the military.”

I said nothing. But I thought, Yeah it changed my mind. Now I REALLY want to be a soldier. I signed on the dotted line two years later, when I was barely seventeen. And I never got a degree.

Since Platoon, we’ve been blessed with a plethora of movies celebrating the infantryman’s life. Full Metal Jacket, Blackhawk Down, Saving Private Ryan, We Were Soldiers, Band of Brothers and Generation Kill have given us insight into the minds and motivations of men on the sharp edge of battle. Through these films, civilians and those of us not fortunate enough to hold an 11- or 0300-series MOS gain at least some understanding of our countrymen who wear the blue infantry cord.

But nobody seems to care about us tankers.
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No movies celebrate those who rode into battle beside the infantry (no, Tank Girl doesn’t count). The tank crews who survived mere minutes in Duplex Drive tanks on Omaha Beach – and their comrades who sank when their allegedly waterproof screens failed – have been ignored. The crew of Liz, a Marine Sherman on Peleliu Island, receives no recognition for spending five hours under fire hacksawing off the muzzle of their main gun after a Japanese shell struck and deformed it, ruining its accuracy. We fail to recognize the courage of a Soviet KV-1 crew who blocked a road, destroyed a battery of 50mm guns, wasted a feared 88, survived a nighttime raid by German engineers who planted two explosive charges, endured a combined assault by another 88 and a company of Panzers, and was finally destroyed by a German grunt with a grenade after holding up an entire division’s advance for two days.

Rodney Dangerfield may as well have been a tanker. Cause we just don’t get no respect.

This fall, however, that might all change. Fury, starring Brad Pitt, hits the big screen on October 17th (or in November, according to the posters). The trailer for this film certainly gives us tankers hope for long-overdue recognition.

I generally view any upcoming military movie with suspicion. Hollywood has taken some pretty dramatic war stories and butchered them beyond recognition. Lone Survivor was a festival of made-up nonsense. Red Tails, one of the most inspiring true American stories ever, was a total abortion. How can a movie with Terrance Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr., P-51 Mustangs and hot Italian chicks still suck?

But that trailer…damn. Fury just might be the tanker movie I’ve been waiting for all my life.

From the little bits and pieces I’ve heard about the movie I gather that it’s about a tank crew, the last crew in its platoon, which is ordered to hold a vital area. Apparently this lone tank has to fend off an attack by 300 Germans. One of the crewmen is a brand-new replacement who had never even been inside a tank before the battle. And the entire movie takes place over the course of one day.

So this movie has a good plot. And with Brad Pitt as the Tank Commander, Shia LaBeouf as a rather mousy gunner, Michael Pena as driver, Jon Bernthal as loader and Logan Lerman as assistant driver/aka Terrified New Guy, it has more than enough good actors to carry the story. In the trailer I saw just a couple things that worried me: first, Michael Pena screaming “Shoot that enemy soldier, terrified new guy!”, followed by the cliché, “Whaaa, I killed someone, I’m so evil!” reaction; and second, why the hell would that same terrified new guy be dismounted from the tank firing an M3 Grease Gun with an “I’m a killer” expression on his face?

But no matter. The trailer also has tons of scenes that make us tankers collectively orgasm in our coveralls. Brad Pitt hunched low in the commander’s hatch giving urgent orders to his crew. Sparks exploding off a turret from a main gun round’s impact. The loader, commander and gunner calling out the beautiful song of my people, “Up!…Fire!…On the way!” And crewmen telling a little known truth about being a tanker:

“Best job I ever had.”

That line really hit me. When I was an Abrams crewman, I used to say – in all seriousness – that being a tank gunner was the best job in the Army. I would have chosen that job over F-16 pilot. I was an E-5 for ten years because I didn’t want to quit being a gunner. I remember feeling impotent rage as I watched, from my living room, a Marine Abrams hitting an Iraqi-army held building at close range during the invasion. I’m a National Guard tanker, I thought. I can hit a damn building from 200 meters. Why am I not in this war? I was in an armor battalion when I deployed to Iraq in 05, but was stuck in a Humvee on a convoy escort team. We were called Tankers Without A Tank, and until then I never thought I’d be envious of anyone in a Bradley. I’d nearly cry whenever we passed an Abrams on the highway. All I wanted was to sit in a gunner’s seat and launch just one round at the enemy. Alas, the closest I came to being a combat tanker was having my Humvee rocked by a French tank’s muzzle blast during a firefight in Afghanistan.

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And I wasn’t the only tanker in my unit that passionate about my steel beast. I had a first sergeant who actually cried when he told us how conflicted he was about accepting promotion to first sergeant, because pinning that diamond meant he’d never be in a tank again. As a cop I met a prosecutor who was a tanker in a sister battalion. When I asked if he was an officer he said, “Hell no, I’m an E-5 gunner. I bust my ass all month at work, when I go to drill I just want to do the job I love.”

Fury seems to have captured the passion, brutality, grime, danger and beauty of life on a tank. This movie might – MIGHT – be what we tankers proudly bring up whenever our grunt friends discuss their many infantry movies. Fury has great actors, great cinematography, great special effects, a real Sherman and a real Panzer. It could be an armored masterpiece, if Hollywood didn’t add some stupid, unnecessary, shark-jumping nonsense to it. Which Hollywood almost always does.

Thousands of other proud tankers and I are cautiously optimistic. We want this movie to be “right”. We want to be proud of it. We want it to show truth about what we do, and who we are.

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You have one job, Hollywood. Don’t fuck this up.

www.breachbangclear.com_site_images_Chris_Hernandez_Author_BreachBangClear4Chris Hernandez Mad Duo Chris (seen here on patrol in Afghanistan) may just be the crustiest member of the eeeee-LIGHT writin’ team here at Breach-Bang-Clear. He is a veteran of both the Marine Corps and the Army National Guard who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also a veteran police officer of nearly two decades who spent a long (and eye-opening) deployment as part of a UN police mission in Kosovo. He is the author of White Flags & Dropped Rifles – the Real Truth About Working With the French Army and The Military Within the Military as well as the modern military fiction novels Line in the Valley and Proof of Our Resolve. When he isn’t groaning about a change in the weather and snacking on Osteo Bi-Flex he writes on his own blog, Iron Mike Magazine, Kit Up! and Under the Radar. You can find his author page here on Tactical 16.

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