Is the movie 'Battle of the Bulge' based on facts?
Just watched the Battle of the Bulge with Henry Fonda. At the end of the movie the Americans send barrels of oil down on the German Panzers setting them all on fire killing the the German Panzer commander. Was there any truth to this in the real war?
In addition in the movie there was a complex underground German bunker somewhere along the lines. Did Germans have bunkers that larger and complex near the lines? Seems a bit far fetched.
Finally, the tank turrent was blown off of Telly Savalas tank and two of the crew survived to drive away in the tank. Is that even possible?
- ArchangelLv 78 years agoFavorite Answer
A lot of that movie was inaccurate:
The final tank battle is a rough depiction of the Battle of Celles on December 26, 1944 where the U.S. 2nd Armored Division smashed the German 2nd Panzer Division. The film creates the false impression that large numbers of American tanks sacrificed themselves against the heavy Tiger IIs and in the process lured the enemy off course which caused them to run out of gas. In reality, they were already stranded. The tanks used (despite the claims of the producer in an interview which is one of the DVD extras) are not historically accurate. But the American M47 Pattons representing German King Tiger tanks conveyed the superior size and gun power which the M24 Chaffees representing the M4 Sherman had to contend with.
Aside from the initial American encounters with the German offensive, there is some absence of cold weather and snow, which were the conditions in which the real battle was fought. There is no trace of snow at all in the film's major tank battle scene. Nor were some battle scenes fought in flat and bare territory, considering the mountainous, and forested and grassy nature of the Ardennes. The film was shot on location in Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range and Madrid, Spain.
The role of Lt. Schumacher and his men was based on Operation Greif, the plan to parachute English speaking Germans using American equipment behind American lines to sow confusion and capture the bridges.
Absent from this movie is the response by General George Patton whose Third Army relieved the siege of Bastogne. Indeed, there is no reference to British forces in the area, although British troops were largely kept behind the Meuse river and thus almost entirely out of the fighting. Also not mentioned is General Eisenhower's decision to split the Bulge front into two, ceding temporary command of two American armies to Field Marshal Montgomery in the northern half of the Bulge; implying a totally American operation. Neither was there mention of the role of Allied air power hitting the Germans hard at the first sign of clear weather.
The film's opening narration, by William Conrad, does mention both Montgomery and Patton, but is inaccurate, saying:
to the north, stood Montgomery's Eighth Army. To the south, Patton's Third.
In fact, Montgomery's northern command was actually the 21st Army Group. The Eighth Army, Montgomery's previous command, was actually in Italy at the time of the Battle of the Bulge. Although Patton was in charge of 3rd Army during the battle, this army was part of a much larger American force in the south. Third Army was one of four American armies that constituted the 12th Army Group under General Omar Bradley. It was Patton, however, who was Montgomery's American counterpart on the Western Front.
There is some speculation that the fictional German character, Hessler, was modeled after Colonel Joachim Peiper whose unit carried out the Malmedy massacre. However, this is not evident in the film where Hessler is openly critical of the Malmedy incident, pointing out such things turn a defeated rabble into an avenging army.
The film recaptures the major aspects of the battle, depicting how the inexperienced replacement American units stationed in the Ardenne were initially overwhelmed and the confusion which followed. It points out the superiority of heavy German tanks, along with their one weakness, lack of fuel.
- 8 years ago
Like most movies, The Battle of the Bulge is set in a historical context with specific events that are made up. There actually was an important battle, called the Battle of the Bulge because of the salient it created (when one side breaks through enemy lines in a specific spot, creating a "bulge" in the line). The German plan was to use this salient to divide the American and British/Commonwealth forces, end their cooperation, and discourage them so much they'd stop the war.
The problem was that the German plan relied heavily on fast-moving armored units ("Panzer" being the German word for "armor" - often translated as "tank," it also applies to other armored fighting vehicles. For example, the Panzer IV is really short for Panzerkampfwagen IV, or "armored fighting vehicle #4.") German had chronic problems with petroleum - this was a major factor in its takeover of Romania, as well as its push into southern Russia towards the Caspian Sea. While the big clock on the wall was most likely just invented for the movie, there were certainly calculations by the Germans on how long their attack could last before it ran out of fuel. During the actual battle, many German armored units did run out of fuel and were forced to abandon vehicles. The Germans would certainly have tried to capture as much fuel from the Allies as possible, though the fuel depot in the movie doesn't represent a real, specific place.
To answer your specific points:
*If oil was poured down a hill and set on fire, the ground would burn, but it wouldn't create a bubble of fire around a tank - the oil on the ground would burn, some oil would stick the tread of tanks and burn while on there, but this wouldn't be as big of a problem as it seems in the movies. The tank would get really hot and the fuel tank would explode after awhile, but everyone should be able to get out of the tank first - running through the oil on the ground would be the biggest concern.
*The Germans had many bunkers throughout their occupied territory. Bunkers didn't play as extensive as a role in World War One's trench warfare along the front lines, but - just like today - bunkers are used as air-raid shelters and extensive ones are used for protecting important people. Keep in mind that the Germans invaded France in 1940 and the Allies didn't open the "Western Front" until 1944. This gave Germany plenty of time to build fortifications. Bunkers and underground complexes played an increasingly important role as the Allies gained air superiority around 1942-3, and air supremacy in late 1944. By the time of the Battle of the Bulge, the Allies controlled the skies - allowing them to conduct reconnaissance of anything above ground, and to bomb whatever targets they spotted.
*During World War Two, most tanks were composed of a hull with a ring that the turret was lowered onto - making them two separate parts. Many tanks lost their turrets, but for one to be "blown off," there would need to be an explosion in the tank that would almost certainly kill anyone inside. In theory, a shell hit on the side of a turret could "knock" it off, but this would require the turret to be loose - meaning there would have to be other problems as well. While I wouldn't say it's impossible, I don't see how anyone in the crew could survive. Also, many WW2 tanks were driven using overhead levers, which would likely be destroyed if the turret came off - meaning there's also a mechanical issue with the tank driving off.Source(s): BA Military Studies BA History
- The QuestionerLv 78 years ago
People can survive their tanks turret being blown off, it's rare but it happens.
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- Master Of NoneLv 48 years ago
Believe it or not...movies are made up.