- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at email@example.com.
By David Ayer
Best Defense guest respondent
I appreciate Sergeant Major Rush’s thoughtful article reviewing my film. It seems that, because of Fury, released in 2014, I will forever be known by some parties as the filmmaker who failed to do his homework. With all due respect to the Sergeant Major, I can speak to the research and documents I used for my research.
I have learned World War II is like a fractal, with manifold points of view. It is so vast, and so all encompassing, that there is simply no common point of view.
Fury depicted 2nd Armored, a heavy armored division that was the literal spearhead of the Allied advance. This massive grouping of men and equipment was distilled down to a few handfuls of tanks racing forward alone across the land. It was my intention with the film to show the intimacy of a combat crew, the working conditions, the fear, the relief. The working soldiers’ war. Follow your orders, do your job. If you live, you live. If you don’t, you don’t.
In terms of the treatment of German dead, I based the truck filled with corpses off an Army Signal Corps photograph I believe was taken in 1945. I read somewhere that graves registration removed the U.S. dead immediately, and let German casualties linger, to give the impression to our soldiers they had better odds. I have read several interviews reporting truckloads of German dead, and their burial in mass graves.
It’s interesting Sergeant Major Rush mentioned the implausibility of the character Norman being put into armor with no training. My research indicated that after the Battle of the Bulge, and into the spring of 1945, the U.S. Army was suffering manpower shortages. There are many accounts from Armor Divisions veterans recalling replacements arriving with zero armor training. Zero. This was common and a serious issue the divisions wrestled with, sometimes forming ad-hoc training platoons for a very quick tank school. I can’t speak to infantry replacements, as I focused my research on ETO Armor.
Regarding the prisoner being executed, this was craft of fiction. However, it was based on the reality of endemic killing of POWs in the ETO. I read veteran accounts detailing many such killings, and have been told of such events in personal interviews. These were not professional soldiers. These were regular men, of the Depression era, enduring excruciating conditions. This was a harder, rougher generation, and they may as well have been fighting on Mars, they were so far from their homes, their lives, and their civilian identities.
I didn’t make a documentary. I wanted to breathe life and emotion into a war that is fast disappearing from living memory. I’m proud of the film, and worked hard to get as much correct as possible.
David Ayer is a writer and director, whose filmography includes Fury, End of Watch, and Suicide Squad. He is a former U.S. Navy Submarine Sonarman.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons