Battle of the Bulge Movie (1965)

Cinemax recently ran the old Battle of the Bulge movie from 1965. I can remember seeing this movie on television as a kid, thinking it was a pretty decent war movie at the time. Unfortunately, it has not aged well.

The movie is extremely inaccurate, on so many levels. It was apparently filmed on location in Spain, although the terrain reminds me of Camp Pendleton or Twentynine Palms in California. This is bad since the actual battle took place in a heavily forested part of Belgium, during the dead of winter.

Another big problem is the fact that the German "Tiger" tanks in the movie are actually American M47 Patton tanks, that were used right after the Korean war and through most of the 1950’s. They are painted olive drab in the movie with German crosses. They were probably still being used by the Spanish Army in 1965, since we had sold or given away all of our M47 tanks by 1965 (they had been replaced by M48 and M60 tanks).  In reality, the Germans had a mixture of Panzer IV, Panther, Tiger II and other tanks and assault guns that all wore camoflage.

The supposed American "Sherman" tanks in the movie are actually M24 Chaffee light tanks, that are all painted with some weird tiger stripe green and brown camoflage scheme. For the most part, the American army did not bother to use camoflage paint schemes during World War II (except for using temporary winter white wash during winter months).

Another big problem for this former tank commander is how they show the tanks in the movie moving and firing and their extremely inaccurate small unit tactics. The movie shows the German tanks clumped together in big gaggles, without proper spacing and dispersion. They move without taking advantage of cover and terrain. They advance into towns without infantry support, they silhoutte themselves on ridgelines, they fire on the move, etc. I could go on and on. Even worse, the tank battles in the movie are conducted at ranges of 50-100 yards. In World War II, most engagements were conducted at ranges of 600-1200 yards.

The movie did have a lot of big stars, like Henry Fonda, Telly Savalas, Robert Ryan, Charles Bronson, and James McArthur (book’em Dano).

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One Response to Battle of the Bulge Movie (1965)

  1. Pilgrim33 says:

    I just watched this on DVD and your explanation of the tanks solves my problem.
    Tigers indeed!

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