You walk up to the side of a World War II era Sherman Tank – the same kind used in the upcoming war drama Fury (opening in theatres this Friday) and you’re immediately struck by two things. First of all, it’s an impressive and intimidating piece of machinery. The second thing, once you get closer to it and actually get inside of one is that they have little to no protection from anything. There’s nowhere to hide from the weather or enemy fire, and just taking the tank out for a spin around a muddy field in Oshawa brings to light how difficult they are to control.
I got the chance to ride in a Sherman to help promote the film during a press day at the Ontario Regiment RCAC Museum in Oshawa, Ontario, home to one of the largest collections of wartime tanks, vehicles, and period appropriate armaments. Once I climbed into the tank, however, it was apparent how exposed you were in a tank.
“Picture yourself under enemy fire, right now,” said Frank Von Roseinstiel, president of the museum and the man who would be riding along with me. “Now picture that you can’t see anything in the trees and in order to turn around you have to take a lot of time. Do you really feel safe in this?”
That’s when it became apparent that tanks were war machines rather than protection for the crews inside of it. It doesn’t really protect from anything. If it’s hot out, you’ll practically boil alive inside the tank. If it’s cold, that metal surrounding you certainly won’t do you any favours.
Even worse, during World War II, the Shermans were vastly inferior to their counterparts, the German Tiger. A benchmark of German engineering it took well over 30,000 Shermans to take out just about 1,500 Tigers. Tank corps that used Shermans suffered 90% losses, something that director and writer David Ayer (End of Watch) centres his film around, as commander Brad Pitt tries to keep his tightly knit crew alive for a few more days in the waning days of the war in Europe. We know how the war ended, and today more Shermans remain around the world in various condition (with only one German Tiger remaining, which Ayer was fortunate enough to use in the film), but the losses were catastrophic.
“Really, the only reason why the Sherman’s bested the Tiger in the long run was because Shermans could be made faster.” Roseinstiel said. “We could just make hundreds in the time it took to produce one Tiger.”
Here now is a look at our ride along in the tank, a talk with some of the people at the museum, and a behind the scenes look at the tanks of Fury.