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Patton’s Tanks

June 2024
1min read

I read Professor Mark C. Carnes’s article “Hollywood History” in the September 1995 issue with great interest. As a long-time history teacher and movie buff, I was pleased to see an article that addressed two of my major passions. I did, however, find puzzling Professor Paul Fussell’ criticism that the American tanks in the 1970 movie Patton are actually German tanks rented from the Spanish Army. Apart from the distortions made necessary by condensing Patton’s World War II career into three hours’ running time, one of the major historical inaccuracies of the movie is that all of the tanks and vehicles shown are of American manufacture. This was common in movies made in the 1960s and 1970s; a tank was a tank, and as long as the same type didn’t appear on both sides of a battle, most producers were satisfied. The vehicles were indeed rented from the Spanish Army, but none were of German origin. The British tanks are portrayed by M24 Chaffee light tanks and the German tanks by M48 Patton tanks, ironically enough. The American tanks are M41 Bulldog Walkers and M47s, the latter also known as the Patton tank. All but the M24 are postwar designs dating from the late 1940s and the 1950s. The M47 bears some vague resemblance to a German design of World War II, but it was developed after the war had ended, so Professor Fussell could not have seen any while he was in Europe during the war.

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