Having recently sponsored the 2015 Band of Brothers Actors Reunion, we decided to comb through the critically acclaimed show and find a few instances where Allied and Axis forces utilized their armored fighting vehicles.
Replacements a.k.a Operation Market Garden
The Band of Brothers episode “Replacements” portrays the unsuccessful Allied military operation dubbed Operation Market Garden. It took place from September 17–25, 1944, and was the largest airborne operation up to that point.
Field Marshal Montgomery hoped to enter Germany over the Lower Rhine and circumvent the northern end of the Siegfried Line. To do this, the Allied forces needed to seize the bridges across the Mass, two arms of the Rhine, as well as several other smaller canals and tributaries.
While Operation Market Garden predominantly used airborne forces in hopes of securing the bridges, however, after a series of failures and unexpected resistance, troops evacuated. This meant that the Allied forces’ hopes to end the war by Christmas 1944 were unsuccessful.
In “Replacements”, we see a number of tanks in action. Easy Company have been ordered to participate in Operation Market Garden in Holland. They are to parachute in close to Eindhoven and, after meeting up with new recruits, head toward Nuenen where they encounter Axis forces.
There are quite a few tanks on display in Operation Market Garden.
Allied forces have a couple of Shermans in their arsenal. Sgt. Denver ‘Bull’ Randleman (played by Michael Cudlitz) is nearly crushed by the tank when it’s put out of commission by a German Jagdpanther. Obviously, because we have the British present at Operation Market Garden, we have British tanks, namely the Cromwell, which supports the American Sherman.
Axis forces, of course, have their own corral of tanks. There is a “Tiger” tank, though enthusiasts may catch that this is not quite true. Die-hard fans know that The Tank Museum at Bovington has the only operating Tiger (131) in the world. So far, the Tiger has only been actually seen on the screen in the movie Fury. In Band of Brothers, it is a Tiger turret welded onto a T-34 chassis, which was also used in “Saving Private Ryan”.
Also supporting Axis forces was the StuG III, which was Germany’s most produced armored fighting vehicle during World War II. This tank was built on the chassis of the Panzer III, where it replaced the turret with a fixed casemate, and included a more powerful gun.
One of the major issues in coming up against other tanks is that your own vehicles are sometimes not enough. Because Allied paratroopers lacked anti-tank weapons, they found even less support during the battle.
Carentan a.k.a The Battle of Bloody Gulch
In the third episode, “Carentan”, which portrays the 506th PIR’s part in the battle, we also get to see a number of Axis tanks. The battle itself occurred near Hill 69 (U.S. Designation), around one mile southwest of Carentan in Normandy, France, on June 13, 1944. It saw some of the German 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division and 6th Fallschirmjäger Regiment go up against the American 501st, 502nd and 506th, Parachute Infantry Regiments (PIR) of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division. Allied forces were reinforced by elements of the U.S. 2nd Armored Division.
The town of Carentan was important for Allied forces because it served as a link between Omaha and Utah Beach. Axis forces wanted to stop this from happening in order to disrupt any further invasion. Though Allied forces did not find too much resistance when first capturing the town (after heavy fighting), the real battle was soon to take place. On the night of June 12–13, Axis forces were reinforced and attacked.
While it obviously a little too demanding to portray all of the tanks at The Battle of Bloody Gulch—there were 12 Panzers and 60 Shermans—we do see a fair few.
One memorable moment recreates Lt. Harry Welsh and Pvt. John McGrath of E Company’s successful destruction of a German StuG with a bazooka. The StuG was attempting to penetrate the left flank, having caught troops unawares. With the tank put out of commission, battalion forces were able to stop the retreat of D and F companies, pushing them forward to support the left flank.
The Jagdpanzer IV also makes an appearance, if you are eagle-eyed enough to catch it as the tank rolls down a hillock.
Later on, we see Allied forces’ Sherman tanks from Combat Command A of the 2nd Armored Division arrive to launch a counterattack, ultimately forcing Axis forces to withdraw.
The Breaking Point a.k.a Foy
On December 19–20, the 1st Battalion of the 506th PIR was ordered to support Team Desobry in the defense Noville, an old commune of Bastogne. The 1st Battalion and the M18 Hellcat tank destroyers of the 705th TD Battalion had destroyed at least 30 tanks and caused around 1,000 casualties. Then, the 3rd Battalion was ordered to create a reserve position north of Bastogne in the town of Foy.
Foy was a small town occupied by Germans in the early stages of the Battle of the Bulge. In Band of Brothers, we follow Easy Company’s assault to capture the town in January, 1945. The initial charge cost several men their lives. Their second attempt was a flanking mission around the rear of the town. Allied forces eventually took the town, but it was a small, costly victory and just one of many battles to come.
In episode seven—The Breaking Point—we get to see the occupied town of Foy when Easy Company make their attempt to capture it. During one scene, we follow Capt. Ronald Speirs (Matthew Settle) as he rushes through Foy to connect with Item on the other side so German forces are unable to retreat.
During this mad dash, Speirs has to dodge a Tiger and StuG that have occupied the town, as well as anti-aircraft artillery. At the end of the battle, Team Desobry had lost a quarter of its troops and reduced to only four medium tanks.