The Real Story Behind The Hollywood Hit

When WW2 stories get the Hollywood treatment, writers tend to lose facts and exaggerate certain aspects of the story. In the case of the 2014 film Fury, the writers didn’t go nearly far enough. Brad Pitt’s character, the tank commander nicknamed “Wardaddy,” was a real WWII tank commander. The crew and their M4A1 Sherman tank wreaked havoc on the Germans across France. This is the real story about the courageous men and incredible tanks behind the movie Fury.

The Tanks Of Fury were the Real Stars

The movie Fury had nothing on the tank crew on which the story is based. The 3rd Armored Division crossed the shores of Normandy and into France on June 24, 1944. For the next 79 days, one of those tanks, dubbed “In the Mood,” would take down 12 enemy tanks and another 258 armored vehicles. They would also capture 25 Nazi troops and kill as many as 1,000 more. 

“In The Mood” was the inspiration for the tank named Fury. It was an M4A1 Sherman commanded by Staff Sgt. Lafayette Poole. For his crew, he had Cpl. Wilbert Richards as a driver, Pfc. Bert Close at bow gunner and assistant driver. The gunner was Cpl. Willis Oiler, and at loader, he had Tech. 5th Grade Del Boggs.

Brad Pitt was the lead actor in the movie Fury, who shared a striking resemblance to the real life person he portrayed.


In Fury, the tank crew and Wardaddy had been a crew together since landing in North Africa for Operation Torch in 1942. The real-life Wardaddy and his crew were well-trained before coming ashore to free occupied Europe from the Nazi jackboot, but the only thing they had going against them was that they had no actual combat experience. That was about to change, and fast, much to Germany’s chagrin.

“In the Mood” and its crew of 3rd AD soldiers got their first taste of combat five days after arriving in France. At Villiers-Fossard, the division was ordered to engage Germans near Saint-Lo to give XIX Corps time to reassert its lines after the Germans hit its right flank with an armored attack of its own. 

Villiers-Fossard was a trial-by-fire for the 3rd Armored Division, which performed better than anyone expected. As for the crew of “In the Mood,” they completely wrecked any Nazi German tank that came across their path. The tank, under Wardaddy’s command, killed 70 enemy soldiers and three armored vehicles. The tanks of Fury were definitely a force to be reckoned with.

What wasn’t depicted in the movie Fury was the fact that enemy Panzers actually destroyed their tank during this first battle. They actually went through three tanks as they fought their way across the continent, whereas the fictional tank was (spoiler alert) destroyed only once during the movie. 

A Sherman M4 tank crosses an improvised bridge.


Once they remounted a new Sherman, newly christened as another “In the Mood,” they continued on. As they drove on, the division encountered enemy tanks from the German 2nd Panzer Division. This engagement came as a total surprise, and the Americans were on the defensive. At close range, the two sides exchanged shells, but “In the Mood” emerged victorious, killing two more armored vehicles, two Panzers, and many German soldiers. 

The second tank was destroyed by friendly fire after being strafed by a friendly P-38 Lightning Fighter-Bomber on August 17, 1944, but not before striking the enemy hard. Wardaddy hated the Germans and believed he could take anything. His tank was known for killing 16 armored vehicles in a single day. Once they were in a new “In the Mood,” the crew moved south, headed for Aachen, Germany. 

As the 3rd Armored Division tried to cross into Germany, it was struck by a round from an enemy Panzer. Wardaddy and the crew attempted to maneuver the tank out of harm’s way but were hit by another round and flung into a ditch. Wardaddy was thrown out of the tank through the commander’s hatch and was wounded by shrapnel. The rest of the crew bailed out safely, but Oiler had also been wounded. 

Unlike his movie counterpart in Fury, the real-life Wardaddy survived the war. His leg was crushed when he was thrown from the Sherman Tank and would have to be amputated. He was sent home, rehabilitated, and rejoined the Army later.

Now you know the real story behind the tanks of Fury and the men behind the Hollywood film.

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